I recently shared my thoughts on being present. It’s an ongoing battle for me to allow myself to be present. At any given moment, my head is full of thoughts about today, tomorrow, and ten years from now. Being present, being still – it’s a discipline to be learned and generally does not come naturally to us that live in this busy world.
Physical stillness, however, has never been a struggle for me. I crave sweet moments of curling up on the couch with a hot beverage and a blanket. There’s so much joy in feeling my muscles relax and find comfort in the soft cushion. I could spend hours here – literally, hours.
Creating stillness in my mind is a different story and a much greater challenge. I have never in the past known how to stop the cycling of thoughts in my head. But I long to learn. My desire is to slow down, to live fully in each moment. Often I get so caught up in planning for tomorrow that I miss today. How can one find joy and fullness in the day, not looking for something more, but being content with the present?
Many times I find myself asking the Lord for more time. It’s already 2:00 pm on Sunday, my weekend is coming to an end, why can’t this day be longer? I want to control the time. I want it to go fast when life is hard and slow when moments are sweet. But it is not mine to control, it is a gift, each hour, to be embraced.
I need not ask for more time, but that I would learn to fully experience each hour I’ve been given.
With that comes stillness. I cannot fully experience the day if I’m not seeing the day. So to help me discipline myself in this, I’ve come up with an exercise that drives me to stop and fully experience a moment. My hope is to train my mind to slow down and see more during the rest of my day. If you can steal away for 20 minutes, this is a great practice to try. I prefer to do this in a place outdoors, early in the morning, when the world is gently waking.
Allow yourself to get comfortable and then start to slow your breathing. Listening to your breath – in and out, in and out – is a great way to start clearing your mind.
Now, start listing the sounds that you hear. Go beyond what is obvious, listen hard. If you hear birds, listen to the many different songs they are singing. After you have listed all the sounds that are familiar to you, go further. Listen hard. What do you hear? Is there something new or unusual? Can you hear something as soft as a leaf hitting the ground? Get quiet and listen. Listen hard.
Now, list what you see. So many things, most likely – trees, cars, people, clouds. List all that you see. Then, go further. Look harder. Ask God to give you eyes to really see. See beyond the objects in front of you. What do you see? Maybe you see a porch swing where the family sits each evening to share stories and laughter. Maybe you see a bike laying in the grass that a child rode earlier to go on an exciting adventure. Slow down, look around, what do you see?
Do the same with smell, touch, and taste (if you are eating or drinking something). Really think about each sense in this moment.
Finally, and spend some time here, think about what you feel. Start with outward feelings, what do you feel? A soft, warm breeze? The blaze of sun rays on your back? Then look inward, how do you feel? How are you feeling inside, in this moment? Slow down and describe your emotions. If you’re anxious, think about why that is. Then, let all of your negative emotions go. Slow down. Be present. Think about what it feels like to sit in this moment fully present.
When you feel ready to move on, commit your day to the glory of the Lord.
Now go live it!
Of course, it is not always possible to find time in the day to spend alone and focused. So, why not practice this right where you are? While eating lunch, washing dishes, playing with kids, you can practice these exercises briefly and experience what it is like to fully live in that moment. Best of luck!