Walking through a mall the other day I was amazed at some of the expressions that I was witnessing. While there were couples and groups that portrayed an image of happiness, the most common condition was a zoned out state. Watching someone with a lifeless gaze following a trajectory through a crowd seemingly taking nothing in nor connecting with anyone en route is both a sad condition and also rife. Why is it something I see in the west and yet while travelling and living in developing countries it did not appear to be an available condition? Living in Nepal I saw people with nothing embracing every minute. Cooking dinner, tending the livestock, washing clothes by hand, tilling fields people appeared present. More often than not they were in the company of others and talking. Without a cell phone or digital connection they were not pulled in a multitude of directions. They were “there” listening to their friend. When I talk to people I often wonder if they are fully with me or in a place with their thoughts. I will be honest, I wonder this because I am guilty of it.
Was I always like this? Did I always tend to my own thoughts rather than being available to those of the person I am with? I like to think that this was not a chronic condition in my youth. I want to believe that I grew to be this way and that I can return to a way of being that allows me to be fully immersed in what I am doing rather than thinking of what I am about to do or what I have just done. What I recognize is that in a world full of distractions and “stuff” then it is going to be a work of resolve to return to my previous behaviors. Being present is a discipline.
Maybe it is time to go off on a long backpacking trip as a kick start. Walking was always the best meditation I knew. What are you going to do to be present?