Even in the Internet age, where it’s become quite convenient to shop from the relative comfort of home and save a tree by sending e-cards, we still find it easy to succumb to the temptation to rush.
To the next event. To the next item on a list longer than Santa’s. To the next cookie platter or hors d’oeuvre tray.
At such times, it’s helpful to remember that the best “present” we can give is to be present. To remain focused within this absolutely unique, never-to-be-repeated moment.
Too many times during even an ordinary day, I find myself tuning out—say, during a conversation. While the other person is talking, a piece of my mind slinks off to what it considers more important matters. Bills. Projects. Deadlines. Emails. Phone calls. Gift shopping.
Face-to-face, that sort of drifting is fairly easy to get away with. I’ve learned to make appropriate response noises.
“Mm-hm.” “Oh!” “Really!” Or to nod or shake my head at seems like the right moment.
That sort of partial-presence is a bit harder to pull off during a phone conversation. When somebody asks, “Are you still there?”—well, it’s downright embarrassing to admit, “Sorry, I was Googling something while you were talking.”
During the holiday season, distractions multiply enormously. Lights! Music! Food! Crowds of friends, family members, co-workers!
Forget about the everyday diversions. All that extra sensory stimulation can be downright overwhelming.
Retreat is one option. Disconnect the phone, shut down the email, don’t answer the door, and respectfully (or not) decline any and all invitations.
But in adopting a hermit-like response, one risks missing out on the expansiveness and exuberance that attends the celebration (however it’s expressed) of a monumental energetic shift. With the passing of the winter solstice, more light shines upon the world—a minute more each day. For many it’s a time of refreshment: a new year, a new beginning.
It’s worth making the effort to embrace all that newness.
One way to do that is to remember that it is new. This moment has never occurred in exactly the same way. And will never occur in the same way again.
So when you step into a room, take a moment to breathe it all in. Yes, just breathe in all the sensations—the lights, the sounds, the smells. Savor the newness of it.
And people you see? The friends? The family members? The co-workers? Really look at them as if for the first time. Listen as if for the first time.
Because it truly is the first time. In that moment, they are uniquely as they are—for that moment only. In the next moment, they’ll be different. The molecules of their body will have changed a bit. Their mood might shift. Their attention may be called away.
And in the next moment, you’ll be different, too.
Of course, it’s not easy to sustain that appreciation of the freshness, the uniqueness of the present moment. Like just about everything else, it needs to be practiced a little bit at a time. Little dots of “presence.”
Gradually, those little dots can become a line, and that line becomes a flow.
A good place to start practicing presence, actually, is a store crowded with holiday shoppers. Instead of giving in to the sense of overwhelm or frustration, take a moment to marvel at all these unique beings gathered together in this unique combination for this moment only. In the blink of an eye, some of them will have moved on. You will have moved on.
And as far as the holiday platter goes? Savor that canapé.
Enjoy that tasty “present.”
The next one will be different.
Photo © Goran Bogicevic/Shutterstock.com