“God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are, and if we faithlessly discard situation after situation, moment after moment, as not being “right”, we will simply have no place to receive his kingdom into our life.” – Dallas Willard
The concept of practicing presence is nothing new in my life. For years I’ve made it a regular goal, read every book and blog post I can find about it, and scrawled quotes about “being all there, wherever you are,” across journal pages and captions on my Instagram posts. But despite all my efforts, I still find myself longing for what’s ahead or nostalgically looking backwards to where I’ve been far too often.
Presence is such a vague term. We want it so desperately, yet I think most of us are fuzzy on how we might actually achieve it. Is it actually possible to be fully involved in this precise moment without being drawn forward or behind by the desire of somewhere else?
I am absolutely no expert at this, but over time I’ve picked up a few habits that have helped me choose to be present. When I’m intentional about practicing these disciplines I notice myself significantly more content and alive to my right-now life.
1. Choose One Thing at a Time
Though there’s always many different things going on in my life, it helps to choose an overarching focus for a day or week at a time. This week is production week for our spring musical at the high school and my entire life is adjusted to give this the primary focus. If I don’t make strides in my writing projects or practice for the choir concert that’s ok. It’s musical week. Next week it will be over and I will choose a different focus.
“Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem. Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairy tale. Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.” -Shauna Niequist Present Over Perfect
2. Smaller agendas for time frames
I’m the queen at over-estimating my abilities to accomplish twelve things in thirty minutes. Spoiler alert: I never get it all done. But if I underestimate what I can get done in that chunk of time (maybe just two tasks instead of a dozen) I move much less frantically and feel far less behind than I would otherwise.
3. Keep Your Eyes Focused (just put that phone away)
I’m not at all against electronic devices or social media, but sometimes it’s better to watch with eyes peeled and undivided attention. You don’t want to be so consumed with the pretty things other people are sharing on Instagram that you miss out on the magic exploding right in front of your eyes. That’s how I want to go through life. Phone in pocket and eyes fixed on all the wonder happening in front of me.
“There is a daily-ness to my work, a small-moment perspective that whispers for me to connect with the work in my right-now hands, not because it’s going to becoming something Big and Important, but because Someone who is Big and Important is here, with me, in me, today.” -Emily P. Freeman It’s Simply Tuesday
4. Make a Gratitude List
I’ve gone through phases of keeping a list of gratitude going over the years, sometimes faithfully writing down everything and anything I can name that I’m thankful for and other times forgetting entirely to write a single thing down for months. I don’t know why this isn’t a more consistent practice in my life, because every time I stop to actually write down the things I’ve found that are gifts of grace I become instantly more grounded, present, and content to be in the moment. I currently have a lime green pen and a growing list of gifts jotted down in my bullet journal and it is making these April days exponentially more beautiful.
5. Take more pictures
So there’s one thing I’ll take my phone out for at any moment in the day and that is to snap a picture. There’s something about looking at your life through the lens of the camera (iPhone) that allows you to focus in and enjoy the moment all the better.
“When my soul doth magnify, my time doth magnify. I redeem time from neglect and apathy and inattentiveness when I swell with thanks and weigh the moment down and it’s giving thanks to God for this moment that multiplies the moments, time made enough. Thanksgiving creates abundance.” -Ann Voskamp One Thousand Gifts