This blog post came about from some recent thoughts I had while being away for a few days on vacation. The weather was hot, and I'm pretty sure I got dehydrated more than once, so I partially blame the circumstances/dehydration of my brain cells (excuses, I know). I found myself really struggling to be present and "all in" while I was away. After some reflection, I realized that often times I have expectations for how things are going to go, get too focused on getting the perfect shot (#photographerproblems), or have such a desire to stick to a plan that I don't just stop and enjoy the moment, even if it's messy or unscripted. I realized that life is too short and too precious to not be all in and present, so here I am, sharing a few ideas I brainstormed that will hopefully help me (and you, if you have this problem) to slow down and find the beauty in everyday life.
1. Decide to be present. Being present takes self-control. It's not something you suddenly do, especially if you're used to a crazy busy schedule. You need to decide to be present, and then continually remind yourself to be fully invested in whatever moment is right in front of you. If you've become used to rushing through life you'll be surprised at how hard it is to slow down and be all there in the present moment. Believe me, I've been there/am there.
2. Put the phone down. Anyone remember the glory days of their youth before smartphones were a thing? I remember endless hours of just being outside, doing work in the yard, drawing with chalk, or making tents and forts in the backyard. I was rarely on the computer, instead, my imagination, friends or siblings were my entertainment. I'm older now, with more demands on my life, like a job, trying to grow a business, cultivate friendships, etc. My photography job requires a lot of time online, and between watching Youtube videos and online photography classes, blogging, using social media, and editing, a lot of my time is taken up in front of a screen. The other day I had a friend over and we were walking around outside and it just dawned on me that I hadn't taken time to be outside at sunset in a really long time. What used to be the norm was now a rare treat. I had spent so many evenings coming home to from my day job, eating dinner, then instantly getting on my laptop to work, that I hardly ever went outside in the evening just to enjoy the coolness and beauty of twilight. Once I realized that I decided that I wanted to be more intentional about setting aside a little time once in awhile to just soak in the beauty of the evening, even it was just taking a moment or two to really enjoy the sunset.
3. Focus on the surroundings. When was the last time you just closed your eyes and took a moment to focus on what was around you? Feel the cool breeze play with your hair, let the warm sun soak into your skin. Touch the flowers, the grass, the icy water. So many memories are connected to how we feel, and taking time to really get fully immersed in your surroundings helps to calm you and keep you focused.
4. Schedule regular days to relax & unplug. If possible set aside at least an evening, if not an entire day, to keep your phone turned off. Set aside this day to catch up on your reading, go out for coffee with a friend, or spend time outside. I have yet to devote a full day to unplugging, but recently have been turning my phone completely off around 9 pm and not turning it on again until after my devotions in the morning. This helps me wind down for bedtime, and then in the morning, instead of checking Instagram or my email first, I spend time with Jesus. Only after I do that do I turn my phone on and tackle the day. This has worked pretty well for me, even though I'm not always the most consistent. #confession
Life will always be busy. You will always have hundreds of things vying for your time. I think the key to being present is just realizing that your time on earth is short. How do you want to spend the precious hours, days, and months of your life? How you spend your days is how you spend your life. Commit to living your life well. Fill it with rich experiences and relationships with people. At the end of the day that is what matters, not the likes, followers, or comments on social media, not the latest video or computer game, or tv show. People are what matters. Put them first. Commit to be present in your relationships and life.