When Were You Last Present?


When were you last fully present in the moment? I've thought recently about how overloaded many of us are.

We experience information overload. There's so much news and data to consume. If someone set out to be the most informed person on the planet, they would surely quit on the first day. There is too much information in all the newspapers, books, magazines, journals, podcasts, and TED talks out there that we cannot consume it all. How much is too much?

We experience work overload. Many of us are literally working ourselves to death. It's good to be a diligent worker, and it's important that we provide for our families. But other factors keep us too busy at work. Whether it's an inability to say no or a never-ending pursuit of promotion or riches, we overload ourselves.

We experience noise overload. When did you last drive in silence and enjoy it? When did you last get in your car and NOT reach for the radio knob or your smartphone/iPod? When did you last opt for silence and solitude over podcasts and audiobooks? Do you, like me, sometimes turn on the TV when you're home alone just to have noise going? Or the radio? Some of us go from place to place each day, bombarded by noise.

When were you last fully present in the moment?

We experience cerebral overload. Anxiety, worry, fear... Whatever label you put on it, there's enough out there to keep us busy. Do I have enough in savings for an unexpected cost? Is my retirement portfolio on track? Who will win this election? How am I going to pay for my child's college? Should I be buying organic? Have I absorbed too much BPA? There are any number of things we can worry about it in any given moment, from the truly sobering to the utterly silly.

We experience calendar overload. Your son's soccer match. A PTA meeting. A late night of catch-up assignments for work. Church activities. Your daughter's swim team. Family get-togethers. Vacations that leave you more tired and stressed than if you had just stayed at home. All of us have packed schedules; our weeks (to say nothing of our weekends) run together as we hustle from one event to the next.

When were you last fully present in the moment?

I've been wanting to slow my life down recently. For several reasons.

I need to do so for health reasons. My stress level has accelerated since Daniel died, and it's taken a toll on my health.

I need to slow down for emotional reasons. When I feel stretched (i.e. stressed) and tight, I don't react well. I go to emotionally-volatile and unhealthy places. I want to enjoy a greater measure of self-control.

I need to slow down for family reasons. What they say is true; you turn around and your kids somehow grew up. I don't want to be so busy that my kids' childhoods are a blur that I have little memory of. I want to enjoy my kids at every age and in every season. I want to watch them play in the backyards, love on the dog, read books, and dance silly dances.

Most of all, I need to slow down for spiritual reasons. "Be still and know that I am God," the psalms say. There's wisdom in that. Too much busy-ness leaves little room for quiet communion with the holy, for in-depth Bible study that feeds my soul, for prayer that lifts my spirits. Idleness can be at times the devil's workshop, but God created us to need rest on a weekly basis.

When were you last fully present in the moment? When did you last look at your child's smile or twinkling eyes or hear her laugh and realize this was one of a finite number of moments of parental joy?

When were you last fully present in the moment? When did you last breathe in and out and thank God for the ability to do so? When did you last sit outdoors to watch a sunrise or sunset? When did you last drink iced tea or lemonade or coffee and lose yourself in a good book? When did you last nap in a hammock? When did you last go out to catch fireflies at twilight?

When were you last fully present in the moment? When did you last sing a well-known hymn, only be struck, as if for the first time, by its true message? When did you last hear the words of an old man's prayer and realize that he spoke from a lifetime of reliance on the Lord?

When were last fully present in the moment?