Being Present

I went grocery shopping the other day, something I’ve done a million times before, in the same place I’ve been a million times before. I was able to find everything I needed fairly quickly, I found an open lane right away and got through the checkout with lightning speed. I got in, got what I needed and got out. The epitome of efficiency.

I can’t tell you any details of the experience – and that is not good.

I’ve been to that store a thousand times, but I couldn’t describe it to you. I don’t remember anything about the people I saw while I was shopping. Were they old, young, what nationality, male, female? Anything? Not a clue. I wasn’t paying attention. I just wanted to get in there, get my groceries and go home to my cozy office and write.

But, how can I write about life if I’m not living it? What happens to my writing when I skip over the ‘life’ part by keeping my head down and not paying attention to the world around me?

Being mindful is to be truly present in the moment.

Being mindful is to be truly present in the moment. It’s to be fully aware of what’s going on around you, where you are and what you’re doing.

I’ve read it described it as a state of meditation, that you perform a ritual to reach a certain level of consciousness. But I think being mindful should happen all the time. To me, it means being aware of where I am and what’s going on right at that moment.

I like to think I practice mindfulness, but obviously, I fall short.

Sometimes, when I was younger, I used to jump into this state of being hyper-aware, and suddenly have this burning desire to talk to everyone I saw about how bright the world was. I wanted to tell them how present I was, how much I acknowledged their existence and respected them and loved them for being just who they were – even if I didn’t know them. That was the weirdest part about the whole thing – when I loved people unconditionally even though they were strangers. The feeling was so overwhelming, it was embarrassing. It would occur in the most uninteresting of places – like the grocery store. I would be walking down the aisle and someone would be walking the other way. I would do whatever I could to avoid eye contact, but I didn’t want to be rude, so I’d give furtive glances and be all uncomfortable, for all intents and purposes acting as if I had a crush on them. Which is what it felt like sometimes. But we’d pass each other, and the electricity of their closeness would be palpable, as if I was in love. But then the moment would pass, thankfully, and I would be relieved.

I don’t have those experiences anymore. I think it was just the innocence of youth and the naiveness of thinking that anyone wants a stranger to love them.

Other times, I’d become hyper-aware in nature. I was always mindful when walking the dogs, it was my time of meditation. I would leave everything behind when I walked out the door and just be present in the moment with the dogs and the fresh air and the nature all around us. When it was all so amazing – it was all so beautiful, I would become hyper-aware, down to the rocks on the ground and the panting of the dogs. Everything was within my realm of awareness and understanding. Sometimes it was too much, and I had to distract myself and think of something else, something smaller or I’d get lost in it all. Other times, I’d let myself get lost – and end up feeling small and wrecked, but appreciating all that there was in the world (and maybe thinking a little bit about God, too).

Photo by Artem Bali on

I still need more practice being mindful. As a developing writer, I need to be diligent.  Everything I experience can be included in a book one day. Everything. Locations, people, emotions, etc. I can put all of it into the stories that I write. So I need to be mindful all the time – so I can catch all the juicy tidbits of life and put them down in pages that entertain and inspire others. After all, isn’t that what a writer is for?

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