We spend so much time fighting with comparisons, don’t we? (I like this ice cream shop back in PA better than that one.) We build a fantasy world comprised of all the places we’ve ever lived or think we’d want to. This exercise asks us to be fully in the present. What I’ve learned is that being fully present in the now is a surprising gateway to thanksgiving, a gateway to awareness of God’s presence, and a gateway towards the contentment we seek.
I needed a day off. I could feel the rising crankiness, the need to gaze quiet. I had created Monday’s schedule to fill, refresh, to build something worth standing on for another week, a Sabbath.
There was just this one other thing to fit in: the oil change. No problem, I thought. But the voice on the other line said he only had one appointment left…smack dab in the middle of my well-planned day. With annoyance, he grumbled, “Ma’am, is that the time you want, or not?” I had been dreaming of a hike around Slippery Rock River, skipping stones into the current, a slow saunter around a bookstore, even a Target run (FYI, I love Target entirely too much, enough to be included in this “favorites” list.) Noon? I could feel a whine rising. The car would take at least an hour and a half and the day’s schedule was now smeared.
We would have to be content on our own familiar streets. No adventures today.
I pushed the button for the garage door to open. “Xavier, we’re going a walk. You lead.” Exercise always clears my head. He swung his thin four-year-old leg over his muddy BMX, still balanced with training wheels. I held onto his black leather bike seat and pushed him up the short hill toward town until he could pedal forward himself.
I had lost the heart to lead: “Left or Right, Xavi?””Left!” he steered down the curb between the two white lines. Again and again he pedaled north taking us beyond our normal boundaries, one block after another, straight down Beaver St. We landed at the bottom of the hill in Edgeworth in a triangle of a park, huge oaks, small brook, inviting child-size stone bridge. Sometimes you don’t need to leave town to visit new kingdoms.
We were in unfamiliar territory in our new town. We scrambled down stone walls directing fast moving run-off water. He combed through the pebbles with his fingers, water trickling through then piled them together to build a dam. Running up and down the creek, He tried to stay on the dry sidelines, looking back again and again to see if I was watching, eyes shining. I watched the magic gather and spread. Under the bridge, he spread out his arms, a strong man holding it up. I sat down in the middle of the joy fully immersed in the present.
My own stuck stream of delight was undammed by entering into NOW, senses alive, scrambling on rocks, listening to water grate over pebbles, breathing in the freshly mown grass. Simple, I know. But I wondered, how often am I truly Here, Now?
Back at home, I took out the dollar-store bottle of bubbles and the “fancy” camera. Just last year he could barely blow a bubble, more soap would spill on the concrete than spin through the air.
As he blew into the wand, I held my breath. How often do I live life shrouded in a tangle of emotions and lists written long, pounding hard after life, when Life can be blown up full right here in the present?
I’ve always wanted to be one of the fully present people. Available. Paying attention. Listening. An “icon” of Julian of Norwich hangs above my writing desk, she who was cloistered in Norwich’s cathedral, present to the Presence, anchored. So often I spin dizzy through life, my feet barely feeling the fake brick kitchen linoleum, missing the present as I reach out anxious toward the future.
The present is as temporary as a bubble floating upwards and all we have is the gift of now to enjoy, to taste and see that God is good.
And I know: He is almost five and I want to memorize the surprised giggles, the smell of his sweaty blond head, the shine of his eyes as he twists around and searches for mine, to live thankful Now.
I want to be marked “present.”
A spiritual exercise: The Sacrament of the Present Moment
We live life stuck in yesterday’s regret or deep in the future of “have-to-do’s.” How often do we miss the daily feast found right HERE? This is the Sacrament of the Present Moment, the Sacrament of NOW, a way to receive the gift being sent. This is a practical way to stop, pull up to the table, grab a fork, and taste the feast He has sent.
Practice opening up to the senses one at a time:
What do you see? Let your eyes stop on a detail of life. Study it.
A minute later, open up your sense of hearing. Listen. Let the sounds of life in without needing to evaluate them. What do you hear?
Then, after a minute, ask yourself, what do I feel? What’s under your feet, between your hands? Feel the warmth of the mug, the wet sand under your toes.
This one we often forget…a sense of smell, the clean fresh smell of laundry? The sandy smell of your child’s head after a day at the beach?
And then when eating or drinking? Be fully present, taste each herb, feel the texture, fully enjoy the bite. Savor.
Savor the moment, receive the gifts of God, watch for the joy. Allow the practice of the senses to send you straight into thanksgiving. Thank God for what you are seeing, hearing, feeling, touching, tasting. Acknowledge that He is present, the Giver of all good things. Stop. Invite Him into the moment. Enjoy His company.
Share with us one of your favorite ways to be fully present. On the back porch with your first cup of coffee? Rocking that little one to sleep? Deep in the arms of your love?
Want more? I’ve typed out post after post on this struggle toward present joy. Start here?
Dear friend, I’m always blessed to have you as a companion on the journey and right now we’re five days into #31 days of writing learning to fall in love with our zip code. Want more? Slip your email in the Connect box on the front page.