It’s become such a popular word, so much so that it has almost become shallow. There is nothing shallow about being present, however.
I was struck the other day by an On Being interview with Marie Howe. Howe discussed how she invites her poetry students to simply notice; to log things they’ve noticed throughout the day, but on the condition that they are NOT allowed to use or force metaphor. The intent in the assignment is, that when invited weeks later to reinsert metaphor into the process, students would be baffled by the poetic nature of every moment of human life, and therefore prefer not to interject or force metaphor upon the noticings. Gosh, what a stunning picture… that life is more poetic than we give it credit for, if we only notice it. Thinking of this makes my mind jump to a few years ago when a mentor, in one of my busiest seasons of life, invited me to nix all spiritual disciplines I was attempting to pursue and simply be, like “melting snow” (from the Rumi poem). My mentor invited me to simply be present in the automatic daily rituals of life.
I’m a coffee drinker (say what you will, but I can’t give up that brown nectar from on high), and I’m one of those fiends that prefers a more detailed approach to extraction (like a pour over). And so, my mentor invited me to simply be utterly present to my pour over every morning: to notice, to smell, to see, to sink. What a novelle thought to my analytical, overly-chaotic little mind.
I think ‘being present’ has become kind of sexy or hip right now, and I think we can over complicate the practices we use to attempt to be present--what an example of missing the mark. While we attempt to be more present to our minute-by-minute life, we miss it by complicating the intent or practice of noticing or slowing down.
And so, I invite you to simply notice… notice the smells, the sounds, the light around you. Notice the flecks of color in the eyes you’re looking into, notice the variation of sounds in someone’s voice, notice the difference between morning and evening light. I invite you to be totally present to who and where you are.