"When you are fully engaged in what you are doing your mind doesn't wander. You enjoy life. And you are happier and more effective. You are intent only on what is happening at that moment. And that focus and concentration leads to your success." - The Old Man, a sage in Spencer Johnson's book The Present
A friend of mine named Steve gave me this book back in April of 2005. He wrote this inscription in the front to me, and I share it now, almost 4 years later, because I long for it to be true today:
Brian - To you, my dear Brother in Christ.
To you who values the past without dwelling on it; who learns from it and humors those around you with its memories; but who refuses to live in it or be held captive by it.
To you who ponders, plans, prepares and studies for what lies ahead in the future, and yet, who wisely leaves it all up to God to direct his steps and those of his family into the future, knowing what certainly lies ahead for him and those he loves and cherishes; the ultimate reward of eternal life with the Father, the Son & Holy Spirit...all so good...
But, you, who lives with such passion for the present, because it is in that time frame of "now" that you live with such enthusiasm, joy, passion and servitude, because there is never another "now." You have discovered the power and potential of the present. Do wonders with this book as you share its meaning with others.
Full engagement in what I'm doing. Shew! What an elusive thing for me these days.
I have had moments and even season of life that I can look back on and see how this was a good description of me. And it is true, that they are the most joy-filled and productive times of my life. The funny thing is, I'm not aware of it when I'm doing it (a by-product, I think, of being fully engaged with what I'm doing), but I am hyper-aware of it when I am not.
I know, I know. Awareness is half the battle. True that. But the other half of the battle, to get back to living in the present, with whoever I am with, or with whatever I am doing, and nothing or no one else, is quite a battle indeed.
My attention on the present is viciously attacked by so many good things. For me, it's not the past that haunts me (with it's accompanying feelings of regrets, or guilt, or anger). Nor is it the future that distracts me (with it's temptation to get lost either in worry over it's uncertainty or my responsibility to plan and work towards making it better).
No, for me, the current attacks come from so many good choices that I have in which I could invest. And they come from multiple realms of priority.
* I could call a friend in need (I have plenty).
* I could call a friend not need (I have plenty of them too).
* Which friend should I call?
* Should I invest in grad school or not? If so where? What focus area would best serve God's will for my future?
* What is God's will for my future?
* Are there other alternatives to grad school (an academic track) that might be better for me (a more contemplative track)? Where would I begin discovering the options?
* I'd like to record an entry in one of my kid's journals. Which of my children's journals should I write in, and which story do I want to record?
* I could put some more time into my sermon for this week.
* Look at all the people on that prayer list...who, and how many, should I call? Visit?
* How's my wife's heart?
* Which elder should I call for lunch to see how they are doing, and how I might be able to help in their personal pursuit of our vision?
* I could always use some shepherding as well.
* Which of my co-workers could I get some time with?
* I'm performing a wedding of a close friend soon. I'd love to dream a little for that.
* Do I take the sabbatical that is available to me this year? Do I need it? What will my focus be through it this time?
* What about the next sermon series after this one? That needs some planning and thought.
* I really should keep up with my physical exercise.
* Whoa...just remembered that my checkbook needs balancing and some bills need paid.
* It's been weeks since I took some time alone with God down in the canyon.
* I've got 3 incredibly helpful books I'm in the middle of.
* I'd like to arrange some time with one of my kids tonight after I get home.
* I've got some special company coming in to stay with us for the long weekend that I'll get to spend time with. So which value can wait to be expressed or acted upon until after they leave? Better do that now.
* I have at least 4 of these blog pieces begun and not finished in my draft box. I'd really like to see each one through.
I'm not complaining here, mind you (who could, with such a blessed 'to-do' list as that). I'm merely reporting.
And in all honesty, I'm probably writing this so that I can exercise my need to be fully present with this idea that I need to be fully present.
May God bless us with full engagement in all that we hold dear, one thing at at time.