In over forty of my posts during the past year, I have used the statement “present in the present.” What does it mean to be, present in the present? Perhaps, a better question is, what does present in the present mean to me?
Present in the present, became a part of my vocabulary over twenty years ago. In my classroom, as a teacher, I often used the adage: “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.” I’m unsure of the source of that adage since it seems to be an ancient phrase of unknown origin. Many times, I would shorten the adage to, “Let’s treat today as a gift – that’s why it’s called the present!” About twenty years ago, I heard someone say, “Be present in the present!” The statement was used in reference to showing respect to a person who is speaking to you. In other words, when someone is speaking, you should listen attentively and literally, be present in the present.
I have found the adage to be a helpful reminder for others and especially, for me. For example, when I’m home alone and working on a project such as blogging, I know that when my wife comes home, a good and respectful thing to do is to be present in the present. When she enters the room, instead of keeping my focus on my blog, I should have the attitude of being present in the present, recognize her presence and listen attentively to what she has to say. Of course, I don’t ALWAYS do that, but it is a reasonable and good plan/goal. :-)
Another way to look at present in the present is to consider that the word “present” is linked to the word “presence.” Presence – the state or fact of being present; current existence or occurrence – describes what being present in the present is. You see, when I am present in the present, my presence becomes part of the experience of everyone that is in the “now” that I am in. They see, hear, feel or in general, sense my presence. They know I am giving them attention and respect – I am, present in the present!
When discussing present in the present with students, I have met with some resistance from those who were focused on achieving their goals. They would often see the two (present in the present & focusing on achieving goals) as contradictory. Their argument was: “How can I be present in the present and remain focused on future goals?” I did not, and still don’t, see this as a dilemma. Yes, focusing on goals is important, but if you’re not giving one-hundred percent in the present, you’re in danger of losing the path to your goal. Imagine taking a trip to a destination that you’re not familiar with. Suppose you develop a map that will take you to your destination, if you follow it. Now, imagine not paying attention to what’s on the map. In other words, you are not present in the present, but only focused on the goal of reaching your destination. In this case, being present in the present means you pay attention to where you presently are in reaching your goal (destination) by checking your present position relative to the map that is designed to help you reach that goal/destination.
So, what does “present in the present” mean? It means that NOW is when you, including those you are with, are making an outward attempt to be present in the life around you. It means NOW is the time for you to make your presence known. Being present in the present is a sign of respect for those you are in a relationship with. It’s a sign of attentiveness for those you interacting with. It’s a sign of civility for all who are around you. It’s your present in life! (pun intended:-)
As I reflect on what I have written so far, I realize that I have discovered something about myself relative to present in the present. When I started this blog, I professed that one reason for writing the blog was to “write for learning.” Well, this post has left me with an important lesson learned. You see, even though I have used present in the present with others and myself many times in the past, I didn’t realize until now an important use of it that I had neglected. When I was focused on achieving a goal, I did not fully enjoy life in the present. Instead, I had subconsciously felt that my life would not be optimal until I achieved the goal. This thinking resulted in me not enjoying present life to its fullest. I now realize that I need to stop making my enjoyment of life so dependent upon achieving a future goal. It now seems so obvious. Why didn’t I think of this before? Wow, this writing for learning is really working! :-)
What do you “presently” think about being present in the present?