I'm lying on the living room floor listening to tales of deadly motorcycle crashes from Robbie while trucks fly past my head coming from Lucas on the other side of the room. I ask him to please not throw metal objects and continue pointing out animals to Emma who is snuggled up next to me with her favorite book. Mariah interjects from the dining room table with questions about the art project she's working on and I smile and tell her it looks great. From an outsider's perspective I'm totally interacting with my kids. But really, my mind is in about a billion other places. "What should I make for dinner?" "Did I deposit that check?" "Wait, is basketball practice tonight or tomorrow night??" "Shoot, I need to send that email!" I mean, with how much we have going on, it's almost impossible for our minds to not be constantly racing. But it's alllllll good because I'm super awesome at multitasking, right? Maybe that's not so true...
In an article titled 5 Steps for Being Present, it says:
"Contrary to popular belief, human beings cannot multitask. What we are capable of is handling a number of serial tasks in rapid succession, or mixing automatic tasks with those that are not so automatic.
So, how do we stay present? The first thing to recognize is that, try as we might, we really can only do one thing at a time, so we ought to do that thing wholeheartedly. Most of our time is spent in the past or the future, rather than the present moment. What we end up doing is passing through that moment on the way to somewhere else and, in doing so, we miss the moment. That's how life ends up passing us by - we do it to ourselves."
Wholeheartedly. That word jumped out at me, probably because i just finished a book all about living a wholehearted life and what exactly that entails (totally recommend it - The Gifts of Imperfection). When I think of living a wholehearted life, I think of children. Their main concern at any given moment is doing exactly what makes them happy. They're also quick to forgive and not embarrassed to get down in front of a crowd. But what's best about kids (in my opinion) is that when they're with you, they're WITH you. They're 100% present in every moment and mindful in all they do. We can learn so much from them.
I'm clearly NOT an expert on being present (just re-read the first paragraph in case you were having doubts), however I have noticed a few things that have helped me to be more present with the people I love.
#1: Get outside. I don't know what it is, but being outside is like fresh air for not only your lungs, but your brain. It gives clarity to the mind like nothing else. I also think the act of getting OUT of the house, aka: the visual to-do list, makes being present that much easier. And don't even get me started on the sun... Two words: free therapy.
#2: Put your phone down. It seems like a given, but sadly I have to remind myself to do this way more often than I'd like to admit. When you're with someone and you're focused on your phone, you're telling them that your phone is more important than they are. Technology can be awesome when it comes to connecting with people we care about, but nothing creates a more powerful connection than being completely with the ones we love.
#3: Play. This one is HARD for me. Honestly, it usually feels like a big, fat waste of time. I mean, there's always SO much that needs to be done!!!!!! But in reality, it's the best possible thing you can do with your time - and one that will have the biggest payoff. Playing is anything you do just for FUN. When my sisters and I get together we love to go yelling. We basically just yell like crazy people out of car windows and make ourselves look like idiots. It's completely pointless, and also SO. MUCH. FUN. Don't worry - I won't make you come yelling with me - there are plenty of other non-embarrassing ways to have fun... Like hopping on the trampoline with your kids or playing tag at the park (always WAY more fun than expected), or maybe crafting with your best friend or planning a game night with a few other couples. It can be as simple as breaking out that sudoku notepad in your nightstand and going to town... Whatever it is, allow yourself to have FUN - because when you're having fun, you're living in the present.
#4: Look them in the eyes. Sounds a little creepy, but it works. When my kids or husband are talking to me, I try to stop what I'm doing (within reason) and look them in the eyes. Not only does it let them know I think they're important and I care about what they're about to tell me, it helps me to focus and be present with them and really hear what they have to say.
And that's it! Four very simple little tricks that have helped (and continue to help) me strive (key word here - it's an ongoing process) to be more present in life and with the people I love. What helps you to be present? I'd love to hear your thoughts!