I shared a quote from Eckhart Tolle with some friends recently:

“Most humans are never fully present in the now, because they unconsciously believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now.”

The phrases “stay in the moment” and “be present” are used a lot these days.  But aren’t we always? Wherever we go, there we are – right?  Isn’t that being present, in the moment?

Not really. I hear the words busy and overwhelmed quite often. Schedules are packed, minds are constantly distracted and juggling, and we push to keep it all going. We probably spend most of our day either rehashing the past or pondering the future.

I remember a perfect example of this. I was dropping my daughter off at the airport to go back to college after spring break. We were late and she had less than an hour to check her bag, move through security (Southwest, no less) and get to her gate.

The traffic crawled towards the departure terminal. When we were close enough she jumped out, grabbed her bag, gave me a quick hug and bolted. At the time my mind was racing; the terminal was really crowded, would she miss her flight, I had no clue about later flights, she was meeting her ride back to campus, should I stay and wait to make sure she got on, etc.  (She made it.)

I was on my way home when it occurred to me that I had experienced the entire drop-off only in my mind. I didn’t get to really feel her hug, take a last look at her shiny hair, listen to “I love you Mom” resonate in my ear, feel my heart swell with pride. I didn’t get to enjoy my last moments of her physical presence with me. The whole event was consumed with the mental gymnastics of worry and what if. The only sensation experienced was tension. And then, regret. The worst.

Life is rich with sensory detail- sights, smells, tastes, sounds, textures. Yet, we miss so much of this day to day in the name of busy, or because we dive into the abstract reality of a smartphone. (Look around. Isn’t it kind of scary to see everyone looking down all the time?)

Next time you catch yourself, maybe try looking around. Immerse yourself in the now, in the real world around you. Use all your senses. What do you notice? According to Tolle, that’s your whole life.

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