Learning To Be Present: A Gift To Myself
There was a night when I was in Porto Venere, Italy that I was walking home from dinner and I suddenly became very cognizant that I would never be in this moment again. I made a conscious choice to take that moment in completely; to commit it to my memory. The smell of the ocean, the feel of the breeze in my hair, the sounds of the birds and the fishermen, the feel of the uneven cobblestone under my feet all felt like they were seeping into my soul. I walked down to the ocean where there was a mother and her two children. The kids were arguing and the mother was visibly frustrated. This was one of many moments I had on my trip that I was reminded that we may speak different languages and live miles apart, but in truth, we aren't so different at all. I walked to the edge of the water to pick up a rock. I wanted something to carry with me to remind me of this moment. As I held it and looked into the dark, vast sea, I took deep breaths and tried desperately to take everything in. It felt so pure and so magical. Then I realized that I had never intentionally been this present in a moment in my entire life; not even the birth of my son. Why? What had I missed? Why had it never occurred to me to be this present?
I'm still trying to answer the question of why up until that moment I never made a conscious effort to be totally present in my life. I mean, I had made many half-assed efforts, but nothing like that night in Porto Venere. I had experienced my life as a passenger looking out the window and wondering what would come next instead of as the captain, sitting in the drivers seat, with full view of what laid in front of me and the choice of where to go and when to go. I keep the rock I picked up that night in Porto Venere in my purse and pull it out on a regular basis. I hold it and close my eyes, and I am instantly transported to that beautiful moment in time. I can feel, smell and hear it as if I were actually there. Did I need a solo trip to Italy to learn to be totally present? Apparently so.
What I've noticed about myself since I have been back is that my mind is not accustomed to being present. It needs training, When a moment is happening, my mind is already thinking about what comes next. I worry, I stress and I over think the future and I miss what is right in that moment. It's not unlike the theory that most people listen with the intention to respond. I had been living my life with the intention of reacting to it instead of living my life with the intention of appreciating it and listening to what it had for me in that moment. It's something that I have to consciously make an effort to do, but it has allowed me to see my life and the people in it in a way that I never did before. When we just sit with things and let them sink in and actively appreciate every part of the moment, it's funny how every negative thing seems to melt away. Being totally present is something that I have discovered takes practice, but it is the greatest gift I can give myself because it puts my life into perspective and I find myself insanely grateful every time I practice it.
As we head into this holiday, I am so excited to actually be present and to let everything melt away that doesn't matter in that moment. I am going to take it all in and allow myself to feel it without the need to react. The joy, the stress, the laughter and even the tears I am going to feel with my entire being and commit to memory because it's all part of my beautiful, messy life. I can guarantee that my son won't remember if his mom made the perfect breakfast, bought the perfect gifts or how much time he spent with mom vs dad, but he will remember if I wasn't really present because I was worrying about those things. To be truly in the moment is liberating. That moment is a gift whether it comes with joy or pain. Eckhart Tolle once said, "Your entire life only happens in this moment. The present moment is life itself. Yet, people live as if the opposite were true and treat the present moment as a stepping stone to the next moment - a means to an end." Life is short and moments are fleeting, so this holiday, take them in completely without any agenda, guilt or worry. Put your phone down, close your eyes and take a deep breath. You've been given the gift of this moment and that is the greatest gift of all.