My Aunt Debbie came over the other day and gave my girls the best present, a picture book entitled, What Does it Mean to Be Present?. It’s a beautiful book in a whimsical font on a topic that I haven’t seen many children’s books tackle. Lots of books on friendship and sharing and learning. But not many on “being”.

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My daughters love this book, although I’m the one who can’t stop flipping through it, hoping it will rub off on me. My mind being the hamster wheel that it is, I really struggle with being fully present.

Some of my favorite lines from the book are,

“Being present means focusing on what’s happening now instead of thinking about what’s next.”

“. . . savoring each bite of your delicious food.”  Similar to my Aunt Colleen’s infamous line on Thanksgiving when we kids gobbled up our plates in 5 seconds after the adults had spent 5 hours cooking it, her famous line is “enjoy every morsel!”

“. . . cuddling with your puppy and enjoying how soft and wriggly he feels.”  Roja teaches me to be present each day when she snuggles against me! I’m sure Jenelle’s little Shi Tsu, “Wrigley,” does the same for her!

“. . . noticing when someone needs help and taking the time to give them the help they need.”  It’s no coincidence that my Aunt Debbie, who gave me this book, is the most present person I know. She is always volunteering her time at ADOPT, Feed My Starving Children, and helping out friends. Yet she still finds the time to take me on weekly grocery shopping trips, a need that she noticed in my life, and I can feel that she is fully present when I’m with her.

I giggled to myself as I re-read the book yesterday, thinking about what a children’s book about being present would say if it was based on observing my life . . . 

. . . “Being present means checking your e-mail while texting a friend, folding laundry and helping your daughter with her homework all at the same time.” “Being present means listening to your husband talk about his new song he is writing while thinking about what to cook for dinner.”And being present definitely means holding your phone at all times, checking it constantly, while training your guide dog.”  This is a post I will not be sending my trainers at Guide Dogs for the Blind, as they would be mortified!

I think most of us call the above example “multi-tasking,” and if we’re looking at it from that perspective, I am a very talented multi-tasker. I think in reality, however, I am very talented at not being present.

Not that I never have fully present moments, but I think it says something when they are rare enough that I journal about them when they do happen.  Here is an entry that I wrote this summer, one gorgeous morning in June.

“Today I went on an ordinary morning stroll. Ordinary in that I was just walking like people do, placing one foot in front of the other, over and over in a movement of forward propulsion.  But extraordinary in what I was feeling and experiencing.  The air had never felt so very much like its own entity against my bare arms, neither warm nor cold, but delighting my skin just the same.  And  the fragrance of flowers ignited my senses in a way that caused me to inhale them in slow, deliberate sips so that I wouldn’t miss an ounce.  My senses acted as if intoxicated, but I had consumed nothing.  My consumption was only of the moment . . . fully aware, fully present, fully Joy. “

I’m grateful for the moment I journaled about, though I find myself wanting more moments like these.  And I want to model the importance of Being to my children, so that they can find a place of peace in this noisy world of smart phones, iPads, and social media.

I keep re-reading one of the last pages of the book, hoping it will sink deep into my mind:

“Being present means living in the moment. It means realizing that . . . yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, and today is a gift – that is why we call it the present!”

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11 thoughts on “What Does It Mean to Be Present?

  1. Another wonderful read and I proclaim Guilty as Charged on the truth of being preoccupied 98% of the time. And I wonder why I can’t remember what people tell me…

    • It’s so hard! Since awareness is the first step, you’re well on your way to being more present! (that’s how I like to look at it anyhow!)

  2. Wow Joy! This article really hit home with me! I’ve been starting to practice mindfulness in Yoga classes and your article builds right on that practice! We are so consumed with distractions that we don’t notice the important things all around us. Thank you for taking the time to write on such an important topic! I’m definitely going to buy the book for my grandchildren!

    • Yes, mindfulness is such a centering practice, and yoga is such a fantastic vehicle for this. Hope you enjoy reading the book to your grandkids!

  3. I have found that being present traveling helps me know what is going on around me. If I am not thinking about some babe I know, Instead of where I am. I am able to think about the upcoming corner and what is going on with traffic. Maybe a friend is yelling at me from across the street. Damn women keeping me from concentrating.

    Fav blind Gu

    • Yes, this totally happens to me with Roja, and she can totally tell w hen I’m not present, and in turn she loses focus. Gotta stop thinking about those babes! lol

  4. As I read all the above comments,I think to myself how wonderful that you are learning this when you are so young.Many folks have lived all their lives not knowing this concept ,me included.It takes practice if you want peace in your day to day life.

  5. How wonderful you have this concept in your young life.Many folks much older,me included are learning this,however it takes practice and more practice.

    • So sorry Joy Kay…you did it right….it’s just that it takes longer the first time you ever comment because we have to “approve” it (to avoid all the spam out there!) Good job….sorry for the trouble! 🙂

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