Before I start sharing some of the things that have helped me to become more present, I figured it was important to define somewhat what I actually mean by the term ‘being present’.
Turns out defining what it is to be present – in words – is much harder than writing tips about it. Hence the time lag in my beginning this series.
My procrastination about ‘the definition post’ has caused me to pause and ponder quite a bit about the metaphor inherent in this situation (which of course hasn’t helped the time lag issue).
Here’s what I’ve noticed.
The Tip Phenomenon
It’s easy to love “tips”. In fact tips seem to be quite the fashion these days. I googled tips and found tip lists ranging from Al-Qaeda’s 22 tips for dodging drone attacks to very particular travel tips. It seems you can find tips relevant to almost any pursuit life may offer you. There are time management tips, handy household tips, school survival tips, cooking tips, healthy living tips and then there are the authors that go for broke with all encompassing lists to change your entire life. It’s an epidemic. Tips are the new black.
So why are we all so obsessed with tips?
I believe it’s because “tips” and handy checklists give us little strategies to help us feel like we’re getting it together and doing something neat, or useful, or beneficial. For most of us, most of the time, life feels overwhelming, and instead surrendering to all that, we want a road map the hell outa there.
Its easy to kid ourselves that tips will be the fast track to helping us live in the dreamy mantra that we’re improving ourselves and our situation in some way and because of that – its all gonna be A-OK.
This is why I’ve had to pause and consider that the tips ‘scene’ can turn out to be tricky territory.
You see, I’m a girl who advocates the beauty and power of surrender and overwhelm. I’m no longer into quick-fixes and nifty strategies that help us avoid rather than embrace. So clearly care needs to be taken as I prepare my discussion of what it means to be present and launch into my own ‘tip-fest’. 🙂
But there’s more to it than that.
My concern is that, in the modern ‘Western’ world, we are so busy trying to get away from ourselves, and our feelings, that we search for a road map to anywhere else but here.
Getting all addicted to tips and strategies, we can fool ourselves into thinking that we’re heading towards a thing, without fully examining what that place will be like, and if it’s somewhere we actually want to go.
Then there’s the issue that without spending enough time thinking about what our heart really desires, and dreaming in specifics about the possibilities in front of us, we just set off without any way of discerning if we are actually getting closer to our desired destination.
If we aren’t careful, this idea of ‘getting present’ can turn into something we logically agree is a ‘good idea’ when we haven’t fully deciding what it means to go there, if we think we’ll like it when we do and without any way of knowing when we might be getting close.
A Journey to ‘Rome’
Imagine for a minute that you grew up under a rock and had never heard of far-off places and distant lands. You just knew the place you were in.
Then suddenly everyone around you started to tell you that you should visit Rome, a distant land in the west. Most of the people you knew had either been there, or were about to go.
Without even considering the merits of Rome, you promptly pack your bags and set off to the west.
In this scenario, knowing as little as you do about travel, Rome and your own personal desires, the problem inherent in your situation would be that:
1. You can’t actually say that you truly want to go to Rome based on a desire you’ve developed as a part of your own personality, interests, curiosity or desire to learn about new things. People have just said it and you’ve acted.
So, you must be doing it for some other reason, like “other people know best” or “I’m stuck for initiative myself so I’ll just rely on everyone else’s life plan” or “everyone else says it’s a good idea and the only way I’ll get loved and approved of is if I go there”.
Desire like that doesn’t get you very far, nor is it very fulfilling along the way. In fact, such duty-bound or fear based endeavours just get tiring, instead of energizing.
Also, driven by such impure desires, when and if you finally did reach Rome, you have no idea if you’ll actually like it, and may end up feeling that the whole trip was a complete waste of time.
It pays to develop a feeling and desire for where you are headed before committing a lot of time and effort to getting there.
If you see benefits to going there, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
If fact you’re unlikely to get anywhere if you don’t actually want to go there.
If you don’t see any benefit you’ll quickly give up, or go so far and tell yourself that that’s enough or the best you can hope for.
2. Since you don’t have a strongly developed desire for Rome and its unique and exotic sights, tastes and smells, you are likely to set out and get way-laid looking at other things – which may or may not be as good as what Rome herself offers.
In fact you might just get a few villages over, find some interesting characters and ideas there. These people, thoughts and customs may be only slightly different from those you have known all your life, but they might excite you enough to feel that you’ve really branched out, and changed and probably gone far enough.
You could do all this, not understanding that on reaching Rome what would feel like a whole new world would open up, and that even a new language and way of interacting could be possible.
You might settle for ‘this will do’ when ‘out of this world bliss’ was actually on offer.
Your viewpoint of the possibilities for personal change and growth will be vastly limited if you lack imagination and/or lack desire to ask more or learn more.
3. In your travels, you won’t have any idea if you are even in the vicinity of Rome. If you knew something about it, like that people speak Italian there, or if you had heard a story about the Colosseum or tiramisu, then as you entered Italy and found some clues, you might be able to deduce that Rome was not as far off as it was when you first set out on our adventure.
Some knowledge, applied using logic, and self-reflection would help you be aware of your progress.
If we take Rome out of this hypothetical scenario and sub in the destination ‘Present’ or ‘at-one with God’, basically the same lessons and principles apply. The truths that apply to our fictional journey to Rome, apply just about any desired aspect of personal or spiritual growth.
For example, we might have an intellectual concept that a relationship with God is a good thing but if our soul holds the feeling that relating to a parent will actually be a burden and a giving up of our joy and will, then our desire for God won’t be heartfelt or passionate. We’ll give up before the get-go.
Similarly, any steps we take towards Him out of a sense of duty or desire to ‘just be rid of our pain’, or ‘to be a good girl or boy’ won’t get us very far, or last for very long.
Getting present, becoming at-one with God, these things must be thought about in terms of their merits and dreamed of in terms of the possibilities they will offer, if we are to ever embrace the journey to get there.
We’ll also have to come to terms with the fact that it is indeed a journey, not a destination that can be reached in a moment and in order to get there we’ll have to not only want it, but desire to know more about how to go there and to see that we don’t already know everything about it.
A Story about Tris
Tristan once jokingly told someone (much to their total horror) that when his Dad first introduced us, he planned to just lead with calling me ‘Mum’.
Thankfully, Tris is one of the most mature people I know and since he’s very focused on this Heavenly Mother, he’s not shopping for more earthly ones, so he’s always just been completely himself with me. These days, I’d regard Tris as a very good friend of mine.
One of the things I love about him is that he often starts sentences with phrases like:
“When I’m at one with God I can feel I’ll do..(insert awesome action)… or be like.. (insert awesome quality)….”
Or he’s been know to say to me, with a sense of wonder and slight bewilderment:
“Did you know that that person has never thought about what it will be like to be at-one with God?”
Like he’s thinking – how could you want to know God and not consider things like that?
Tristan has dreams that involve bringing God’s Laws into being for everyone on the Earth, and creating places for children here in the physical world, with substance and potentials that have only ever been seen in the spiritual one.
Tris gets that, in order to get to where you want to go, you need to see it as a great destination.
He dreams about what may be possible based on what he has already experienced of God.
He continually fosters and grows his desire to be at-one with his Father. He loves to think about it, he imagines what his life will be like when he gets there. Its not and ‘if’ type of scenario, it’s a ‘when’.
That’s faith, desire and imagination working together in a beautiful synergy.
I feel very blessed to know not one, but two men, who constantly model to me such a beautiful approach to life. They have not only dreamt of ‘Rome’, but they set out each day with a strong knowledge that its possible to get there, and excitement at the joy, hope and wonder that such a destination will bring.*
And That’s Why We Need to Talk About the Destination
So that, my friends, is my long way of telling you that we’ll never get more present if we don’t know what that actually means, and have a feeling that it might just be a good idea.
Which is why we need to have at least one post in this series that deals with defining what I mean to ‘get present’.
But this isn’t it. 🙂
Stay tuned – its still coming.
*********** Tris and Jesus also carry with them the humility to know that even their current perceptions of what is possible or probable may need to be revised. Just like the person in Rome, who tastes pasta or pizza for the first time, has to concede that our Australian version falls quite short of the flavour and flare that Italians give to these foods. These men dream in the positive, having faith in a God that provides and multiplies gifts. They live in a world where knowledge, and dreaming, and change, aren’t just possible, but certain under God’s Laws. They understand that even what they dream of at best, will likely be superseded by something more wonderful sometime in the future.