One thing you hope to find when you give up everything to take a life-changing trip is a secret or two about life. You know, the kind of thing world travelers write about in their diaries about their time with Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka or grandparents tell their children about growing up post World-War II while rocking away on the front porch.
Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to travel to Sri Lanka nor become a baby-boomer to find out firsthand one of the secrets to living life well. I didn’t read it in a book or see it in a movie or hear it in a speech, but I believe it now with such conviction that I don’t think I can ever look away from it’s brilliance. It’s completely obvious and surprising simple, but very few of us rarely do it, so maybe this is just a simple reminder. I’ve had such ordinary, life changing moments here that speak of it more loudly than I’ve ever experienced in my life. Here it is, in its simplicity:
Being present where you are so that you can appreciate what you’re experiencing.
We get so used to quickly consuming every moment that we never really take it in. We conquer hunger with expensive food cramming into our bellies, gulp down exquisite drinks for thirst, sprint out of theaters to find cell phone service to post our movie-going experience to Facebook, and turn away from a gorgeous vista to show all our friends the photos we took on a tiny 2 inch screen. In short, by trying to be ultra-present with our moments, we aren’t even present at all.
Life is better appreciated when the moments come to us in ebbs and flows, not a steady stream of a quick-moving current. It is in the emptiness that we can appreciate what occupies the space. This may sound like Eastern philosophy, and yes, it is, but it’s also biological, our attention can only be attuned to so much in one given period.
So next time, you’re going to do something enjoyable, deliberately remove everything that distracts you from the moment so that you’re completely present.What follows are a few recent, ordinary moments that I’ve been present with.
#1 – I sat in the park in San Cristobal for a good 15 min waiting to be picked up. I listened to a town “waking up” instead of texting, reading, or playing music.
#2 – Donuts with friends. We got up early to try Dixie Donuts. Luxury donuts at a special sale price of $1 a piece. We took some time to sit outside and drink coffee. Time is precious before the day starts I realized. Also, raspberry creme is delicious.
#3 – Korean food. I normally eat a pretty simple diet most days. Something like rice, beans, and chicken most days. We went to eat Korean food in honor of our buddy Tae Seok. It had been so long since I eaten flavors like this, I felt like I was at a royal banquet.
#4 – Driving home to my parents house in VA I knew I had a few calls to make, a few new songs on my iPod to listen to, and some scheduling I needed to sort out. I turned everything off and just looked at the clouds.