Reality. It is a stinker right now. We would rather not have to endure this overwhelming stoppage and restriction that has us anxious and impatient, irritable and sad.
But now is all we have. It is all we ever have, if you think about it. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow exists only in our imaginations. But “living in the now” seems like a silly statement. Isn’t that what we are always doing?
Not if we are stuck in our memories. Not if we stake our happiness on expectations for the future.
There are gifts in the present moment. I realize the present may be excruciating for you if you are dealing with loss or suffering in other ways. Yet many who have endured suffering have been able to look back and see the gifts that were there: the love of family or a friend, the gracious help of caregivers, an unexpected moment of humor, the wisdom accrued in solitude and even austerity.
We don’t have to wait for the wisdom of hindsight to seek and find the gifts of the present moment. Perhaps these days are a setting for you to recognize gifts you have previously overlooked: a healthy heart beating in your chest, the view out of your window, the rich taste of coffee, the pleasure of using a cherished memento. Even a lack of beloved connections can be a gift to make you more aware of God’s presence that you didn’t take time to notice before.
Here is a poem I wrote in one such moment. If you would like to read a longer poem on the subject, you can check out this one about the glory of the present. (Instructions on the spiritual practice appear at the end of this post.)
I look out at the non-air-conditioned
unvacuumed, untidied backyard
and see life teeming
every leaf unfurled from a bud two months ago
goldfinches hatched from eggs.
My cat sleeps on his tail-cushion.
He was a kitten once
and I was an embryo before that.
The rug under my feet came from seeds
fibers woven by some hands
that once rested on mothers’ breasts.
and processed life
but all life
silently pulsing with
the casual wisdom of having been created
So. How to “be present?” Here is one way.
Take a few deep, slow breaths. Notice the abundance in your lungs filling up and the release of tension as you exhale. Take your time.
Repeat to yourself slowly, as often as it feels right: “Now. Here. This.”
If you notice something in your surroundings, give it your undivided attention for a few moments.
Let the peace of the moment settle into you as you gently move into the next part of your day.