being present



How did you make out last week meeting new people? Was it fun, did you learn anything new?

I kept busy all week engaging people in conversation. Monday evening, while waiting for takeoff from Chicago to New York, I chatted with a pleasant woman sitting in my row. On Tuesday, while riding the elevator, I introduced myself to a neighbor I often see at the gym but had never spoken to before.

At a stressful doctor’s appointment, the receptionist had me cracking up and went the extra mile to get me in sooner than expected. An hour later, I was helped by an equally lovely person at the Apple store. Although the store was busy, he patiently answered all of my questions. (I tend to ask a lot of questions.)

It’s fascinating who comes your way when you’re kind and put yourself forward.

My focus for this week is about being present. I know, what does that mean? Is it different for everyone? You’ve heard people mention it before, but usually it feels like a throwaway line instead of an opportunity to learn something.

How many times have you been out with friends and you’re there, but not really there? The stress of juggling calls, commitments, and endless errands, while staying connected, that leaves little time for focus or fun.

Have you found that you’re the most present while on vacation? On past spa vacations, phone use was restricted to designated areas. It surprised me how freeing it was to be disconnected from all of my devices. Conversations were richer, laughing out loud came more naturally, and connecting with others was simpler.

Below are five of my tips for living in the moment. They can be useful in everyday life, not just when on vacation.

1. Dinner With Friends: Take in the ambiance, savor the delicious aromas, read the menu instead of scanning it. (I’m a big scanner.) Engage them in conversation, by listening, and not always waiting until they take a breath for you to speak. Don’t be too timid to interrupt or to probe. As conversations go deeper, you’re apt to give and receive more.

2. Mindful Eating: Eating slowly, while focusing on your food, this enhances the flavors in your meal with the added benefit of improving digestion. I tried a Mindful Eating class while on a spa vacation and was amazed at how delicious my blueberries were once I ate them slowly, one at a time, instead of shoveling in three at once. (In the land of full disclosure, while visiting a test kitchen last Monday, I was popping the most delicious bite-sized blondie’s into my mouth, two at a time, and I went back for seconds.) We’re not aiming for perfection; life is to be enjoyed.

3. Try Your Best to Avoid Haste: Instead of rushing everywhere, allow yourself a few extra minutes to enjoy the route you’re taking. It’s still summer for a few more weeks. Flowers are in bloom, and you may pass by a beautiful garden if you slow down and take the time to look around. Rushing everywhere, and I’m guilty of having done this for too many years, this leaves little opportunity for unexpected surprises along the way. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

4. Get Outside of Your Head: Mishaps are more likely to occur when you’re inside your own head instead of paying attention. Here are some telltale signs that I’m not paying enough attention: accidentally spilling full glasses of water on my nightstand; walking around my apartment aimlessly (I usually wind up in my kitchen, not sure why); leaving home without my phone–I usually realize quickly what’s happened, but instead of getting angry with myself, I course correct instead, get out of my head and start being present.

5. Do One Thing At a Time: I’ve found multiltasking to be more mindless than mindful. I rarely do all the tasks well. It would probably take less time on the whole if I accomplished one task and then moved on to the next. A perfect example is reading an email while talking on the phone. The person on the other end can hear the typing, so they know you aren’t fully engaged (which is, let’s face it, kind of rude), and it takes a couple of tries to comprehend the email let alone send a coherent reply. Multitasking, for me, is a losing proposition.

For next week, try paying attention to whether you’re present or not. Course correct when you feel yourself slipping. And please feel free to drop me a line and let me know how my tips are working for you.

Enjoy your journey. xoxo B

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