By Jessica M. Miller, M.A.
A new study says we’re not mentally present for almost HALF our lives.
We’ve all had times like this: Our kid comes up to us, asks a question. We’re not paying attention, but out of parental guilt and/or irritation we say, “Yes,” not having a clue what we just agreed to. Next minute we look outside and see him running butt-naked through the sprinkler.
Or, maybe that’s just my experience, but you get the point. We have moments throughout our day when our minds are not focused on the important stuff, like our families.
According to this Harvard University study, almost half of our waking hours are spent NOT living in the moment. That’s a shocking and sad statistic.
Why is it so difficult to feel present in the moment?
Blame it on the evolution of our brain’s ability to multitask — that and the fact that the pace of our society leaves us no choice but to do a constant mental juggle.
In the morning, when you brush your daughter’s hair, you’re not paying attention to the scent of her strawberry shampoo or listening to her sweet chatter about yesterday’s art class. You’re planning next week’s extra-curricular shuttle service or rehashing the argument you had the night before with your spouse. Sometimes when my kids see me staring off, I’m racking my brain trying to remember if I showered the day before…or the day before THAT!
In the midst of multitasking, we miss emotional connections.
I’m neurotic about making the most of my time, so the Harvard study startled me. I decided to challenge myself to focus on the moment during our pre-school morning mayhem. (Why I picked this crazy time of the day to experiment is beyond me.)
First, I had to define what that looked like to me:
- Quiet my mental chatter.
- Stay focused on the task at hand.
How did it go? The morning was insane as usual. The kids fought over the left sink, my son freaked out because I forgot to wash his favorite monster truck t-shirt and my daughter relentlessly complained about her oatmeal.
It was the same, but it was also VERY different.
Time slowed down when I focused on the “now.”
I actually felt my kids’ frustrations with the obstacles they faced at the crack of dawn. Before being present, I would get annoyed by their gripes, but today I was able to empathize with their concerns.
Why wasn’t I MORE overwhelmed beings tuned into this circus? This is the best way that I can explain it: Imagine that you’re in a busy subway station and that you’re trying to listen to Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood through your phone speaker. Then, you remember that you brought your ear buds and plug them in — quite the sound and clarity difference.
Life becomes AMPLIFIED when you’re in the moment.
When you pay attention to your five senses, you can’t listen to your internal reel, which taxes our stamina to handle the external input.
Yes, there’s a way to shut off that mental chatter. You know that voice inside your head that reminds you of the things you didn’t get done, messed up on, and have yet to do? Once I was able to turn that off and tune into my senses (sight, smell, feel, taste, hearing), I unknowingly allowed my neurons to connect with what was in front of me, rather than what was circulating in my head.
I listened to my daughter when she stated her case about the damn oatmeal. I felt the inner struggle in my son when he fought like hell to get the better sink, and I noticed the lethargic pace in my husband before he walked out for work.
I saw my morning with fresh eyes. Regardless of the fact that it was still loud, crazy and, at times, unbearable, it was real life.
Give it a try yourself.
Try these simple steps:
- Designate a specific time in your day to focus on what’s in front of you.
- Bring your mind back each time it tries to sneak off. Just say, “No, I’m doing that right now. I’ll get back to worrying later.”
- Ask yourself throughout the phase, “What do I hear, see, taste, feel, and smell?”
It’s impossible to live in this state of bliss all the time. The reality is that the world we live in doesn’t allow for that. But anytime you feel disconnected from yourself and/or your family, simply unplug and tune into what’s surrounds you. You’ll notice a huge difference, and so will the ones you love most.
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: Why Being Present In The Moment Is SO Important (And How To Do It).
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
Our Thanks to Father Benedict J. Groeschel C.F.R. — His books can be very helpful if you are seeking God in your life ….. He helped me more than he ever knew…
The lady above is the first person in America to admit a person to a hospital to treat them because they had a medical condition she called alcoholism. Her name is Sister Ignatia.
Most people familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous know the story of Bill W. and Dr. Bob. But not as many people know about the woman both those men considered the third co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): Sister Ignatia.
“The Catholic Guide to Depression,” by Aaron Kheriaty, MD and Fr. John Cihak, STD. This book has plenty of input from experts in psychology and spirituality. If you believe human life has a spiritual part, this book can save you a lot of time wasted by treating depression and related maladies with chemical solutions — when a spiritual solution is often called for…..
Book Review: “Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic” by Matthew Kelly (You are probably doing only one or two….)
We recommend the book “Holy Spirit” By Edward Leen. It changed my life. It can change yours too.
“Introduction to the Devout Life,” By St. Francis de Sales. Many people reject that word “devout.” But we are all devoted to a thing or two. A crack addict is devoted to cocaine. Once a human being decides maybe he can find a better life with the help of God, he naturally becomes less devoted to some things and more devoted to others…..
“Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence” by de Caussade — the goal is total dependence upon God. To get a new self; most human beings need to get rid of the old self.
Jean Pierre de Caussade (7 March 1675 – 8 December 1751), advice on people having great troubles, anxiety, depression:
“They have only to fulfill the simple duties of the Christian Faith and of their state of life, to accept with submission the crosses that go with those duties, and to submit with faith and love to the designs of Providence in everything that is constantly being presented to them to do and to endure, without searching for anything themselves.”
Shortly after he converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Thomas Merton was walking the streets of New York with his friend, Robert Lax. Lax was Jewish, and he asked Merton what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic.
“I don’t know,” Merton replied, adding simply that he thought maybe he wanted to be a good Catholic.
Lax stopped him in his tracks.
“What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!”
Merton was dumbfounded.
“How do you expect me to become a saint?,” Merton asked him.
Lax said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”…
Thomas Merton knew his friend was right.
Merton, of course, would go on to become one of the great spiritual thinkers and writers of the last century.
His friend Bob Lax would later convert to Catholicism himself — and begin his own journey to try and be a saint.
But the words Lax spoke ring down through the decades to all of us today. Because they speak so simply and profoundly to our calling as Catholic Christians.
Of course, if you only want to be a run-of-the-mill, average Christian, that’s probably all you’ll ever be. Every one can do just enough to get by. It’s not hard.
But many of us are challenged to do more….
Real Men Pray
My creed for life is the Apostles’ Creed. My code of conduct is de-rived from the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ command to “love God, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” As an American naval officer, I derived motivation to serve my nation because of my love for my country. I also believe that Americans have a special justification to love their country derived from a love of God. America was founded as “one nation under God.” Our founding fathers deliberately based their experiment in democracy upon the premise that the compassion and the self-discipline required for the success of a democracy can only come from citizens who believe strongly in God.
Due to our nation’s founding premise, I found it easy to serve in a profession that protected our land. My generation helped to protect and ensure the survival of our nation against Fascism and Soviet Communism. Now our greatest enemy is the threat that would do away with America’s belief in the founding premise, its founding thesis.
If we continue to increase our forgetfulness of God’s ultimate significance, then America will not survive. I strive for the ultimate significant success —heaven—by loving and serving God, country and family.
THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
To those who are non-Catholics among the readers, let me preface the story with an explanation of the Roman Catholic devotion to “The Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Jesus, of course, has both a human and divine nature and took on a human body, and all natural characteristics of a human when he was on earth. His brain and sensory system enabled him to think and feel as a human being. His divine nature rendered him a sinless soul but he felt the temptations of a human being, and all the physical pains, pleasures, sights, and emotions of a human being. Thus the immensity of his suffering for our salvation is more palpably understood and appreciated by us. It is a Catholic tradition to regard his heart as the center, the symbol of his own humanity, the “source” of his human compassion and his love as he felt it and showed it on earth.
The love resulting in the miracle of Cana is one example of what could be attributed to his Sacred Heart. We feel we can “get to him” better, if you will, by appealing to that copiously loving heart. I had adopted that devotion and frequently uttered the prayer, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee,” which was the standard prayer of that de-votion. I said it frequently, at least every night in prison.
Okay, with that said, let’s go back to 1967, about two years after I was shot down. Those years were probably the worst in terms of suffering for me. For a considerable portion of that time I had served as senior of-ficer for all the American POWs, responsible for issuing orders defining specific lines of resistance on unexpected challenges which arose, repre-senting our complaints about out treatment to our captors, and generally feeling responsible for our morale and performance of duty. Simply being a POW involved plenty of stress, long periods of physical and mental suf-fering. but for those finding themselves senior over an isolated group of POWs there was extra pressure.
The context of the timeframe of the incident I am about to relate was in the middle of the four years of intense mistreatment: mid 1967. Robbie Risner, then I, then Jim Stockdale had served as Senior Ranking Officer, (SRO), in that sequence since October 1965 when torture began. At this particular point in time, they were both isolated, and I was trying to act as SRO again in a camp called “Las Vegas” where most of the POWs were being kept. Vegas was like a hotel with fairly small cells, most of them were sharing common walls with one or two other cells.
Many of us had been moved to Vegas from the “zoo” where there were separate buildings, perhaps eight, holding a total of upwards of 100 prisoners. This arrangement permitted the North Vietnamese to erect bamboo walls cutting off visual contact between the buildings, and this greatly impeded audio contact because the walls limited maximum range of sound. The guards could use the walls to hide behind and catch people in one building trying to communicate with one another. Torture was al-ways bestowed on POWs caught communicating, along with other un-pleasant measures intended to intimidate the man from communicating in the future. This rendered communications difficult compared to the Vegas situation. We had been doing pretty well with tapping on the walls at Vegas for a number of months, but then the purge came that caused Stockdale’s temporary isolation, and I inherited the sack.
To inhibit and virtually prevent me from communicating as SRO, they stationed a guard in a chair at the door of my cell. At all times, his chair was leaned back against the door and the back of his head rested against the door. The acoustics were such that he could easily hear any tap, no matter how soft. Communications and prayer were by far the biggest factors supporting our morale and performance of duty.
At that time morale was low for three reasons: First, for a number of months, torture was being applied more intensely because the war was being intensified, the enemy was in an ugly mood and we knew prisoners were being promptly and severely tortured. We could hear their screams from a distance in another part of the prison complex. Also a purge among those POWs who had been in captivity longer was underway in an effort to break our chain of command and destroy our will to resist. Second, the news about the war which we were receiving was such that it was becoming evident that it was extremely unlikely the POWs would be released in any reasonable or early timeframe, and the conclusions that we would never be released were floating around in our minds. Third, com-munication was almost nil.
I was intensely frustrated and chagrined at my lack of ability to com-municate. Though I would have never admitted it, I was also of the belief that the U.S. was beginning to experience a growing anti-war movement. This sentiment would not likely improve our victory chances or any escala-tion of the scope and intensity of the U.S. offensive campaign which I and most others felt was necessary. Less importantly but of considerable effect on us, the end of the war did indeed seem further away, and release less certain.
The screams of the prisoners in torture did not help my morale. During this phase I was enjoying the company of Jim Mulligan, my occasional cellmate. At this point in time, Jim was sleeping in the upper bunk. It was midday, siesta time, and the screams occasionally broke the normal silence for that time of day. I was praying, as usual, that God’s will be done, but that I hoped His will would include, among other things, improving our present situation because I was in leg irons and a guard was looking right at me.
I prayed especially that He would let me come up with a means of communications that could be effectively used even when I was unable to move. Finally, as my last prayer, with special earnestness, I uttered the words, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee.” In only a few seconds, I clearly heard an incredibly kind, dignified but commanding voice, which was taken by me to be the voice of Jesus Himself. The voice said clearly and rather slowly, “Say, Sacred Heart of Jesus, I give myself to you.” I was almost knocked down with a wave of awe upon hearing the voice. It was the most real and the most amazing thing that ever happened to me.
The speaker of those words, of course, was not only assuring me of having heard my prayer, but had instructed me to deliver it in the future with new wording and meaning. I was not to say I merely trusted Him, but transcending that, I was to GIVE MYSELF, (all of me, all of my concerns) not just to THEE, as to a formal, omnipo-tent other type of suprem being, but to give myself to YOU, the familiar designation of a friend or a brother. And the tone and inflection of the voice conveyed the same mood of brotherly familiarity and assurance. It may sound kooky, but I know it happened, and I know it was real, more than I know my name is what it is, or that my wife is really my wife. For what it is worth, I can assure you that for me the prayer has worked.
A few months later at a camp called Alcatraz where eleven of us were iso-lated for over two years, I did have a brainstorm which permitted me todevise the reliable, undetectable communications method for which I had specifically prayed. In many other painful situations, the prayer has since brought relief to me and to others who used it after I confided to them about the prayer.
Sometimes people say they had a terrible father so they cannot relate to “God the Father” or the “Our Father.” Scott Hahn addresses this difficulty in his book “Understanding Our Father” which is also a good read for fathers of every age.
Sometimes Catholics say they left the Church because of the priest sexual abuse of children scandal. I like to ask them, if some doctors were accuses of malpractice, would you never again go to a doctor? Would you never again go into a hospital?
Every time I go into a church I say, “Jesus I am here for you. Maybe in spite of the pastor…and my OWN MANY FAULTS”
JFC, Peace and Freedom
Tags: alcoholics anonymous, Anxiety, Bishop Robert Barron, Bring your mind back each time it tries to sneak off, de Caussade, Designate a specific time in your day to focus on what’s in front of you, do not be afraid, don't relive the past, ego, emotional connections, false pride, focus on the important stuff, get over past failures, God won't give us more than we can handle, Harvard University, I'm not as good as I once was, Introduction to the Devout Life, Jeremiah Denton, Padre Pio, pride, psychology, resentments, Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, self-abandonment, Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, self-esteem, set goals, St Francis de sales, Stay focused on the task at hand, stay in the present moment, suffering, suffering is part of life, surrender, The Antidote to Fear is Faith, Third Step Prayer, Total Trust in God, worry