A Word on Wednesday: Presence

The state or fact of being present, as with others or in a place.

It’s easy to be distracted. Multitasking is a marketable skill. I remember being asked to rate my ability to multitask at an interview for my current employer. I looked each of the interviewers in the eye and said, “I don’t multitask. I find it most efficient to give my attention to one thing at a time.” Flashforward five years at day job, I have indeed lost my ability to focus, as the demands of my position come from all directions across multiple mediums. I used to have a smart watch flashing interruptions to the present with vibrating notifications, which I turned off after a few months as it was too much. It is hard to be present when announcements of urgency demand attention. There are competing priorities. It is important to discipline oneself to prioritize rather than scatter our attention. In the practical demands of day job, practicing presence improves productivity and relieves stress.

When we slow down and are present in the big and little tasks of the day, we open the way for the work of God to vessel through us. When we slow to the moment, we enrich the experiences that make up our day. Giving your presence is the path to joy. With this intention, we can live our best life. The best gift we can give to others is to be present. This is a gift we should give ourselves as well. Total awareness, that is the prize. Complete intentional focus on the present moment. Living in all of it. Breathe.

Ignoring or quieting the stimuli pulling us from the present moment opens us to live with joy and contentment. It reduces worry and anxiety. Mindfulness, meditation, prayer are opportunities we can practice to improve our ability to be present. With this commitment to the here and now, we can soak up the emotion and strength to own the day.

Of course there is a time and a place to multitask. It is unavoidable in our culture. We never leave home without our cellphones. Honestly, I sleep with mine on my nightstand. I carry it with me most hours of the day, tucking it in my pocket from kitchen to living room, to the yard. It is synced to my car display every time I drive.

Recently, our book club read “The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again” by Catherine Price. She also wrote “How to Break up with your Phone.” Both books highlight takeaways from her research as an award-winning science journalist. To have fun, one must be present and intentionally so. Of course, this is common sense, but the reminders in the book affirm the need for presence in our lives.

I also seek and create moments to be present with God. Removing the distractions, and allowing room for the creator to live in me, through me. He is the ultimate source of strength. This is true in the sacred place of a sanctuary or an intentional time spent on devotions or bible journaling. He is equally present in my secular moments of gathering with friends, working, making meals with my family, working out, even watching movies. God is omnipresent, and if I listen and watch carefully, I can feel Him.

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