on being present

There has been a lot written over the years on being present. The in-the-moment seekers are everywhere these days. And it’s one of the best practices I know. I do yoga regularly and have learned through my practice to apply the here-and-now thinking to most aspects of my life. It’s easy when you can look at the above photo to remember presence and peace of mind. But the challenge comes when you are racing to your next appointment or staring at your dwindling bank account. Presence is hardest in those most pressing and challenging moments.

I was on a photoshoot when this was taken. I was just finishing a maternity session with a lovely couple who had access to one of the most beautiful plots of land I have ever seen in my life. Their dock stretched on for miles and backed up to the lovely sunsets of the low country. However, during this moment I was busy with my camera, sweating like it was August, and getting bitten by mosquitoes (somehow nobody else was bothered by any of this). Somehow despite all that I managed to pull myself away from what I was doing long enough to snap a photo of this glorious spot. Moments later, we saw a few dolphin swimming by. I quietly put my camera down to take in the magic around me. It was so still and quite, you could hear them puffing through their blowholes. It was a spectacular moment in my day.

This photo shows none of that to you. None of the sweat. None of the bugs. It doesn’t show the moment I saw the first dolphin and turned back to the covered dock to take it all in. But the second I look at it, my skin starts itching and my heart draws back to the place I was in my mind – peaceful, grateful, present in it all. All the itching and sweating. All the bugs. All the lovely views. All the work. I couldn’t have been happier doing my job.

Everyone is seeking presence, but somewhere along the line, we got it wrong. Being present has gotten confused into being in some zen and tranquil state of being all the time. We hear stories of being happy in the peacefulness surrounding us. But I just don’t think that is being present – at least not entirely.  I think being present in your life is to fully experience the moment – hot, sweaty, buggy, breezy, sunny, quiet… just grateful of the experience as it was right then. Each moment is significant and special in it’s own way. We just have to let it be that way.

As I practice being mindful and present in my days, somehow the gratitude seems to tiptoe along behind me…gently and quietly reminding me of where I have been on my journey. I think it’s during this time when I face the brightest light of the moment that I see my shadow of gratitude standing clearly at my heels ready to catch me when I fall off course at any moment. The trick is finding the gratitude and the presence of mind in the darkest hours of our days where everything is dark and the shadows of gratitude seem like they are nowhere to be found. Only then can we fully be sure that we are present – being grateful for the light and the darkness that follows. I think only then can we become fully aware and completely present…through all of life’s joyful pleasure and all of it’s greatest pain.

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