Saturday, December 31, 2011

In the rear view

There is only one time that is important – NOW! It is the most important time because it is the only time that we have any power.”    Leo Tolstoy

I am not looking back. Today is the last day of 2011 and I suppose I could write the obligatory summarization of the year. I could talk about how many miles I ran, the highs and lows with my family and work, and try to put a bow around it to make it seem all nice and tidy. You know, like a sitcom where all issues are discussed and resolved in 23 minutes or less after commercials. I not going to though. Fact is, 2011 was dirty, frustrating, exhilarating, tiring, and adventurous. I enjoyed it all and the book is closed.

 In the past, I would gaze at the new year ahead and keep one eye on the year just passed in the rear view mirror. Problem was, is that I was never enjoying the moment. Sure there are moments when running, or even now in writing that I feel that "flow" and in the moment, but what about expanding that to all the moments that we experience. What about being present all the time?

There is an old Zen saying, "Before Enlightenment chop wood, carry water, after Enlightenment chop wood, carry water." If you are fully engaged and present there are no differences in the tasks. Being fully engaged can lead to several things: Increased enjoyment, reduced stress, and getting things done. Why might these things happen as a result of being present?

If you are in the moment, you are just experiencing as it happens. There is an true enjoyment in the activity. You are not checking your smart phone for text messages, or going over the list for the store, you are there. Because you are only focusing on one thing, your stress level is reduced. Things get done because you are focused on the task at hand. Whatever you are doing has your full attention.

The good thing is if you are already an athlete (runner, triathlete, golfer, etc) you have experience in being present. You know what being present means when you are fully engaged in your endeavor that you truly enjoy. There are no distractions and you are fully immersed. That is flow. Just like exercising the muscles the only way to keep both eyes on the road or task and not in the rear view is practice.

Are we talking about practice man? Of course, its the secret to success. Remember as a kid and you were learning a new sport or instrument? The only way to improve was to practice, over and over, sometimes much to the pleas of our parents to stop. Now, I know most of us don't have the time to commit to a "practice" each and every day but in the course of your everyday routine there are plenty of opportunities to practice being present.

1. Do one thing at a time: If you are reading, just read. If you are folding clothes, just fold clothes. Don't check Twitter, Facebook, or think of all the other things that you have to do. Experience it.

2. No failure: It's impossible to fail. Practice is what is important. Even if you start/stop you are still working that muscle: Focus

3. Exercise: It's great practice for being present. Listen, look, and feel for when you start to feel that flow. Those are the signs that you can look for when are doing one thing at a time outside of your exercise.

I am not perfect and I am not present all the time. However, I suspect that most of us are somewhere else most of the time rather than focused on the now. Not looking in the rear view is a place to start as we turn the page on a new year.

“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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