The difficulty of being present

Mindfulness, the art of paying attention to what’s here and to what’s happening now, has become a fashionable topic in recent years. Perhaps this is a way in which we acknowledge that there’s a limit to the back-to-back scheduling of our lives, and the way that everything is always interrupting everything else.

When our culture has us skate over life at a breakneck pace, when the only response we seem to muster to our busyness is more busyness, the idea of some peace – some respite – seems understandably appealing.

But we misunderstand the practice of mindfulness, and the possibility of being present, if we see it as a technique to quell and soothe our restlessness.

Because being present means we actually have to face our lives rather than run from them.

When we quieten ourselves enough to really listen, we come to feel our own pain and our own anxiety – as well as our love and our joy and our deep unfulfilled longing . And if we stay still for long enough, we also begin to see all of this in others. And we are called to respond.

Most of us, I think, don’t want to experience that feeling, or that responsibility, for too long. We’re happy to toy with the idea of being more present in our lives, without wanting to commit to it, at least not too much.

And in this way being present in our lives becomes another fad, a passing phase, rather than something we’ll dedicate ourselves to for its own sake.

Photo Credit: Ali Catterall via Compfight cc

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