Being Present (Or Not)

This morning on my run (oh, doesn’t that sound as if I’m just such a healthy person. Full disclosure – this was my first run in a very long time) I experienced something I want to share with you.

It was 87-degrees and sunny when I started running. There is no shade where I am and it is a dry heat. I brought no water or money to buy any. I’m 51 and I smoke around a pack-a-day. Like me you may be thinking, a coach should take better care of himself. I agree, which is exactly why I went for a run.

I had a commitment to run a mile. As it was ¾ of a mile just to get to the park, I knew I’d be out longer. Given the circumstances (the heat, my current health, etc.) I began slowly, pacing myself and feeling out my body. Back in 2008, I ran the NYC Marathon. Not fast and not without some pain, but I finished. That was then and this is now.

The first few minutes my ankles were complaining. They wanted to know just whose idea this was and could we stop allowing them to make decisions. Noted, and I adjusted my footfalls accordingly. After a while, I stopped running and walked a bit (I would do that a lot over the next 50 minutes).

So I spent the time running, walking, running, then walking again…and sweating. On my return to the house where I’m staying (a very nice house with a pool in the backyard) I caught the voice in my head saying: just think about the pool, a quick dip in the cool waters will feel so nice.

And that is when it hit me. I was not present. I didn’t like sweating, being out of breath, my legs tired, the hot sun beating down on me and being thirsty (remember I didn’t bring any water along). And that’s what we do when we aren’t happy. We go to the “happy place” in our head.

I don’t know about you, but for me I know that often times I think I’ll be happier elsewhere, doing something other than what I am doing (like not sweating under the hot sun more than a mile from home). Yet when I get there it isn’t as great or as happy as I imagined. Because I’m not often present there either. What I realized on my run is that I practice being not present more often than I practice being present. Any uncomfortable feeling (physical or emotional) and my thoughts go elsewhere fast (much faster than I can physically run). I also thought that by practicing being not present I’ve created a habit that is probably working against my living a great life rather than for it.

So, I took it all in. The sun, the heat, the sweat stinging my eyes, my body not wanting to continue. I got present. Just like that (snaps fingers).

It didn’t get any cooler, my body didn’t feel stronger, I didn’t burst forth with newfound energy. My circumstances didn’t suddenly change for the better (in fact more sweat went into my eyes and stung even worse).

And I laughed out loud.

What shifted was my perspective and what I got access to was my sense of humor. By being present, by taking in and experiencing what was happening and not judging it or myself (remember, I was the one who left during the hotter part of the day and didn’t bring any water or money to buy any either) I was free.

Free from the tyranny of my circumstances, of the judgments and opinions rambling in my head. Free to be present in the face of circumstances.

Still, I saw my mind wanting to jump ahead. Yeah, but the pool will be so nice…

I focused on what was happening in the moment, bringing myself present again. The babble in my head continued, but more like a low hum instead of the Marshall amp on eleven*, which is its usual volume.

I smiled as I jogged and walked the rest of the way home.

How much of your day are you practicing being not present? And I don’t mean that you are just not present (that’s another thing and another blog post entirely). I mean how often are you actively thinking to yourself this sucks, let’s think about something else?

I do it, a lot. And now that I’m aware of it, I’ll be watching for when it comes up. What do you see for yourself? I’d really like to know. Your comments are welcome.

PS – the pool was refreshing and I was completely present while in it.

*Footnote: for those unfamiliar with the movie reference of an amp going to eleven, here’s a minute of Spinal Tap for you. Enjoy!

2 thoughts on “Being Present (Or Not)

  1. Hey DJ – Just stumbled upon this. Isn’t it amazing when the universe hands you just what you need just at the right moment? Thank you for reminding me of the importance of being present, even if the present sort of sucks. I mean how can we appreciate the happy times when we don’t take the time to live in and pay attention to the shitty ones? Thank you my friend. Cheers!

    Like

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