(this is an excerpt from my book: The Spartan RV)
This may be the single most important chapter of this entire book.
Once you are free from place, time, and worry, you can focus less on being free FROM something and focus on being free FOR something.
There may be no better thing to be free FOR than simply enjoying the moment you are in 100%.
I suppose it is the most cliche’d item in the last 5 years, but mastery of it can bring to your life a fullness of experience that few people ever achieve.
It is “being present”. People also might say “being in the moment”, “being in the now”, “creating the space” between people, “listening intently”.
There are already FANTASTIC resources that touch on this subject in a big way. I’ll give it a layman’s treatment, but before I get started, I’ll list some of the resources where you can go very deep on the subject:
- The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
- Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness
- 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story
- The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have (Gift Edition)
Before getting into the real benefits of “being present” I just want to poke on how prevalent the topic is in mainstream culture – probably because it is so important.
In one of the Star Wars, Luke Skywalker is training with Yoda on Yoda’s crazy dark forest planet. In several of the training sessions, Yoda reveals to us his amazement of Luke’s powers, but just as Yoda is getting blown away, Luke’s disbelief causes him to not finish the exercise completely. Yoda chastises Luke for “always having his mind elsewhere”.
An example of just how critical and easily detectable “being present” is by another person came from the Queen of England. When speaking about Prime Minister William Gladstone she said “When I am with him, I feel I am with one of the most important leaders in the world.” However, regarding Benjamin Disraeli she mentioned that “He makes me feel as if I am one of the most important people in the world.” This can only be caused by truly being an active listener. My guess is that if you make the queen of England feel important then good things happen. No need to resort to puffery, simply be interested.
What are the benefits of “being present now”?
- Better love life
- Deeper friendships
- Massively increased learning
- Increased enjoyment of every day
- Tons of ancillary benefits such as longer life, better health, better career opportunities, increased business, and on and on.
- People just might attend your funeral
I can’t possibly dive into all of these, but lets take just a few and go over them.
Better Love Life – Think about this. All partners really want is for someone to love them 100% and pay attention to them. This means that when they speak, you put down the iPhone and you listen. You don’t look over their shoulder or glance at things around the room. Don’t stare either, you can watch different parts of their face and not appear psycho. Be sure to blink or you’ll appear psycho, but be intent on them. Mentally imagine there is a tunnel between the two of you that communications passes back and forth. Do this as much as you can and your partner will say things like “I’m really glad we had a nice talk tonight.” How about “You really made me feel special tonight.” When your partner senses that you value them, then you will get that back several times over. Yes some marriages are troubled. But most people earnestly want to be successful. Stop waiting for the other person to go first.
How does freeing yourself from stuff help? Easy! It is pretty hard to create that space between you and your lover if you are checking stock quotes on your iPhone. You’ll get no bonus points when you partner is asking you questions or checking your understanding and your mind was drifting to your classic car under the cover back at home. No, stop all those thoughts and focus. It will be worth it.
Better Friendships – This is like Better Love Life except it is with people who are not your lovers.
Massively Increased Learning – When you learn, you intake information from your ears, your eyes, and some of your other senses. But 9 times out of 10, your learning will involve reading, audio, visual, or video transmission of information from the source to you. When your mind is thinking about the snowstorm back home – worrying about the pipes freezing – it isn’t fully paying attention to the learning material. You are in effect making a connection with bunches of static. Just like a far away radio station, you cannot hear all the music because of the static. If you had to replay the song you couldn’t do so with perfect fidelity simply because you never heard the full song. But if you had a close by radio station you would have heard the entire song, including the subtle notes.
Just like a static filled radio station, so it is with your mind wandering while learning. Worrying about stuff, or anything for that matter is simply static.
Logically, if you paid for the information, why would you pay and then not pay attention. That doesn’t even make sense. You would have purchased maybe $100 of information or learning and only got $50 of it – and it was YOU who decided to make the bad bargain.
Don’t do it. Leave your stuff behind. When you are ready to learn – learn without static!
Increased Enjoyment of Every Day – When you are fully present – when you are fully in the here and now – you can experience all that life on earth has to offer.
Just waking up, when you mind is focused on the very moment you are in, you can taste the coffee more completely, the subtle flavors are completely revealed to you. Stepping outside of the RV into the brisk air of the majestic beauty of the world, you nostrils can really take in the scent of the pine. You sense the hint of flowers in the air. You step boldly one foot in front of the other. You can sense your heart beat pickup as you start to walk. For the first time in years you truly hear the birds and the animals of the area.
None of this is possible when your mind isn’t focused on where you are at that very moment.
Why shouldn’t something so simple as cup of coffee be truly enjoyed. Beans harvested from the plants by human hands, dried, roasted, packaged, shipped, bought and sold, ground, brewed, and served. The fact that you get to enjoy it so far away is a miracle. It is the work of many many people. Hurrying through your cup unappreciatively is disrespectful.
People might attend your funeral – If you are a great lover (not just in the Biblical sense), a great friend, and find joy in all that life has to offer, then people will want to be around you. On your final curtain on this earth, they will find time to send you off as well.
One of the rewards of being Spartan-like is that you mattered.