Last year the holidays were a blur. My first thought the day before this Thanksgiving was to slow down and take everything in, enjoy each moment and not feel rushed- and then I realized the entire year had gone by in a flash. Busy schedules with a crisis thrown in here or there, made me long for peace. I have often heard the phrase “be fully in the moment” without taking the time to consider what a purposeful commitment it would be to actually live it. “Just breathe” is another familiar phrase- we say it to ourselves, and to others, to calm down and take a moment to simply be.
Living Fully in the Moment
Being fully present, right now, can change the way we communicate as well as the way we perceive others. For me, it means listening with my whole mind and heart, devoting my attention to understanding someone speaking, assessing a situation, or even enjoying an activity. It takes a conscious effort sometimes, to not let my mind wander or worry about things in the future or the past, but it has been so rewarding. There are times, of course, when we need to contemplate both, but practicing just being present, with heart and hands open to what each moment brings, can make all the difference between feeling anxious or calm.
One Thing at a Time
I’ve decided to stop multi-tasking….at least some of the time. “There are a million things to do today”, is a well-used exaggeration, but it’s the way we have often started our days. Every moment is filled with activity, whether chores, schoolwork, working for the business or simply catching up on everything that didn’t get done yesterday. Doing several things at once is a crucial skill if there is to be any order at all, and I love order- yet it sometimes eludes me as a mother of six, an office manager and a student. So, instead of starting five projects at once, I’ve decided to take on one thing at a time whenever possible, and then see that task through to completion.
Holidays make for long lines, and checking one’s email or social network on a smartphone while waiting makes sense. It’s also easier than striking up a conversation with fellow shoppers, easier than looking at people or observing how they interact, especially when we’re tired. It’s even easier than dealing with our own worried thoughts sometimes. But something good is lost when we check out of our surroundings; observation and contemplation, and connections whether brief or lasting. Today, I purposed to leave my phone alone while waiting in line. Instead, an elderly woman and I talked about our love of teacups. It took more effort to converse, but I didn’t feel rushed through my day-It was rather enjoyable even though it was full of errands.
Peace in the Midst of Pain
There are painful moments that are so overwhelming, that to speak of peace at such times as these is difficult. But when we choose to slow down, to be fully present for one another, there is a quiet place to be found, even in the midst of turmoil. We no longer feel we need to strive to be understood, to have our grief understood, when others are aware and sensitive to the reality of what has happened to us. Being fully present, purposefully devoting our attention to one another, goes beyond words and is comforting even in silence.
There are times when slowing down means saying “no” to good things. But busy schedules, or seasons, can be unavoidable at times. Purposefully living each moment, taking time to enjoy one another, to sit and be quiet, or to rally to an occasion, to work hard or to rest well, can be enjoyed in peace rather than chaos. I am choosing to be fully present, and receive the restfulness that it brings.