Weekly Wellness Update
Week of September 27-October 1 - Practicing Being Present
5 Steps for Being Present
The other night I was discussing the "how to" of being present with a friend of mine. I fell back on the old Zen standby, "Chop wood, carry water." Her 13-year-old daughter, who was sitting with us, chimed in with the incisive understanding of delicate concepts that belongs only to a child: "So, don't chop water when you should be carrying wood." Exactly right.
Contrary to popular belief, human beings cannot multitask. What we are capable of is handling a number of serial tasks in rapid succession, or mixing automatic tasks with those that are not so automatic. That's one of the reasons that the NTSB reports that texting while driving is the functional equivalent of driving with a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit. You just can't effectively attend to two things at once — even the superficially automatic ones.
So, how do we stay present? The first thing to recognize is that, try as we might, we really can only do one thing at a time, so we ought to do that thing wholeheartedly. Most of our time is spent in the past or the future, rather than the present moment. What we end up doing is passing through that moment on the way to somewhere else and, in doing so, we miss the moment. That's how life ends up passing us by — we do it to ourselves.