When we allow ourselves to be distracted from what’s happening in the moment, those around us suffer. It’s not a no-one–but-me-gets-hurt game. People are affected. Our children, our spouse, our partners, our friends, our co-workers, or anyone we might be connecting with in the moment. When we go astray mentally or emotionally, we send a message to the person we’re engaged with that they don’t matter. That they’re not important enough to hold your attention. Your words may speak, “you matter,” but undeniably your actions scream something else.
Once I was sitting in a meeting when there was a honking outside the window. It was loud and continuous. Me and half the attendees obsessed about the noise for the entire hour and a half. The honking was a condition we could not control. We could control our reaction to it. We gave each other looks and whispered about the noise. We got so bothered by the outside condition, that we ultimately became the distracters. No doubt, there are people who felt we were justified in being disturbed. And perhaps we were. But in truth, each of us had a choice as to whether to give away our power.
We each made a decision—conscious or otherwise—to allow a condition to control our experience. I allowed my attention to be stolen right out from under me. Those of us who chose to be distracted suffered, because we missed out on the valuable information offered by the speaker and spent the entire time being angry about something we couldn’t control. And, rightly so, no refund of our money was offered. The presenter suffered, because he was never able to recapture the attention of the 15 or 20 people who went along with me for the mental ride. It was a lose/lose situation for all concerned.
Other consequences of not being fully present are:
- You miss opportunities to connect in ways that can only happen when you’re actively listening.
- You miss useful information that could help you get through a rough period.
You’re misinformed, giving rise to misunderstandings, because you get only part of the story.
What can you do to be more present? How can you bring your mind more in alignment with your body?
- For starters admit that our minds are not always where our bodies are. Denying any problem is a prescription for failure.
- Secondly, become aware of those times when our attention is diverted to another direction. Call it what it is!
- Be willing to see the damage to yourself, to your relationships, and to your serenity. Perhaps none of those are of concerned to you, perhaps they are. Perhaps getting a little more clear as to how my not being present affects me or anyone else.
- Be a careful and attentive listener. Listen for understanding.
- Practice quieting your mind. The noise in the brain is sometimes so overwhelming, we simply must shut it out.
- Practice staying in the moment. Allow yourself to hold your attention. When your mind wanders—gently bring it back.