Being Present

I keep working on it. I guess I always will. Focus. Attention. Noticing. Being present.

The beautiful late poet Mary Oliver wrote it this way, This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.

Theologian Richard Rohr suggested doing a five senses exercise in attentiveness. What do you see right now? What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you feel? What do you taste? I love doing that just to anchor my thoughts for a few minutes in the here and now. I try to do it daily when I begin my morning walk.

I see the sky, dark with the hints of color barely visible but reminding me that the sunrise is coming. I smell fresh cold winter air. I fill my lungs with it. Savor it. I hear the birds waking up and the wind blowing a bit. I feel the cold. I try to pay attention to which parts of me are warm and which are a little cold. I can taste coffee still and always wish I had some to go with me on my walk.

And then if I’m really paying attention I go beyond my five senses to the spiritual here and now. What’s God whispering? What’s coming to my mind over and over? Is there a worry I need to turn over to God? A chattering in my brain? A person who keeps coming to mind? I’ve learned when people come to my mind repeatedly, it is time to reach out. My friends are used to receiving early morning texts from me.

This weekend we visited friends that we’ve known since college. We raised our kids together. They showed us a video of our collective five children playing. Our youngest was about a year old in this video. He was being carted around by their son who was around seven at the time. The other children were playing soccer in the house. Now they are all adults. Every single kid in that video is grown. I wondered where I was when that was being filmed and why I didn’t remember it. The video panned out and I was standing right there watching it all.

I bet I was thinking about my church job or packing to go home. I bet I was making a grocery list in my head or thinking about all the dirty laundry we had created on our trip. I wish I could rewind to that moment and be a little more present. I would love to hold that one year old and drink him in. I want to hug the seven year old soccer players or at least give them a high five. And my sweet girl, about eleven in that video, right on the verge of growing up.

Our moments are fleeting. We can’t get them back. I don’t like living with regrets so the best I can do is do better now. Sarah Young in Jesus Calling wrote, Don’t waste energy regretting the way things are or thinking about what might have been. Start at the present moment-accepting things exactly as they are-and searching for My way in the midst of those circumstances. January 22 entry.

Our souls exist on attentiveness.

Help me God to be present. Amen.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three grown children, Mosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. Sign up for Dr. Ryan’s Inner Circle and receive extra content each month. Coming up for February is her Top Ten List for Small Ways to Love Big.

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