“The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” ~Eckhart Tolle
Where are you right now?
Maybe you are at your desk, scrolling through emails, trying to put off the morning’s work in hopes that it will go away if you don’t acknowledge it.
Maybe you are in your favorite chair with a cup of cheap coffee, enjoying the final moments of morning light.
Maybe you are walking through your school or office building trying to hurriedly read this from your phone before you bump into someone.
Wherever you find yourself sitting, or standing, or walking right now, I want to ask you another question:
Are you really there?
Where are you right now? Really?
So much about life in our culture right now has become about the next thing. The next project. The next promotion. The next vacation. The next experience. We’ve become obsessed with growth as it pertains to results, achievement, and living a respected, successful life.
We’ve forgotten how to be here… now.
We’ve forgotten about being present.
Right now, I am sitting on my couch writing this because I wanted to be in the same room as my wife rather than locked away in my office this morning. I am listening to cello music through one earbud in my right ear. I am typing on a writing software that I love, but it doesn’t seem to love my seven-year-old Macbook, so it keeps crashing.
But earlier this morning, one of my favorite podcasters, Emily P Freeman, posed this question.
“Where are you?”
And before I could say, “In the shower after my morning run,” my inner voice (the annoyingly honest one) said:
“You are ten years in the future.
You are hoping that you have a thriving business and people who actually listen to you.
You are looking forward to having the freedom to travel or just spend more time with people you love.
You are NOT being present, right here, right now, in this shower.
You are a thousand steps ahead because you want the prize without the work.
You want the destination without the journey.
You want the dream without the slow, steady, sometimes frustrating routine.
You spend all your energy living in the future rather than being present in the moment, so even if/when you get there, you won’t be there either.
You are always ten years in the future.”
This is true of me.
Most of my life I am either ten years in the future, where all my dreams have come true, I do know what I’m talking about, I have proven that I am not an imposter, and other people do kind of listen to me…
…or I am ten years in the past, finishing up college, learning to be a leader, excited to get married but still free to play sand volleyball any time of the week with my numerous fun friends who are equally free of jam-packed schedules or children.
If I’m not in one of these two places in my head, then I am typically overwhelmed by one or both of them.
Overwhelmed by the reality of where I am right now and feeling the guilt and shame that comes with thinking:
“You should be more than you are by now.”
That’s the killer right there.
The idea that I should be MORE.
BETTER with my money…of which I have MORE.
More more more more more.
That’s where I am most of the time—ashamed that I am not more.
So I hide.
I hide behind anger at my boss for his demanding attitude.
I hide behind consuming entertainment so that I don’t have to create.
I hide behind junk food that makes me feel less hopeless… until it hits my waistline.
I hide. Because hiding is easier than feeling the pain, and it’s much easier than having grace for where I am.
One day, when I was struggling with feeling like I was way behind where I should be, I went to the bathroom. While washing my hands, I looked at the face of the guy looking back at me in the mirror and literally thought:
“I’d rather have the fun, deep, authentic Kurtis from college, or the wise, disciplined, successful Kurtis of the future. I would take any Kurtis but the one I’ve got.”
How’s that for sad realizations?
So let me ask you again: Where are you right now?
Then let me interject my oh-so-wise advice.
You know, one of those wise things everyone knows and says but never take their own advice on. Yeah, that kind of advice.
Where you are today is the most important place you can be.
Being present to where you are RIGHT NOW.
Not where you’ve been.
Not where you wanted to be.
Not where you still hope to be one day.
This moment, in this place, on this couch, in this town, with these people in the midst of these circumstances.
This is your moment.
This is the moment that makes you.
What good is being more successful, more disciplined, more respected, more affluent, or more traveled if anywhere you go you don’t know how to actually BE THERE? To fully feel? To completely live that experience in that space in time?
What good is it if you cannot breathe in the life that is all around you?
I have had better moments in my dusty, boring little town of Lubbock, Texas than many have had atop a mountain in Nepal, or on the streets of Venice, or in the seat of a chartered plane, or backstage at a concert.
I have lived more on my back porch with my dog and the morning light than most people will ever experience by constantly chasing this idea of MORE.
And the only reason I have been able to embrace these everyday moments and feel alive, if only for a brief time, is because I have worked hard to drop my illusions of more, and practiced being present right here where I am right now.
Time for more advice. Are you ready?
Everything in life takes learning, practice, and repetition.
Learning means looking like an idiot to learn the basics.
Learning a language means making mistakes and sounding like a three-year-old.
It means practicing with people better than you.
It means repeating “The library is at the center of the city” over and over and over and over again.
And then again.
Learning to play the cello means plucking the strings for months when you would rather use your bow.
It means playing “Hot Cross Buns” till you hear it in your dreams.
It means repeating four notes of music over and over and over and over again until your fingers seem to play it on their own.
Learning to be a parent, or a friend, or a spouse means making mistakes, asking for forgiveness, trying it differently, then rinsing and repeating that same cycle a million times until you have a mild understanding of how to truly serve this person with your life… and they do the same for you.
Being present to this moment is no different.
It takes learning.
It takes practice and making mistakes.
It takes disciplined repetition until it almost becomes second nature.
So where do we start?
I started with five minutes on a park bench.
I got to a place where there wasn’t anything asking for my attention.
No kids needing to be entertained.
No homework to half-ass.
No floors to clean or dishes to put away.
No friends or fun activities to distract me.
I put my phone on Do Not Disturb, which meant no texts, no calls, and no notifications, and I set my timer for five minutes.
For those five minutes—which felt like an hour—I sat in complete silence.
Some of the time I closed my eyes, some of it I watched the grass, the birds, or the water.
But for the whole five minutes, I did not try to solve a problem, plan ahead, strategize, or prepare myself for anything to come.
For five minutes, I simply sat and breathed.
It was very difficult and it was beautiful.
Do this every day—or multiple times a day if you’re really brave—for at least one week, and you will find yourself less stressed, more focused, and more productive, all because you have started being here.
This is the best place to start.
Being here may be one of the hardest things I’ve worked to do in my life. At times it requires us to hold great joy and great pain in the same hand. It sometimes feels like it might pull us apart or drown us in the reality of our struggles.
But when done regularly, when handled with great care and grace and patience for the process, it is one of the most freeing parts of the journey that I could ever recommend.
Where you are right now is not perfect. It may not be ideal. But it is your reality.
And if we don’t start with reality, if we can’t handle this moment with grace, we have no real hope for the future.
So I’ll ask you again, my friend: Where are you right now?