Thursday, October 2, 2014

The three keys to being present in the moment

I've found that for me personally, there are three keys I need to remind myself of daily in order to really push myself to being present in the moment.

The first is balance. I believe that the ability to be a balanced person is the truest art in life. If you swing way out of line in any direction you are living from a skewed perspective. Balance is essential. You've heard "all things in moderation" before? Living with the intent to be present in the moment is no different. There are moments to focus on the future, to plan, to prepare. There are moments to reflect on the past. To savor it's sweetness, to remember the reasons for where you are now. There are also moments to be fully present in the right here, the right now. I am an advocate for the "right here and right now" because I feel like it is entirely too easy to miss, and quite possibly the least "lived in" portion of our lives. There are so many demands on us, so many distractions at hand, so many expectations, that we can be so caught up in our whirlwind of thought that we forget to look out the window at the breeze moving the leaves. Or we hush the little soul at our side asking us questions we think we don't have time to answer. Or we lay side by side with our lover thinking of tomorrow's schedule rather than curling up in their arms and just breathing. It is balance to live a portion of your life fully engaged in the moment at hand.

The second key is discernment. It is left up to our own good judgment to be able to discern if this is a time for future planning, past reminiscing, or present living. Not every moment is a moment, but if you aren't looking for moments that are moments, you'll miss plenty of them. I have chosen the pieces of time in my day where I have tasks to do that I can do without putting my full attention on them (such as laundry, dish washing, making my bed...) to direct my thoughts at my day or week ahead, to plan for the future, to map out my course. I put my hands on autopilot, and I let my mind run ahead a bit. I usually take a bit of time on special dates to reminisce on the past. On anniversaries, birthdays, holidays I love to spend time talking about past times and remembering the good moments we have had together over the years. There's this warm, wonderful sweetness in letting your mind drift back over fond recollections. I do the same when I'm writing a card to someone, or even blogging about one of my kids or something we did together as a family. It takes discernment to know the season and the moment you are in, and to live accordingly.

The third and last key is intentionality. I have to reign in my mind and be in charge of my thoughts and, most importantly, my focus. Letting my mind wander is so good for creativity, but if I let my mind wander all the time I am absent from the inspiration of real life. I have to intentionally pull myself out of my "planning ahead mode" if I sense that something amazing is happening that I don't want to miss just because my routine says this time is already scheduled. For example, this past summer I was washing dishes after dinner, getting the kitchen cleaned and ready for the next day as usual (I feel overwhelmed if I come downstairs in the morning to a mess) but as I was washing the dishes my boys and Shaun started having a very spontaneous squirt gun fight in the back yard. The boys came running in asking me to fill buckets with water for them. I could easily have thought "this is my time, they should ask Shaun to do that for them outside." But instead (thank goodness!) I sensed that this could be a really fun family memory. I filled up buckets for them, and before I knew it I was caught up in the fun and left the dish washing altogether to go outside and really be with my boys. The hose got involved, there were squirt guns and buckets of water and teams happened all by themselves, and by the end of the water fight I was soaking wet and laughing the hardest of the whole summer, and I felt so close and bonded with my family. Intentionality is what we combat distraction with. When my husband comes in the door wanting to talk about his day, I can choose whether to keep going about my business and only half listen to him, or to put down the dinner prep, close up the laptop, and really look into his eyes and hear him. When one of my boys is needing attention, I can keep on working and try to distractedly hold them at the same time, or I can pause, hold them like I mean it, and then return whole-heartedly to my work when they are ok. Intentionality produces success. We need to be intentional in our focus so that we don't miss the moments at hand, so that our time is not wasted in half-heartedness.

[This post is part of a 31 day series on being present in the moment]

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