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The best kind of present

Dec 20, 2017

Each year, as we head into Christmas, I like to celebrate the present. Not the Santa variety, but the “here and now” kind of present.

As the carol goes, “Christmas comes but once a year; miss it and you’ll have to wait another 12 months.” (Well... something like that.)

It seems we all have so much begging for our attention, that ultimately we risk giving attention to nothing. We end up simply travelling in the passenger seat of each moment, smartphone in one hand to distract us from the journey. School kids sit on trains engrossed in a flurry of text messages, while conversations with those next to them go begging. Parents stand looking at their Facebook feed while accompanying their kids to the park. Colleagues read the latest blog post delivered to their inbox rather than taking 10 minutes in the tea room for a chat. Friends sit eating their meal at the local restaurant each with half an eye on their phones.

Hey, I preach not. Think of this as a note to self :)

But as many of us activate our out-of-office replies and head off for the summer break (perhaps working out when to squeeze in that last minute shopping), what better time to remind ourselves to get out of our heads and into the moment *. To slow down, breathe and notice. Perhaps, just perhaps, everything you need for contentment is right there in the room with you – if you choose to let it be.
* This is the lesson I value more than any from my training in improvisation.

Here's a little activity that helps me tune my attention to the present: I like to get up early and go for a morning walk — early enough that there’s that wonderful day-hasn’t-quite-begun tranquility in the air. As I walk, I take in some slow, deep breaths and then start focusing my attention on things around me. The smallest things. The edge of the lawn along the footpath. The shape of the branches in the tree. The sound of birdsong or a dog barking in the far distance. The feel of air on my face as I walk. The smell of cut lawn from the day before. I let my attention linger on each of these things as I walk along – and over the course of half an hour or so, each thing I notice seems to get crisper and clearer. I create up a “No Standing” zone in my mind – thoughts and ideas are allowed to pass through, but they can’t stop.

By the time I return home, I find myself acutely tuned to the things around me – to the present. It’s that feeling of being connected that is probably the best gift I can give myself and my family this Christmas. 

What about you? How do you get out of your head and into the moment?

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