Pointers for Living in Present Tense
There is magic in ordinary moments, in the mess of life. It’s just that sometimes we miss it.
Sometimes we’re so focused on the future or so buried in the past that we neglect the present. Sometimes we crave something so badly that we want time to speed up. And in that yearning, we gloss over the glory of today.
Other times we get so overwhelmed by daily pressures that we assume we don’t have time for the activities that feed us and bring us joy.
In her beautiful book A Field Guide to Now: Notes on Mindfulness and Life in Present Tense author Christina Rosalie shows us how to take notice, and take action, to live a mindful, passionate, truthful life amid the inevitable challenges and stressors.
She shows us how to pay the closest attention to the smallest elements of life — the bird, the bee — or the elements we take for granted — our passions, our partners, ourselves.
Each chapter features an intimate slice from her life and ingredients that she believes are essential to observing and appreciating the everyday along with assignments or questions to ask yourself.
For instance, in the chapter on “prayer,” which she defines as “a solemn entreaty or expression of thanks,” Rosalie writes:
“Lie still until your mind slips to somewhere just before dreaming. Lie with your eyes closed and trace the mottled heat map of red and cobalt that the sun makes on the inside of your lids. Lie still until you remember what you are made of; until your limbs become the grassy hill; your vertebrae, pebbles; your fingers, saplings. Linger for as long as necessary to believe this evidence.
Linger until you can feel the way the sun and the earth, and the sky can remake you.”
In another chapter on “opportunity,” Rosalie reminds us to focus on the details, even when we’re waiting for something and our minds swirl with what-ifs. (For Rosalie, it was her husband waiting to hear back about a job he yearned to get.) Focusing on details is important especially when we contemplate worst-case scenarios and go to the darkest parts of our brains. Rosalie writes:
“When you have nowhere else to be, nothing more urgent to do than waiting, try rinsing the dishes as though each plate and jammy knife bears a secret message: Right now is everything. Instead of becoming engulfed in what you cannot imagine, let your mind fill with concentric circles of attention, like the ripples that spread on the surface of a pond when you toss a pebble in. Let your focus be on the legs of the blue egret, and on the flat, sharp leaves of the cattails that chatter when the wind blows. Continue until you are no longer outside the moment, no longer anxious, no longer hopeful.”
In the chapter on “approach,” Rosalie shares how her days had become one task after another, a fog with a never-ending to-do list. (Sounds familiar to many of us, I’m sure.)
She writes, “I can see how it is possible to spend decades like this, just doing the day to be done with it, all the while waiting for children and incomes to be bigger, for time to slow down, for opportunity to arrive without effort.”
So that night when she goes to the store for milk, she finds what she’s really looking for: a small notebook. That night she sets her alarm to 5:30 a.m. so she can write. Because for Rosalie writing is a raft, a lifeline, air, as she describes it.
This morning ritual then leads Rosalie to carry her notebook all the time, which leads her to pay attention and record everything she notices like a reporter, hungry for a story.
She suggests readers begin a practice, whatever it is that nourishes you. Today. She writes:
“Try asking: What do I need to do to feed the hunger that I have for what is real in my life right now? Let your answers guide you toward a practice that will fill your soul.
Above all else, keep showing up.”
Naturally, life isn’t all roses and sunshine. Often, it’s hard, chaotic and cluttered. But as we sharpen our eyes, ears and other senses, we’re better able to notice the small wonders that are always there and cultivate our own joy, one tiny activity at a time.
What helps you to notice, appreciate and live in the present tense?
What stands in your way? How do you overcome the hurdle? What fills your soul?
Cattails photo available from Shutterstock
Tartakovsky, M. (2012). Pointers for Living in Present Tense. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 14, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/12/17/pointers-for-living-in-present-tense/