I’ve reached that age where I fantasize about writing my younger self a letter. Now that I’ve done some living, I wish I could somehow impart some of my learnings, ok, my wisdom, on my younger self. I have thought about all the things I could have done differently, yet I have few regrets. (There was that $1,200 I invested in a pyramid scheme in the early ‘90’s; that was stupid.) But all those experiences, and yes, mistakes, help us grow into the people we become. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Still, if I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be this: Be present.
Let life unfold as it will. Even those awful, gut- and heart-wrenching parts are there for a reason. But be there for them.
I just finished the first week of a six-week program at a local yoga studio, YogaOne’s 40 Days to Personal Revolution: Lovestock. It involves yoga (six of every seven days), meditation and nutrition. Each week there’s a new topic, and we attend weekly meetings for participant sharing. Our topic for the first week was presence, and in our first group meeting yesterday the leaders posed three “excavation” questions:
- When in my life am I present?
- When in my life am I not present?
- Where am I hiding?
I believe each of us is right where we are supposed to be at any given moment, experiencing whatever we are experiencing, good or bad, pleasant or painful, for a reason. I am good with that. But looking back, I get this overwhelming sense that I was seldom there.
Physically, I was there at my son’s soccer game, but I was off planning my next business trip itinerary. Physically, I was there on the sofa helping my son with his math homework, but I was mentally selecting a new coffee table to go with that new sofa, and remembering I needed to call an electrician to hang the chandelier in the dining room, and needing to schedule a hair appointment, and…
Even now, when I finish a fine meal in a nice restaurant, sometimes all I have to show for it is a photo posted to my Facebook. What were the textures, colors and flavors of that artfully crafted meal? Hell if I know. Was I really there?
Have you ever driven someplace, maybe work, and when you got there you couldn’t remember the drive there (and you were stone sober)? Your hands (presumably) were on the steering wheel, your foot on the accelerator, but your mind was either ruminating on the past, or somewhere in the future? I do this all the time. DWA. Driving while away.
We planners are the worst, always looking forward, seldom present, dipping back into our past only long enough to extract those key learnings to apply to improving our future.
So yeah, I want a do-over, but not to do anything different, or even to do anything differently, but to be fully (or at least a lot more) present for each moment. I would hate to know in what percentage of my waking hours over my lifetime I have really been there.
The good news is there’s hope. Realizing something is at least half the battle. Even setting an intention to be more present will begin momentum in the right direction. I know of two places in my life where I am pretty present: yoga and meditation. My meditation experience has been interesting, and from speaking to a few others, pretty typical. It started with, “I can’t do this. No way I can do this. What am I supposed to be doing anyway?” I have been at it for about a year, and it has been truly life-changing. I look forward to sharing that with you soon.
When in your life are you present? When are you not? Where are you hiding?