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Every year, I begin a new journal.
And in that journal I write down a few words that I wish to embody and explore throughout the year.
One of the words I chose for 2020 was integration.
You see, for the past two years, I have been exploring various spiritual practices and modalities. From tarot, to mindfulness, to the world of astrology, to meditation. The list goes on and on. What can I say? I have a thirst for learning and my curiosity often gets the best of me.
As I was sitting on my bed with my journal laid out in front of me, I realized that I had spent a lot of my time reading and learning new information, but I hadn’t really put any of it into practice, at least not on a consistent basis.
I had been so busy absorbing this knowledge that I had forgotten that reading only takes us so far, and that the real change and magic take place with experiential learning—it was time for me to take action.
So, these days I have been trying to be more present in my day-to-day life. I know this might sound silly. Aren’t we always present in our day-to-day?
The truth is that most of my time, I’m up in my mind—either busy examining my past or planning for my future. Little of my time is actually spent just being in the present moment—living in the now.
How can I be more present in whatever task I am engaged in? Including the most mundane ones like eating my lunch? I know it sounds so simple, right? All I have to do is sit and eat. It’s a no-brainer.
But that’s just it, my brain is so used to chattering all the time.
I have been getting better at quieting my mind—mainly during my meditation practice—but now I am trying to quiet my mind while I am actually engaged in a task.
My current challenge is this: can I sit and eat my lunch without doing anything else? Just eat and be present. No looking at my phone, checking emails, or listening to a podcast.
Let me tell you, folks, this was not easy.
I could feel myself fighting it, wanting so badly to think about something, anything. But I managed to power through and focused on chewing while listening to the background office noise. You might know the ones. The beautiful sound of furious keyboard typing and the faint hum of the AC unit. It was actually kind of…dare I say…soothing?
Another thing I noticed was that it is really hard to focus on the act of eating. Chewing, swallowing, pausing for air. Yup, that’s right, pausing for air. Have I been shoving food in my mouth all this time without even properly breathing in between mouthfuls? It sure feels like it.
I never noticed how shallow my breathing got, and how fast I’d been eating—barely taking the time to even enjoy what I was eating. What a strange revelation.
This was a pretty neat experience. It’s almost as if being present allowed me to drop out of my mind and into my body.
It’s not easy to describe the sensation of being present, but that’s what it felt like for me. Normally, all that noise in the background is being cancelled out by my thoughts as I multitask, but when I say to myself “now“ (that’s the word I use to bring myself back to the present moment), all of a sudden I drop into the moment and all of my surroundings become clear.
It is no longer background noise; it’s just…noise.
But why is being present beneficial?
Well, minus the more obvious reason that breathing while you eat is probably important, I’m sure there is more to the idea of “being in the moment“ than I currently know. All I can say is that I will definitely be making this an ongoing practice in my day-to-day life.
There is something to be said about this level of presence that is hard to put into words. What does come to mind is the word peace.
When my mind is quiet and I’m not busy stressing about my past or future, I expand my level of awareness and all of a sudden the world around me shifts. Well, it’s not the world that is shifting, but rather my awareness and perspective.
I notice things I would have never noticed before, like a tender moment between a parent and a child, a quick but friendly exchange with a stranger, the sound of laughter, the relief brought by a cool breeze on a hot summer day.
I know it might sound cheesy, but I feel like when I am in the present moment, I am engaging with the world in a completely new way.
Now the question is, are you up to the challenge?
I dare you to spend your next lunch hour sitting and eating. That’s it. Nothing else.
Oh, and don’t forget to breathe between mouthfuls.