Last week I was talking with one of the administrative assistants where I work at the hospital as a chaplain. I said that I didn’t multitask well. She said, I don’t either, I pivot back and forth. I thought about that for a second. I like that word, pivot. She said no one can do more than one thing at a time, really. I thought, yeah, no one can be focused on more than one thing and do it well.
Then there’s ‘present moment focus’. Eckart Tolle, a mystic and author, said “As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.” From his book, The Power of Now.
What I remember from his book is that ‘the action happens in the present moment.’ If one is busy lamenting the past or worrying about the future, they can’t be in the present moment, let alone even concentrate. It is also energetically fatiguing sending one’s energy out ahead of oneself before you can be there physically to focus on it and accomplish the task.
From Unity Minister Eric Butterworth’s Sunday lessons, “Where You Are,” is a Zen Story. It tells of a monk who is being chased by two tigers near the edge of a cliff and frantically let himself down by a vine that was hanging there. Having climbed down a while, he looked up above him and at the very top two mice were gnawing at the vine. Frantically looking down, and he saw two more tigers awaiting him at the bottom, pacing back and forth licking their chops.
Just then he saw a beautiful strawberry within his arm’s reach. He picked it, enjoyed the best strawberry he had ever tasted.
As typical Zen, it’s a parable of life. Wherever you are in time and space, be there. Live the moment and the experience completely. There may be regrets about the past, there may be apprehensions about the future. But what about today? What about the opportunity for joy and fulfillment in this moment just where you are. One of the great discoveries, which is somewhat puzzling to many persons, is the truth that now is all the time there is. Now is all the time there is, this moment. 1
When one is living in the present moment, being here now, you can then be present and a presence to pets, people, situations and more along with also having a clearer mind. Sometimes one can receive an intuitive knowing such as “I think I might meet someone that is coming to dinner tonight that works where I work.”
I discovered Unity Church in 1986, it was the following spring that I was practicing the teaching ‘Be here now’ while I was mowing a lawn behind my walk behind mower. I was in the habit of thinking about the next thing or place that I needed to be. I had no sooner said that to myself when a mouse ran across the front of the mower, and I was able to avoid hitting it.
When one is in conversation with another, are they listening to what is being said, or are they thinking about what they want to say next? How present are they being with that person? I am a reflective thinker so sometimes people tend to interrupt me when I am speaking. I might pause before I am finished and the person will jump in and finish it in a different way than I had intended. They were merely meaning to be helpful. There are ways to check in with ourselves on how present one may be in the moment. That is one of them. Are we thinking about something else while they are talking? If one is feeling stressed or worried, that can be hard to keep focused.
As a hospital chaplain, our ministry is often referred to as a ministry of presence. We are present to patients, their families, and the staff. We are there to listen and/or be present in the silence. We meet them where they are with unconditional regard and support. We are also a calm presence for staff and families during a code Blue when someone has a heart that stopped or a code White when they are having a possible stroke, seizure or respiratory challenge. Also, a code Gray which involves a patient’s behaviors being a danger to themselves or others from reactions to medications or change in mental capacity.
‘Be here now,’ was the best way for me to train my mind to be present. I invite you to try it. You may find that you have more energy throughout the day, as well. If you have another way that helps you with a present moment focus, please share it in the comments below.