Be Here Now

(Updated re-post)

Cozumel palm treeI’m still musing over the vacation I took last month with my family. It felt like a magical time of connecting with my daughters and husband, totally “away” from the Internet and the phone and the office. I admit I find it challenging, but I was intentional in my efforts to stay unplugged and simply be—enjoying the beauty of my surroundings and having a great time.

I think I’ve struggled with living in the present moment my whole life. In the last few years I’ve noticed how virtually everyone is afflicted with this diminished ability to be here now in the current time and place. Often our attention is focused “over there” instead of “right here.” Tomorrow or yesterday instead of today.

Being elsewhere now has been elevated to an art form, thanks to ubiquitous electronic devices designed to take us OUT of the moment and transport us somewhere, anywhere else. We’re on our smartphones all the time—and that means we’re not “here” but elsewhere. And iPods? No better way to transport ourselves than by plugging in our earbuds and checking out. Blackberries and iPhones ensure we can be connected with other times and places whenever we want, and never be confined to the present moment. Our attachment to Twitter and Facebook feeds our addiction to documenting the small moments of our lives rather than just living them.

The whole idea of being here now has not only been lost, the very concept seems naïve in this sophisticated “anywhere but here” world. It takes discipline to reject the temptation to focus on other-times-other-places instead of on here and now. But there are incredible rewards. The beauty of the present moment is magnified when compared to the abstractness of things long ago or far away or still to come.

We can’t live in tomorrow, and we can’t live anywhere else but here. We can’t be somewhere else in our minds and still expect to experience life in its fullest.

As writers, will we be able to fully capture the truth of life if we are not giving it our deepest attention?

I challenge you today to pay attention to your own patterns. To what degree are you living in the present place and time? Are you here now, or are you somewhere else? How is this affecting your enjoyment and fulfillment in each day? Just pay attention.

*Photo courtesy of my 12-year-old daughter.

*Be Here Now is the title of a 1971 book by the spiritual seeker and teacher, Ram Dass (Dr. Richard Alpert), best known for his association with Timothy Leary in the 1960s, his being dismissed from the faculty of Harvard in 1963, and his travels to India in search of spiritual truth.

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  • http://www.deankmiller.blogspot.com Dean K Miller

    Two simple questions, Two simple answers.

    (1) Where are you? A: Here

    (2) What time is it? A: Now

    No other answer is true to these questions. Awareness of the answers keeps us present in the moment.

  • http://www.sally-apokedak.com/whispers_of_dawn/ Sally Apokedak

    I’ve always regretted that I never take pictures of fun family times. But I’ve also realized that the lack of pictures is because I’ve been having fun family times, rather than documenting them.

    We can’t do everything. Or some of us can’t. I am no good at multitasking. So, yes, I’m usually present in the moment.

    That said, a lot of my moments are spent on the Internet doing things that don’t need to be done.

  • Jeanne

    Thought provoking post, Rachelle. I am, unfortunately, very good at multi-tasking. Because of this blessing and curse, I must really purpose to be “in the moment,” especially when engaged in conversation with my young children. When I am in the “here and now” with those around me, I find much greater fulfillment at the end of each day.

    • http://www.jennysulpizio.com Jenny Lee Sulpizio

      Jeanne-I couldn’t agree more and am right there with you. My ability to multi-task is a blessing and a curse. I’m always trying to get no less than one thousand things done at one time (okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration), but I definitely identify with what you’re saying.

      What makes it even worse is that I am constantly reminded to “stay in the moment,” each Sunday when I get to church. I decide then and there that I will be present and live each day to the fullest, spend time in prayer, etc. But by Sunday afternoon, my thoughts are in overdrive and I’m already planning my next task.

      I do find that when I have a day away from electronics and all of the devices that are supposed to make our lives less chaotic, I am indeed a fulfilled and happier person. I’m a much better mom too…

  • http://jonfulk.com Jon Fulk

    I love this concept! I wrote about it yesterday (http://jonfulk.com/summer –see point 4) in fact!

  • http://doubtingwriter.blogspot.com/ Jeff O’Handley

    Great post.

    One of the most disturbing things I’ve seen is being in a crowded bar with a bunch of my old friends (I don’t get to do this too often anymore), looking around the bar, and seeing dozens of people at a time with their heads buried in their phones — gotta check this message; missed a call, who was it? need to text someone; etc. When did a random communication from someone half a continent away (that’s probably just a list of lame jokes or a bunch of photoshopped animal pictures) become more important than the people in the room with us?

    Soapbox off.

    • http://www.volunteerfringe.com Marney McNall

      Jeff,

      I couldn’t agree with you more. I have friends that can be at a restaurant, surrounded by friends…and still, they have to check their messages or reply to something. It used to be called ‘rude’, now it’s showing how connected they are. Makes me sad. I want my friends to know how important they are to me and one of the best ways I can think of to do that is to really pay attention and listen.

  • Layla Fiske

    Excellent post Rachelle. I agree that this incredible electronic era has greatly altered our behavior patterns. In some ways we have gained and in others we have lost.

    It is important as authors to be able to focus in the present time, both when we’re writing and when we’re observing the world around us.

    Today, I start my first in a six series of mindful meditation classes. So, your post is very timely for me.

    Wish me luck.
    L

  • http://www.ruthmadison.com Ruth Madison

    You are the third person in three days to mention Be Here Now to me. It has to mean something!

  • http://www.catherinejwest.com Cathy West

    This is so absolutely dead-on. I’ve just returned from our own family vacation, and after traveling through several airports back and forth, being in a couple of hotels along the way, I did a lot of people watching. It’s one of my favorite sports. One thing I noticed time and time again, nobody walks looking straight ahead anymore. An easy 95% of all the people I saw were walking with one hand at chest height, head down, thumb flying over keys, (I have no concept of texting I’m happy to say so I have no idea how they do it…) or they have the phone up to the ear as they’re yakking, totally oblivious to who they might be about to walk into. The funniest thing I saw was the ‘smart’ people who use the ear connection thingy – I suppose this is less dangerous than walking with your head down but it looks like you’re just a little crazy talking to yourself…
    I guess I just don’t understand the need to be connected to the entire world the minute you leave the house. Sure, I’m definitely addicted to my internet and I’ll turn it on the minute I can when I get someplace that I can plug in my laptop or use my ipad, but I don’t feel the need to carry the world around with me 24/7. I rarely use my cell phone, don’t have an iphone or Blackberry and that’s probably a good thing for me. I think there is great value in being unplugged, especially for those of us who do spend a great deal of our time online. Unplugging the mind however, especially for a writer, is an entirely different story – harder to do. The only time I’m not thinking about a current project or a new idea is when I’m asleep. :)

    • http://cynthiaherron.wordpress.com Cynthia Herron

      Cathy, you expressed my sentiments exactly. :-) And people that claim that they can’t be writers without all the bells and whistles at their disposal I think, perhaps, are dodging the the issue which is to actually WRITE. All the texting, talking on our smartphones, and staying connected can’t do that for us. Devices and electronic gizmos can make our jobs easier (as far as research, building our platforms, and overall enhancing our experience–yes. Expecting them to crank out our stories and words for us–no.)

      Great points!

      • http://www.catherinejwest.com Cathy West

        Thanks, Cynthia!
        It’s too easy to get carried away ‘literally’ with today’s technology I think. Everything in moderation… :)

  • http://michaelseese.blogspot.com/ Michael Seese

    I *try* to stay “here.” But every now and then my wife sees that faraway gaze and asks, Where are you?” And I apologetically say, “Chapter 3. But it’s going to be great…”

    • http://www.catherinejwest.com Cathy West

      If there was a ‘like’ button here, I’d click it. :)

  • http://christinerains.net/ Christine Rains

    Interesting post. I live more in the moment now that I have my son. I think it important that I give him all of me when we’re together. Sometimes I get lost to the stories in my head still, but as my son gets older, I hope we can create stories together.

  • Sarah

    When we write, we are in the current moment (sitting at a keyboard, or with pen in hand) and yet simultaneously in another world- the world of our imagination. All the more important to take the time, when we are not actually writing, to be present. Awareness of the present moment will both inform our later work, while grounding us in current reality, acting as a foundation and touchstone for the times when our imagination soars into other worlds, other times.

  • http://esthersdestiny.blogspot.com Sherri

    For me, living in the here and now is very much about contentment. That is not to say that I don’t have dreams and plans for myself – I have some fairly big ones, actually – but I am learning to look around me and be intentionally thankful; to be able to say that if it never gets better than this, I am still truly blessed. I have hope in God’s perfect plan for me, but even so, I am only given today, not promised tomorrow. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort to refocus. Great post. Thank you.

  • http://www.marilhazlett.com Maril Hazlett

    Tell your daughter I love the picture! And thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think you are right. Also, one of my pet peeves is seeing people playing on their phones and ignoring their own children. It’s one thing to check out on your own life, but to check out on your kid? Come on.

    I try to stay in the present for my writing by going social media, email, and blog free for big chunks of time. Staying in the present for the rest of my life – well, remembering how to play is key. Remembering a sense of humor. And gardening.

    • http://www.marilhazlett.com Maril Hazlett

      Just picked up Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners, found this: “The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.”

  • http://www.novelnatterings.com Lisa Marie

    I feel that I have a certain advantage over most. I was active on the ‘net at a very young age, back when one still had to have a working knowledge of UNIX. So I’m over it. I wrote a lot about this topic in a print publication I worked for during college, when I was doing my master’s work in theories of mass communication —how digital media has transformed the way in which people interact. A lot of the “illuminati,” Timothy Leary included, applauded the arrival of the Internet, as well as its accessibility to the masses. We wrote for some of the same magazines; I listened him wax poetic about it for hours, but I always had that little doubt that ordinary people could use it judiciously. I often wonder if Tim would be so stoked about all things digital today. And I really wonder what criticisms McLuhan would have about today’s “global village.” Don’t you?

    I don’t have texting on my cell phone plan. I don’t own an iPod. I don’t even take my cell with me when I leave the house unless I’m going out of town. I suppose a lot of people find this strange. However, I am much happier when I’m not tethered to the rest of the “Matrix”—when I’m interacting with the rest of the world and the world responds in kind. I could not be a writer if I lived in a digital world. I would have no stories to tell. Nothing to say.

  • http://whiteplatonicdreams.blogspot.com/ Tana Adams

    Love this. And your daughter is a great photographer.

  • http://bethvogt.com Beth K. Vogt

    Thought-provoking post. I know there are often times I am “there” when I should be here.
    Like now, for instance. I’m posting this comment and then I’m going to hangout with my family.

    In less than two weeks, my daughter is getting married. I want to “be here” for all of that. And that’s why I am determined to have all my blog posts done for the next 3 weeks–two weeks of wedding celebrating and one week of vacation.

  • http://bit.ly/faKb1R Jackie Ley

    I find it’s so easy to have hopes and dreams about what might happen tomorrow and overlook the amazing gift of what’s happening in my life today. I have a favourite line from a Carly Simon song – can’t remember which one, but I remember the line: ‘These are the good old days.’

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  • http://byline.peterdehaan.name/ Peter DeHaan

    People laugh at me because I only use my cell phone for phone calls. I don’t use it to surf the Web, check email, download apps, or all the other “cool” things that people do with their phones. I even screen incoming calls. My phone is a tool, not my master.

    This is one small step that I take to live in my present time and place. I must do more, but it is a beginning.

  • http://WeGrowMedia.com Dan Blank

    LOVE this post. Thanks!
    -Dan

  • http://lauraplusthevoices.blogspot.com Laura W.

    Great post, and great point.

  • http://catherinemjohnson.wordpress.com Catherine Johnson

    Now that I’ve finally got a netbook I can clear emails and read blogs in the gaps so that I get more writing time. I haven’t abused the privelege yet and some days it is not used at all. Start tough then the rest of the time is living in the moment. I could easily have this with me all day but that’s not good for the kids or my creativity.

  • Jessie

    This is a very good piece of advice even if you take technology out of it. I don’t know about you, but I can easily get distracted by what needs to get done tomorrow and what should have been done yesterday, then what is happening today.

  • Leslie G.

    Many thanks, Rachelle. Your thoughts perfectly reflect a passage I just read, which I think is worth sharing:

    “When you are present, when your attention is fully in the Now, that Presence will flow into and transform what you do. There will be quality and power in it. You are present when what you are doing is not primarily a means to an end (money, prestige, winning) but fulfilling in itself, when there is joy and aliveness in what you do. And, of course, you cannot be present unless you are friendly with the present moment.”

    ~Eckhardt Tolle, “The Power of Now”

    PS You know your blog has arrived when you readers start forwarding it to non-writer friends :)

    • Leslie G.

      Oops! Correction on the citation: It’s from Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth.” (So much for being in the present moment!)

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