Living in the Moment
- By: Candace McKibben
I have read about and certainly heard about “living in the moment.” I understand it intellectually and have tried to practice it when it comes to my heart or mind under stress or concern. But I am not sure I have ever experienced it so simply and profoundly as I did on New Year’s Day as friends gathered at our small river house for a New Year’s Day paddle and potluck meal. Only a few brave, or perhaps foolish, souls paddled up the river in the stout wind and cold weather. As challenging as it was, it was so beautiful with a flock of ibises escorting us down the river from tree to tree, as if honoring our lone human presence in the bitter cold.
Many more friends gathered to share in the meal, which was nothing short of a feast. After an open-eyed blessing on those present, the food prepared, and the fellowship we were enjoying, people dug in. With New Orleans-style barbeque shrimp and French bread to soak up the shrimp sauce, baked chicken, hog jowls, massaged kale salad, green bean salad, black eye peas and rice, collards and Bradley’s sausage, the plates were not large enough to contain all the goodness. People were talking and laughing, squeezed into the confines of the tiny house because the outside cold on the porch and even out by the fire pit was too much to bear. And in that moment, as we were running out of forks and resorting to spoons, I felt great joy at being alive and in that place with those particular people. I was embraced by the holy present and relished in the love I sensed in the room. It was as if time stood still for that moment.
I want to grow more attuned to the present in my life. I am responsible for a lot of planning in my work at Big Bend Hospice and as a minister who performs weddings, funerals, and worship experiences. I stay focused on the future – the next event that is calendared. I literally have to pause at times to remember what month it is, not because I am forgetful as much as I am working on events that are beyond the moment. It takes discipline to live in the moment and be fully present. But what I am discovering is there is a difference in being fully present to someone else in the moment, a skill I have refined through the years, and being fully present to myself.
I recently was made aware of a brilliant website called Brain Pickings. In its twelfth year, I am so sorry I am just now discovering it. For its seventh year birthday, Maria Popova, the creator and author of the site, wrote about seven life lessons from seven years of reading, writing and living. Each lesson is important and eloquently articulated, but I was most moved by the sixth one. She writes, “Presence is far more rewarding an art than productivity. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living.”
Being present to yourself involves carving out time for yourself. The Psalmist says, “Be still and know that I am God.” I have heard that bit of wisdom reduced to its essence by focusing on the first word, “Be.” Take time to be. You might practice mindfulness as a way to be more present to yourself. You might keep a journal or practice listening to yourself to become more self-aware. This is not about selfishness, but about finding ways to be more alive and awake to the world around us for our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of those we encounter. Even partial disengagement from the moment robs us of so much.
On January 6, Christians around the world are celebrating Epiphany, an acknowledgement of light coming into the world in Christ. As we all start a new year with its many demands, I pray for each of us an epiphany regarding a sense of balance in our lives that allows us to experience the great joy at being alive and fully present in the moment.