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The happiest moments in life are those in which we’re present. And I don’t just mean physically there. When we’re mentally present with those around us, we build connections that last.
We’re able to relate better, understand each other, and find meaning in our relationships.
Conversely, our times of heightened stress are usually a result of disconnect. We’re focused on the past or anxious about the future. We spend so much time thinking about what’s gone or what’s ahead that we miss what’s real.
But in truth, the only thing that’s real is this moment.
Being Present Leads to Meaningful Connection
This became undeniably clear when I went on vacation with my mom, dad, and sister last spring. The four of us went to Ireland for my mom’s birthday. Every night, after a long day of sightseeing, we’d pile into someone’s hotel room and my sister would pull out this special book — 300 Questions To Ask Your Parents Before It’s Too Late.
As we’d talk about these questions, we experienced more joy in those moments than I could have imagined.
The questions were simple, but my parents’ answers were touching, insightful, and often hilarious!
What was your neighbourhood like growing up?
What would you have changed about your wedding?
What’s the most mischievous thing you did as a child?
What experience have you had that you still want your own children to experience?
Their answers surprised us, made us laugh, and connected us more than we thought possible.
Those were special moments — connected moments. There is no production we could have paid to see, no comedian we could have watched, no show we could have streamed that would have replicated the belly laughs, touching moments, and memories that I didn’t even know were possible.
Experience Each Moment
Being with my parents was special. And being present made it possible. When we were asking questions, we weren’t half-listening/half-texting. We listened with our whole bodies. We listened without the mental noise.
But this is hard — for me too. It was easy in Ireland when I could put away my electronics and sit and relax in vacation mode. But in the day to day, it’s more difficult.
See, I’m driven to get things done; I’m driven by goals. So, I tell myself, “I can’t be in the moment because I’ve got to get stuff done! I need to think through that conversation. I need to clean this! I need to multi-task! Then, I’ll be ready for the moment when I finish.”
But rather than making things happen so I can experience the moment, I make them happen at the expense of the moment.
Struggling to Centre Our Minds
I take yoga as a way to get better at “centring” my mind. In a series of poses, I’m supposed to feel centred, relaxed, present, stretched, and strong. Here’s how it goes for me. When we sit down, we come up with an intention. Mine usually sounds like this, “Love all I encounter.” Then, we start our practice.
Usually, we begin with the Downward Dog pose. But I don’t like Downward Dog. So my inner monologue begins, “Why are we in Downward Dog? I don’t like it! I want to be in Pigeon! Who’s this teacher? Is she asleep? Back to love… love all I encounter!
“Oh no! Am I wearing the see-through pants?! Why didn’t I pay more attention? Why do I always buy things on sale?! Back to love… love all I encounter. I’m hungry. I’ll go to the grocery after this. I need to go to the bank first. Do I have time for both? Maybe if I take that shortcut? Back to love… love all I encounter…”
Then, I end the class more stressed than I started.
Can’t we all relate to that feeling? We try to interact with people, but our minds stay busy even while we’re physically talking to them. Our minds are in the past or future, but not in the moment. We’re unaware of the suffering, distance, and lack of results we create for ourselves.
We rush through life missing the only thing we have — this moment.
Presence at Home and in the Workplace
Centring our minds on the present may be a struggle, but it’s a necessity if we want to have real connections in life.
Maybe you’re looking to enrich your relationships at home.
Or maybe you want your work life to feel more purposeful.
Maybe you want to make a bigger difference in the lives of those around you, going above and beyond what’s typically expected of an HR specialist.
Connection makes that happen. And connection only comes when we’re physically and mentally present with the people around us.