Last week we talked about learning to enjoy the present moment, regardless of how far away that moment may be from your idea of a perfect world. In a time of graphic violence, from the smart bombs in Yugoslavia to the senseless shootings in Colorado to the gratuitous killings that we call entertainment, learning how to enjoy the present moment becomes ever more challenging and critical.
Violence is not the only intrusion. There are many disruptions to a happy countenance. Negative experiences abound. Even positive ones can incline people to disregard, discount, or dispel the present moment. That, however, is not the right understanding. To focus on getting more or less of something without appreciating the journey and the stops along the way is to miss the true secret of joy. The joy of the present moment is in the dance, whether we know all the steps or not.
Some people try to find joy in the here and now by ignoring or winking at problems, pretending as though they’re not even there. “Out of sight, out of mind,” is their motto. Avoid the harsh realities of life. Such happiness is shallow and superficial. It does not touch the depths of our souls.
Rabbi Milton Steinberg once made a priceless observation: “Judaism supplies us with a supreme criterion for judging ourselves and others. People are failures as human beings, no matter what their other achievements, whose hearts do not hurt with those who hurt. And they are successful as human beings, no matter where else they may be lacking, who are rich in compassion.”
The point is well taken. To be aware of the gap between where we are and where we want to be without feeling any angst or pain is to not be truly aware of the gap at all. To listen to the news without feeling anything is to become desensitized and less than human. To fall short of the mark without caring one way or the other is to undermine our true genius and gift.
The secret to enjoying the present moment, even when it’s filled with pain, is to focus and frame our attention in new ways. Can it become a blessing to stand in the gap, to “weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice,” to twirl in the dance of life? We think it can.
For this to happen, however, paying attention must give way to framing attention. We must bracket our pain in order to unleash our power. There is life in us, in those around us, and in the world. That is true as long as the sun rises and we can see the light or feel the warmth. We ignore this truth only at great personal cost • the absence of joy.
Children often lead the way. Have you noticed the scenes of children playing in the Kosovar refugee camps? How do they do that? How can they bring themselves to play after losing just about everything they once held near and dear? We believe that they’re on to something and that what they’re on to can teach us a great deal about focusing and framing our attention. Notwithstanding their pain, these children come alive to each other. They enjoy each other’s company. And that’s about all it takes to find a stick and ball.
What and who are you alive to in the present moment? What and who make up the company you’re keeping? Look around, right now. Take an inventory of your world Are the birds singing? Are the flowers blooming? Is the air moving? Can you walk forward or sit still? Do you have anyone with whom to talk or listen? These are the simple things that make life worth living. Do we take them for granted? Do we notice them at all? If not, we may suffer needlessly.
To enjoy the present moment we must come to appreciate and value the people and things that are in this moment. Pay attention to them. See them as they are. Don’t press them into a mold. Just be good to them. Play with them. Frame your attention in terms of appreciation and value. Look for the small delights in everyday living. These things can get you through even the worst of times, and they’ll make the best of times even better.
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
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