Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Being In The Present, But Not Tense

"Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let's be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand." ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen
As I sit down at my local public library to write this blog post, many questions are on my mind. They include:

  • What career should I pursue and when?
  • What activities should I be involved in, with my political party and elsewhere?
  • When will I realize a long-term, loving relationship?
I'm not getting any younger and with each passing day, these questions and others slowly gnaw at my mind and take me away to another time, another place in the future.

Again, in his wisdom, the late Catholic priest and writer Henri Nouwen offers up his thoughts: "Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are." Then I am brought back to the verse where Jesus says not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.

I think that all of us would say that we want to be present, we want to live in the moment, we don't want to be distracted. The answer probably does not lie in trying to purge all of our unwanted thoughts when we're trying to be present with a friend or at a job. I have a little training in mindfulness meditation, and the teachers always tell you to focus on your breath, and when unwanted or miscellaneous thoughts come to mind, to quickly acknowledge them as a thought, and then let them go. To me, this is much better than absolute denial, which will come back to bite you in the ass later.

Nouwen also writes, "Let's be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand." I love how he words this.  We're all wanting things, we all have many desires. But often we're too busy searching for them afar that we don't realize they are often right here, right now in this moment.

We can practice presence and find treasure when we:

  • Are sitting down for coffee with a friend who needs a listening ear
  • When we are patient and let an elderly woman nudge in line in front of us at the grocery store
  • When we visit a friend in the hospital and intently listen to how they are feeling
The list could go on and on. But I believe that in many ways, the most pressing things on my mind will take care of themselves as I walk in love in the present moment.

Mark Andrew Alward