One of the greatest impediments to connection is not being in the moment. To be intimate with our life experience, we have to be present. Yet in today’s hectic world, stress and concern over the past and future can pull us away from the here and now leaving us disembodied and checked out on some level.
When my best friend’s baby, Nils was learning to eat, each day we slowly introduced him to different solid foods. One day, we put a few raspberries on his high chair tray for him to consume. As he crammed a raspberry into his mouth with his little fingers, a smile suddenly came over his face as he experienced the taste for the first time in his life. He gave us a huge grin as if to say, “Thanks, guys,” and then started to clap his hands. For weeks, he clapped every time he ate a raspberry or a strawberry. When eating these fruits, his ecstasy was palpable.
This experience had a profound impact on me. Nils, having just come into the world didn’t have any notions about how to behave other than to just be. One could make the argument that the childlike freedom Nils experienced would eventually erode once he grew older and began to face responsibilities. And indeed, as we mature, more and more things can rob of us the present. The challenge then is to live fully regardless of the demands and stresses pulling on our energies.
Being in the moment opens us up to a variety of emotions including joy. I noticed this when I was taking care of Nils. Whether observing his delight upon seeing a bird or a flower, or noting the smile on his face when I walked into his room to pick him up from his crib after taking a nap, Nil’s exuberance moved me deeply. I was also struck by the pleasant rhythm of existence we fell into whenever I babysat for him. I’d arrive and we’d have breakfast. Then I’d sit on the couch and read while he sat on the floor and each day made new discoveries; how to grasp an object; how to roll over, how to make a sound. After about an hour of that, we’d get out the stroller and go for a walk. Then it would be about time for lunch. After lunch, he’d fall asleep in my arms as I rocked him to sleep. When I spent time with him, my worries and struggles seemed to melt away as he taught me how to focus on the here and now.