A story is told by the desert fathers (ht):
“Where shall I look for Enlightenment?” the disciple asked.
“Here,” the elder said.
“When will it happen?” the disciple wanted to know.
“It is happening right now,” the elder said.
“Then why don’t I experience it?” the disciple asked.
And the elder answered, “Because you do not look.”
“But what should I look for?” the disciple wanted to know.
And the elder smiled and answered, “Nothing. Just look.”
“But at what?” the disciple insisted.
“Anything your eyes alight upon,” the elder continued.
“Well, then, must I look in a special kind of way?” the disciple said.
“No,” the elder said.
“Why ever not?” the disciple persisted.
And the elder said quietly, “Because to look you must be here. The problem is that you are mostly somewhere else.”
Mostly somewhere else. So easy to do nowadays. We are so geared toward tomorrow and all the big plans we have that we neglect to simply be present in the moments of our lives. This has been such an easy trap for me to fall into in ministry: always looking for the next thing, never content or fully experiencing the current thing. Partly it’s just a leader’s job to be looking toward the future, but never at the expense of actually living the present moment.
It strikes me as essentially unthankful to never simply enjoy life. To be fully present in a moment is to be a receiver of grace in that moment – it is to acknowledge that I am living a life that was given to me as an extravagant gift.
One of the disciplines that is helping me be fully present in the moments of my life is making oatmeal every morning (seriously). It might seem silly, but the simple discipline of waiting for the water to boil, then stirring the oatmeal occasionally while it cooks, has been extremely helpful for me. It slows me down, if only for a brief moment, and allows me to concentrate on something fairly mundane: fully present to the preparing of oatmeal, so that perhaps later I will be tuned in to the possibility of being fully present when my son asks me a question, or when I have that appointment later, or when my wife wants to talk after dinner.
Our culture pushes us to go, go, go… and there’s some merit in the drive to improve and become better, but if it isn’t balanced with a commitment to be fully present in the moments of our lives, we can become like people who never actually exist; we’re always regretting the past or attempting to change the future, never just enjoying the present. Here’s to being fully present!