Summer is right around the corner and that means… VACATION!!!
As my wife and I were thinking about how close the travel dates were, we began to imagine the blissful sun rays, clear water, and sandy beaches. We were excited to get away from the noise of our every day lives and detach from the phone, traffic, and busy work. We were excited at the simple pleasure of being present.
I then shook my head in disbelief. Why do we have to leave to be present? So many of us do it. The moment we go on vacation; the kids get our full attention, our spouses are drenched in love, and we delight our senses with art, history, adventure, and fun. We take the time to be present, every second, attempting to make it last as long as possible. If we’re lucky, we don’t find our thoughts in a loop of horror, dreading the fact that we have to go back to the rat race.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, we have bills and a job. Yes, we have the house to clean and dinner to make. Yes, we have to buy gas, go to the store, stop at the bank, go to the gym, and check off each task on our list. Oh, and not to be forgotten, we have to eat too! Still, it doesn’t require a vacation to be in the moment, as proof by my six-year old.
We communicate a lot in my house by asking questions that spark reflection. For example, I don’t ask the boys, “How was your day at school?” I ask them, “What was the best or coolest thing that happened at school today?” It lights a fire under their pants that is sometimes difficult to dim. They reciprocate the reflection by usually asking, at the dinner table, “What was the best or funniest part of your day, Daddy?”
The very next afternoon after my head shaking disbelief, my kids were relaxing before homework time. My son walked up to me at the table, leaned over, and simply asked, “What is the prettiest flower you saw today, Daddy?” Wow! I stopped and thought about whether or not I even took the time to look at a flower or any form of beauty in the world. So often, we run around with our eyes glued to the phone, the road or the task at hand, and we miss these things. Then I remembered, I did notice some pretty flowers when picking up a gift for their Mom for Mother’s Day. It was only in passing and I didn’t stop to “smell the roses,” but I looked.
However, my boy, he takes the time to notice, to look, to touch, to smell, and most important, to feel. I know, he doesn’t have the burdens of adulthood thrust on him, piercing his soul, like a mighty Viking sword. But he has his own life and things he deals with every day. If he can be present and find the beauty in the moment, why can’t I? Why can’t you? Why can’t we turn all of those tasks into moments of being absolutely present?
All of us can, if we keep it mind. If we stay mindful of being in the present moment (though it seems counter intuitive, as if thinking about it takes you out of the moment), fully absorbed and committed to what we are doing and who we are doing it with, it could literally change every interaction and experience. It will get easier to do over time and we will no longer need to think about it.
So, the next time you have a friend over for dinner, be with them fully, engaged in conversation. The next time you go to the gym, focus intently on your breathing and the muscle groups you’re building that day. The next time you do the dishes, wash each dish with care and attention to detail. The next time you see your loved ones, give them your undivided attention. Breathe. It could change your entire world. It changed mine!