The Gift of Being Present in Good Times and Bad
Updated: Aug 16
“Empty yourself of rigid vibrations of past and future. It is only in the present you can know the universe, it’s magic and love.” Anonymous
Being Present in Bad Times:
When times are tough, we feel stressed out and our brain kicks into a fight or flight mode, either in a desperate attempt to win the battle or from an urge to run away from it.
Story #1: Do you know the way to L.A.?
Have you ever come to the point where things were going so badly you felt you could break? Recently I drove the family 3.5 hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic for a planned day at Universal Studios theme park. It should have taken only 2 hours and at about hour 3, the following happened. The diamond lane picked up speed for the first time and we were thrilled until we realized it was an off-ramp, which dumped us into the bowels of downtown Los Angeles onto Figueroa Street, with arrows going east and west and no quick way back to the freeway. I was at my height of frustration facing having to wind our way through the city to get back to the freeway. Then my adult daughter broke into laughter at the absurdity of it all, which made me laugh, loosening the tension in my body and transforming the moment from misery to pleasure. And while I enjoyed some moments at the theme park, notably the smiles from the 2 children we took with us, sharing the moment of frustration and transforming it by laughter was one highlight of that day.
Communication Tip on Laughter:
DO NOT LAUGH AT PEOPLE IN PAIN: Being laughed AT can feel humiliating. Laughing at someone in pain does not ease tension, as the other will feel unseen, unmet, and they can sink into shame and isolation.
DO LAUGH WITH OTHERS: Laughing WITH others can be freeing. If you first acknowledge the other person’s pain (or mutual pain), then you can laugh together because you are sharing the pain. Sharing pain can cut that pain in half. For example, if I had been driving alone, I think my frustration would have lasted longer.
Story #2: Baby Awe in the Backyard
My visiting daughter hands me her one year old in the mornings before anyone else is awake and I take him into our backyard. His ears perk up to sounds of chirping birds, his eyes take in the colors and shapes of leaves and his hands touch textures, as we make our way to a comfy chair. As we sit, I join in his receptive curiosity. Soon the birds that scattered at our entrance return and he points and delights in the goldfinches, house finches, towhees and hummingbirds that swoop, land, feed and fly around to our delight. His stillness and receptivity in the present moment fills us both with joy.
Communication Tip on Being in the Moment:
Find a quiet place and adopt an attitude of receptivity or taking in. Let go of any agenda for the future or ruminating on the past. Take a few slow breaths and tell yourself to surrender to the moment. If that is difficult because you have too much past or future to deal with, limit your time by telling yourself for example, “I am taking a 10 minute break.”
If that fails, follow a baby and let them be the teacher because they know how to do this without even reading a blog post.