Being completely present means that I have to let people experience the totality of me. It’s easier to say a half truth than it is to let people see all the way through me. What if they don’t like what they see? What if I don’t like what I think they see?
When my children were little it was often difficult to get them to fall asleep. In fact it used to take 1.5-2 hours to get my oldest to fall asleep on any given night. I still remember how frustrating that would feel. I would work a full day and then spend the evening cleaning up after my children, play with them and then get them ready for bed. When it was finally time for them to go to sleep I just wanted them to nod off so I could have a couple hours to do something I liked, something that I was interested in. Now if you’re a parent you can relate to what I’m talking about. But even if you aren’t, I’m sure you can understand. I remember one night we were visiting friends at the beach and as I was holding Della and trying to get her to fall asleep, I came to the realization that I was calm and perfectly content. To be holding her and putting her to sleep was as close to perfection in life that I could recall. I wasn’t ‘just waiting’ for her to fall asleep so I could go do something else. I genuinely felt at home and at peace. It was an amazing feeling. Usually I was trying to get my children out of the way for the evening so I could do something that I would enjoy (read a book, watch a movie, play a video game, surf online, etc.). But I had found perfect peace in that moment of loving Della by showing her physical and emotional love. Some of you may be saying, ‘duh’ Brad, that’s what being a parent is all about. But this was as in the center of God’s will as I had felt since I could remember. I wasn’t making a massive gesture of world change or anything ‘enormous’ like that. I was simply holding my daughter and putting her to sleep.
I’ll be honest. In my life and in my line of work, there is a lot of talk about serving others. And while I know it’s important, up until that point, I really didn’t enjoy it. It was just a necessary part of being a spiritual counselor and leader. But after that realization with my daughter, everything changed. I realized that serving someone else and truly finding perfection in loving someone else was enough.
Most of us volunteer somewhere and give of our time because we know that to be a good thing. But do we know it to be a perfect and beautiful thing? In the moment that we are absolutely adding value to someone else’s life, what could be more perfect? Or we look at the subtle gesture that we have offered and think nothing of it. When in fact even the smallest gesture of service to another human being is of incredible importance.
May you find beauty and perfection in giving of yourself to another person, even in the tiniest of ways.
The other day I had a random conversation with someone that turned pretty deep rather quickly. It was one of those bump into each other kind of instances where a passing ‘hello, how are you’ would have sufficed, but the person stopped and began a longer conversation. And it wasn’t just that they felt like chatting. I could tell this person legitimately cared about connecting with me and wanted to know how things in life were. I walked away from that brief encounter feeling changed. But why? Was it something they said? I didn’t remember words particularly insightful being spoken. But the whole time we were talking I felt good… no, I felt great. I felt fulfilled and I felt cared for and those things matter to me. It was completely unexpected. I thought about that conversation for quite some time. And then it dawned on me… that person was 100% present with me the entire time we were talking. They looked me in the eyes. They never checked their phone. They never tried to speed things up or exit the conversation. They were just giving me their full attention. That is so powerful. My day literally was better from that point on. The remarkable thing about this gift is that it goes both ways. Because that person was completely present, not allowing anything else to hijack the moment, they are better for it as well.
Can you imagine living a life where you are constantly focused on the thing your doing or the person you’re with? Can you imagine taking an afternoon for yourself and instead of getting caught up in the next ‘pressing’ thing, you actually enjoyed yourself? If this is a difficult thing to imagine, then it just might be what your heart and soul needs.
This isn’t something I can write with great experience about because I’m only learning to be dialed in myself. Recently I had the opportunity to meet with one of my mentors. This man is a giant in my line of work and someone I’ve looked up to for such a long time. Do you know what I recognized was different about him when we were talking? It wasn’t that he is insanely brilliant or charismatic. It was that the entire time we were sharing, he was present and in the moment. I’m not the smartest guy. In fact I’m not the one millionth guy down the list of smart people. And I’m not too charismatic either. But one thing I can do is make the choice to be present in my life.
This is a gift that I can give to others and that I can also give to myself. Being in the moment not only lets others know that I care and that I am offering value to them, but it also tells me that I care and that I have value to give. For the sake of brevity I won’t go into detail about all the ways that we aren’t present or ‘alive’ in each moment. You already know the ways in which you ‘escape’ throughout the day. But what if it wasn’t about escaping? What would it look like for you to decide that for the rest of the moments of the day you were going to be present in them? What are ways you can be even more present than you already are? If you have some thoughts on this I’d love to hear them. I really would.
Today I will be entirely present in my life. I won't settle for escaping when the urge to distract myself from the present moment arises. I will add value to the world and to my own life, simply by facing everything that comes my way with my full attention. This will foster a deeper connection with myself, my God, my purpose, and others.