I’ve lived much of my life not being present. My mind wasn’t disciplined enough to slow down and appreciate the gifts in front of me. Much of my attention was being future oriented, daydreaming about how wonderful life will be when I achieve that certain milestone or goal. I’m also guilty of living in the past, harping back on missed opportunities and thinking about what could have been. I’ve wasted too many hours mindlessly watching television or surfing the internet. The habit of keeping my mind constantly distracted from the present was not living, but a fantasy world that kept me disconnected from what is truly important in life – serving God’s purpose and nurturing relationships with loved ones.
Fortunately, I’ve learned that the future very rarely turns out as planned and much of the thought put into is wishful thinking. As much as we think about the past, it is history and can never be changed or relived. Keeping distracted through television, video games, or the Internet is never really gratifying and takes quality time away from loved ones. The past and the future are really just illusions and all we really have is the present.
As I write this, I still struggle with forming the habit of being present minded, but when I do slow down and become fully aware of my surroundings, my connection to all things living is sharpened. Benefits I’ve experienced when I’m present minded include:
- Reduction in stress levels.
- Relationships with others more intimate.
- Quality of work increases.
- Energy levels remain balanced.
- Ability to accept the curves life throws at you.
- Calm and less emotionally charged.
- Better well-thought out decisions.
- More honest and open with communication.
- More enjoyable to be around.
- Life is more satisfying – it is like when you go to a restaurant, if you eat slowly and savor each bite, the meal is so much more enjoyable and gratifying than if you just wolfed it down and hardly tasted it.
Being present minded takes a lot of practice. I think in our Western culture, we tend to be future-oriented, so our mindset is always focused on planning for a brighter future or worrying about things that most likely will never happen. Admittedly, it’s difficult to break the racing mind habits and be comfortable just being and appreciative of what’s already in front of us – no more, no less. So tonight when I’m at the dinner table with my wife, I don’t want to take that moment in time for granted, I want to be present, intently listening, observing, empathizing, not judging and enjoying the delicious food and conversation, because that’s how I think life was meant to be lived – as that is really all we have.