What does it mean to be in the present moment?
One way of seeing presence, is to imagine a child looking up at its mother, trying to show her a toy. The mother is looking into the far distance, a frown on her face. She is thinking about her past, and how her relationships have gone wrong. She is thinking of her future, worrying about money and accommodation.
The child continues to show her the toy for a while, reaching up as high as they can, until the toy is nearly touching her nose. The mother swipes the toy aside, and says something angry to the child. The child sinks back down to the ground, and resolves not to bother their mother again with such enthusiasm.
The child represents the present moment, with its opportunity for play, and for witnessing what is going on right now. When we walk through the woods, the birds are singing for us, and perhaps fallen leaves and fruit are begging to be picked up and experienced. Maybe the sun is sending shoots of light through the branches, trying to reach our eyes and encourage us to see the beauty of nature.
When we are with other people, perhaps there is someone suffering, trying to catch our eye, so that they can share a smile and believe the world is not such a bad place. Perhaps there is someone who has not been appreciated all week, whom we can recognise and welcome. Perhaps there is someone desperately trying to hold it together, who would love to be seen and recognised, and cared for a little.
If we are distant with our own worries, like that mother with the child, then the world will fall back into the background, and stop offering us its enthusiasm and joy. However, if we can drop our anxious concerns for self, and see the beauty that’s being offered to us right now, we have a greater chance of happiness.
Be here now. The trees will not be here forever, nor our sun, nor the rain on our face, nor the company of those we love. These things are precious precisely because they are fleeting. Today, be aware. Look out for the beauty that is reaching towards you; the people who may be reaching out to you; the light and love that is there, right under your nose.