Updated: Sep 5
As I make my way around our local pond, I am astounded by the colours. Some trees have gone a vibrant red, others a golden yellow. Individual leaves that have fallen on the path show even more variation. Red edges, orangey middles and green veining, for example. The water is still and smooth as glass. Even some of the weeds lining the shoreline have reddened or turned a deep bronze. I notice the sky, the sun hidden by clouds, it's rays breaking free here and there, stretching down towards the earth. It looks like a painting.
As I take in this very every-day but breathtaking scene, I am aware that these are details that for much of my life I would not have noticed. In the past, if I bothered to go for a walk in nature at all, I would spend the time thinking. Thinking, thinking, thinking. Planning the future, working out some 'important' issue or ruminating on some error of the past. I can't imagine wasting such a marvelous moment now but I know I have done so many times. I suspect many of us are regularly missing what's around us simply because we are not present in the world. We are living in our heads, turning over past and future and missing the present moment.
The suggestion to be where you are or to be present may seem needless advice. Of course I'm here, where the heck else would I be? Well, as I've just described, there are countless other places we can be and often are. In essence, wherever our thoughts are, so there are we. Thinking is a wonderful tool, but one that can get quickly out of hand, taking us away from the moment, from noticing our environment and all the countless miracles taking place at any given time. Thinking becomes a habit; an addiction. And we miss big chunks of life because of it.
"The moment is not found by seeking it, but by ceasing to escape from it." - James Pierce
The solution is both simple and challenging: you must consistently bring your attention into the present moment. Sounds easy until you try to do it. Then you may begin to realize the deep entrenchment of your thinking habit. If you set out on a walk determined to notice what's around you, you will likely find that you are successful for a time, but then find yourself planning dinner, or your to-do list. You see what's around you in a sense; the awareness you need to not trip over something or get hit by a car. But are you really fully aware? Are you noticing details? The interesting nuances of your surroundings?
Being present does not come naturally for most adults in our society and requires a certain amount of practice and intent. It is a worthwhile pursuit, however, because eventually you will find an average sort of outing to be quite fascinating, like my walk around the neighbourhood pond.
Try to practice presence for a little while each day. Pick something that you do daily, or almost daily, and bring your full attention to it. Notice and accept whatever happens, whether you find you can focus or find that you can't. The important thing is consistency. Think of all 5 senses and notice what they are picking up. Try this for a couple of weeks and see what happens. Notice how you slowly become more present; how you are where you are as opposed to being elsewhere in your mind. It's a simple shift but it can truly make a big difference. You can begin right now and see the subtle shift presence can make. Life happens in this moment!