The other day I treated myself to a massage. It was a welcome reprieve and my muscles were sore, so it felt especially good. Every time I do something like that, I consciously try to be in a state of hyper awareness, where nothing will escape my perception. I want to enjoy every single second of the experience and do whatever I can to dive into it completely. In this state, I have often felt as though perhaps it is possible to slow time down. While the physical act of doing so is improbable (though there are some who believe there is no such thing as time), I do believe that being intensely present allows us to fill each second of our time with more awareness, more enjoyment, more of life’s sweetness than ever.
I contrast this to how I often feel driving home at the end of a long day in traffic (especially if there are screaming kids in the car), cleaning up after my dog or cat, or getting a cavity filled. Engaged in a somewhat banal or even unpleasant activity such as this, I can to some degree disengage from it altogether, and occupy my mind with other things. This seems to have a way of speeding everything up and making the whole experience distant and somewhat blurred upon my recollection of it. I can drive all the way home in this state and not be able to recall a single landmark I passed along the way.
The knowledge that I have the ability to slow down or speed up time for myself in this way is interesting to me. But what is even more intriguing – and somewhat unsettling – is the thought of how much of my life is spent somewhere between these two extremes, kind of on auto pilot. How many times in a conversation with someone is my mind somewhere else – scanning my “to do” list, thinking of what I could prepare for dinner, or even contemplating what I want to say next? How many times when my kids come proudly marching through the door to show me their latest artwork do I half heartedly glance up from what I’m doing and offer feigned enthusiasm? What I miss in those moments is something I can never get back.
I used to feel it was important to capture special times on film – and lugged around a camera, camcorder (or both) at the kids’ recitals, ball games, or during vacations and holiday events. Then one day I realized I’d get so caught up in getting the perfect shot that I missed those precious moments altogether. And they are never quite the same when you watch them on video. So I began to resist the urge to reach for those devices (or even bring them altogether), and instead simply immerse myself in whatever was going on. I think the quality of my memories has improved significantly – even if I don’t have a lot of photos or videos to show for it.
What if we lived more of our lives with the kind of presence we have when we don’t want to miss a thing? How much more in tune would we be with each other? How much more of each other would we actually experience and enjoy? How much more trust could we inspire and nurture? How much more joy could we create? How many more problems would we solve with solutions that addressed those little things that may have previously escaped our awareness and come back to bite us? How much more of our very selves could we bring to everything that we do and everyone we are with? And how much better the world would be because of it!
Perhaps as we become more aware of the degree to which we are really showing up, we can begin to gauge how much of our lives we are truly living. And then we can consciously create – and enjoy – lives worth living for.
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