How to be Present and Make the Moments Count
Recently, I came upon a local olive mill. For a foodie, the feeling comes close to scoring a ticket to the Super Bowl. In the most unlikely of places, stuck in the middle of the Arizona desert, was a little piece of Tuscany.
Once there were only acres of barren fields; someone had the vision and imagination to plant thousands of olive trees believing they will bear fruit. And once that became a reality, this someone moved on to create a larger vision - building a community. Amidst the olive trees, came a coffee shop, an eatery, and a gourmet grocery store stocked with all things grown and harvested there. It became a place where families come for picnics, and drowsy from play and the afternoon heat, children napped on blankets. And under the clear starry sky, young couples drew close, while the sound of blues guitar turned hearts nostalgic.
We are so hungry for community. But what is it about our culture with our need to connect and a seemingly contradictory need for personal space?
If personal space is a language, then most Americans are bilingual.
Those who speak the language of personal space learned to avoid eye contact and keep a respectful distance even when the situation (riding in an elevator, subway, bus) forces them in close proximity with one another.
Yet, we feel a primal yearning to connect. To belong. That’s why places like the agriturismo was created; why local coffee shops are popular; and why online communities sprout up daily.
Though we long for it, outside the sacred circle of our immediate family, do we know how to connect at a level that truly matters?
You might say we are more plugged in than any other time in our history. Nearly everything is accessible. But is accessibility the same as connection? Instead of hours spent listening to a friend, we now take a second to “like” their posts, which requires no effort at all. Instead of navigating through awkward conversations to find a kindred spirit, friendships are now added with a click of a button. We may have thousands of “friends” but when it matters, do we truly have someone to talk to?
More importantly than the loss of connection with others, is the loss of connection with ourselves. As human beings, we should strive to live fully on all our five senses. Instead, we gulped down food without tasting them. We half listened to love ones while our minds are a million miles away. We don’t pause to admire the flower that somehow pushed its way through the crack in the sidewalk. We walk past a fruit stand without the need to smell the skin of an orange or touch the spiny texture of a pineapple.
Real connection cannot take place when we are not fully present. To use all our senses is to be present. Then you will come to know this truth. Happiness hides itself in the ordinary moments of our day.
While there is nothing wrong with working towards big achievements, we need to start paying attention to the ordinary details of our lives. To do so requires little effort but a huge pay off. See what happens when you put the following things into practice.
Allow yourself to be a curious. Babies and toddlers have much to teach us. They allow their curiosity full reign; they don’t censor anything. When I was at the olive mill, I spent a good hour in their shop perusing the canned jars of olives, marmalades and pickled vegetables. I sampled the endless variety of olive oils then took a tour to learn how they were all made.
Give full reign to spontaneity. At the picnic area, one couple could no longer contain their joy while listening to the live music. They rose from their table and started doing the twist without any hidden of self-consciousness. If you let go of your fear of judgment, you may find that the only judgment against you is your own.
Eat your food like it’s the last meal. I made eating the bowl of olives the main attraction, and it’s a different experience from eating it while talking on the phone or watching TV. I ate slowly, letting my tongue run over its smooth, firm texture, then biting into its buttery saltiness, tasting a hint of garlic and vermouth in the brine.
Onward with awkward. At the picnic, I didn’t know a lot of the people sitting at my table. Making small talk with strangers, as you well know, can be terribly awkward. After talks of the weather, and answering the proverbial question of “what do you do for a living?” the conversation often ends in silence. But if you persist in trying to find common ground and dropping your guard, people might surprise you.
If you’re like me, you know that making others laugh and feel listened to is gratifying. You are giving them a priceless gift, the gift of validation. Perhaps you may be looking for this yourself but even if it is not reciprocated, know that the universe is an abundant place. One day when you least expected it, the same joy will be yours.
Your turn: Do you consider yourself a connector? How do you make time for what matters?
- Being Present
- Getting Off the Couch
- Life Lessons from Sports
- Mental Clutter
- Overcoming Challenge
- Overcoming Sadness
- Positive Attitude
- Positive Self-Talk
- Taking Action