Recently, I got to learn from an amazing Mom and Grandma, MaryAnne Johnson of home-school-coach.com, about the power of Being Present. She gave us a challenge that has been, well, challenging for me. It is a simple one, and I really needed it, but it has been harder so far than I expected. Here’s what it is. You’ll laugh, it sounds so easy.
Commit to Be Present with one person each day for 3 minutes. Totally focused on them, no multitasking, thinking about other things, no other agenda, no looking into the future, just looking in their eyes, listening to them, and letting them know you value what they feel, say, and who they are by the way you are with them. 3 minutes.
Anyone can do that for 3 minutes, right?
Well, it turns out it’s not so easy for me. I have gotten really good at doing 3 or 4 things at once, which has served me well in some ways, but it often means I am missing things that matter the most, opportunities to connect and teach and understand my kids better, and powerful moments together. Nursing a baby, while typing an email, while half listening to a child’s request, or trying to mediate a quarrel from the kitchen while washing the dishes and thinking about what I am making for dinner all at the same time, have become a normal way of life for me. And it doesn’t only zap my energy, it zaps my power to touch my children and be touched by them. So, I really needed this exercise.
It’s only been a day and half, and here’s what I have noticed so far.
1. Old habits are hard to break, so I really have to concentrate on being Present! I guess there is a reason why Maryann started with such a short period of time. Baby steps.
2. It really helps to physically remove myself from my distractions. If I am reading something and I want to be present when my child wants to tell me all about their latest lego creation, I need to physically remove myself from what I was reading, get up and go see what they are talking about, or go sit down with them on my lap and turn my whole self toward them. Otherwise it is too easy to sneak a peek at what I was looking at before and get distracted again.
3. 3 minutes really can pay big dividends! I had better conversations with my kids in the past few days than I have had in a long time, and I learned a lot about them! Sometimes it only takes one minute, even, to have a moment that is meaningful together, that satisfies a need and makes them feel loved, and they go skipping away happily like I just gave them the world. It really doesn’t take a lot of time, I just have to be willing and not put it off.
4. I enjoy my kids more when I am present with them. Making time with them my purpose rather than a distraction means I get more satisfaction out of spending time with them. And they do, too.
5. I DO have time to be present! I don’t have to rush around getting tons of things done at once. And it’s something I can’t afford to miss! It’s funny (and sad) how it’s the things that you can’t get back, like making memories with your kids, that seem like the easiest thing to put off in favor of things that will always be there, like dishes and phone calls and errands. That exact moment might not ever come back no matter how much you might try to recreate it when it fits in the schedule. Taking 3 minutes to stop, turn, and take in your child completely means capturing something irreplaceable. I need to remember that when I’m tempted to put the kids off.
I’m very grateful for this exercise and I think it will carry over to other areas of life as well, being present with my husband, being present with God when I am talking to Him, and being more open to the people around me and the beauty that is everywhere.
Being Present helps us be more Joyful. It helps us see more. It helps us be more effective in the things we do. It might seem like slowing down means accomplishing less, but I think by being present I will actually accomplish more of the things that matter the most.
Empowering Action: Take the 3 minute challenge and share how it goes! Give each child 3 minutes of your focused presence this week and see what a difference it makes.