Being present. It’s a very trendy topic in our modern culture. Videos, yoga classes, everyone has bought the t-shirt – but does anyone wear it?
What is it to be present?
What do we mean when we say, “to be”?
My wife and I grabbed a few minutes to get out and walk while tech-savvy Grandpa and the kids were plugged into a video game together. As we walked, we found ourselves chewing on the question of what the new normal will look like post-COVID-19, and how we create life – and business - the way we want it. Inherent in the question is a desire we both feel to not go back to the way it was. It has occurred to me that I’m not really missing much at all after five weeks of isolation. I find that I am quite happy and content with how life is in this pause.
In particular, I’m not missing the rat race. All the demands of our over-scheduled, treadmill existence of the two-income, two-kid household in our version of modern life. We’re not big spenders in normal times (my wife and I are both of Scottish extraction), but what’s clear to me is that we are used to spending time as though it were an unlimited resource. The clock on our wall ran out of batteries. Not wanting to make an
extra trip out, it’s been a quarter to three for weeks now. I’ve stopped paying attention to time. And days of the week, for that matter.
What does this timelessness have to do with being present?
I, in those timeless moments, have exited the world of Doing and entered the world of Being. I’ve also discovered, the hard way, that being present with my children (my greatest teachers) is really the only option. When I’m off in my own head, not present with them, really being with them, then all hell breaks loose. Someone’s screaming, something’s breaking, life falls apart. Kids are amazing at Being. They can lose (or find?) themselves in a game, or with sticks, water, and mud, happy as can be. When I’m with them in that world, there is harmony, and we have a good time. They are, however, incredibly attuned to my level of presence. When I go out, they go out.
Who is that Buddhist teacher somewhere in Malaysia who used to teach, “constant vigilance”? He said it with a finger-waving intensity. I get that being present is a practice. Which means, it takes practice. And a willingness to get clear on what we are really and truly committed to. When I am clear that, particularly when I am alone with them, the well-being of my kids is my priority, then being present is so much easier. Otherwise, my head is off in writing this blog post or worrying about work issues I can’t solve now anyways.
So, if I am also committed to the success of my business and my team, then when I am focused on work, I can be 100% present. What happens when I am? Everything works. And when I’m not? Nothing works. It’s a simple test to see how your practice of being present is going – just look at your life. How’s it working? Put it on a scale of one to ten.
I’m not talking about your circumstances. Those are pretty crappy for many of us right now. Look at your relationships with everyone around you. That’s a place we can all bring more attention to in this Pause.