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Creating Calm & Practicing Presence - Part I

The image of the rose is used to represent the encouragement to stop and smell the roses
Have you ever noticed that you are going through the motions, you are present, but not.  It's like when you are driving home from work and you realize you are home, but you don't remember the last three turns.  I find myself in this situation more than I care to admit.  It really struck me recently when I was able to be fully present for just a short moment, and when I noticed the beauty around me, I teared up.  We forget how amazing the little things can be when we get stuck in this head space.  It becomes hard to be grateful because we don't focus on the good.  Did you know that this is not just an adult problem?  Our children are even more likely to get caught in this cycle, and their generation's untrimmed umbilical chord to technology is making it harder to learn this skill.

One of the skills we used to teach the youth in wilderness therapy was "presence".  It was this simple, yet elusive idea, of being fully present in the moment.  One of the ways that we did this, was a policy of no "F-I" (future information). We would refuse to provide any details about where we were going, or what was planned for the day.  The routines in the woods were nearly identical every day and it was still super stressful for the youth, and not a strategy that I would recommend.  It was done with intention and with the time and ability to process the anxiety that came from not knowing what was happening.  For most of your families, this policy would lead to a level of chaos you could not possibly appreciate until it was too late and you were in the middle of it.  We had another technique that went with it though, and I think we could use this one, but this step is critical, and we need to replace it in our overall strategy first.

Most people spend their time dwelling over the events of the past, or planning for the future, with very little time in the moment.  You cannot be fully present if you mind is elsewhere, so we need to address this pattern first.  In the wilderness we processed their past in such detail that their brain was done focusing on it and automatically went towards processing the future.  The benefit of no "F-I" was that it stopped the constant planning and scheming that happens when we know what is coming next.  In order to practice moments of presence, we need to first, not be living in the future or the past.  How do we do this in family life?  How do we do this personally?

We will address this topic over the course of the next three posts:

Part II - Dealing with the Past, so that we can move on

Part III - Settling on a plan to avoid living in the dream world of a Future that won't come

Part IV - Practices that foster Presence

Since I hate to leave a post without some practical action step, I leave the married couples with the following experiment:  Each of you plan a date night for the other.  For that one night, practice no "F-I".  Pay attention to what this does to your thinking, where does your focus drift?  Are you more attentive?  Is it fun, exciting, or stressful?  What do you notice about your partner?  How do they react?  At the end of each date each of you should do a quick journal, audio recording, or video about the experience.  After both date nights have happened share your thoughts and journals with each other.  I believe that you will notice some interesting patterns.  Think about how you can use this as a family.  While it may not be a good daily policy, it may have certain applications for special events or activities.


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