Being Present


By Beth A. Richardson

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin.”

—Matthew 6:28

Being present may be one of the most powerful practices that we can engage in the world today. When we are in the present moment, our attention is here—the place where we are standing right now. We can listen deeply to the person with whom we are talking. We can interact fully with the community that surrounds us at work, at home, or in the world as we move through it. We are able to see through “the eyes of the present” all things—large and small—that make up our lives. If we are truly in the present moment, we are open to the movement of the Holy One. We become a channel for the Spirit’s promptings in us.

When we are present, we are able to watch for the ways that multitasking takes us away from the present moment. We often find that it is not possible for us to be present with another person or with ourselves when we are also in a second or third conversation on our electronic devices. Our brains were not created to multitask. Studies have indicated that when we are doing more than one thing at a time, we are actually switching quickly between tasks rather than doing two (or more) tasks at once.

Being Present with the Holy One

Use this exercise to ground yourself in the present moment. Try the exercise several times a day this week for at least five minutes. Once you have become more familiar with the exercise, you will be able to run through the steps quickly in your mind whenever you are needing to bring yourself back to the present moment.

  • Stop what you are doing and set an intention to be 100 percent present in this moment.
  • Identify any potential distractions—phone, computer, television—and turn them off. Choose to be here, right now.
  • Take several slow, deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Feel your body—the parts of you touching a chair. Or feel your feet as you stand on the ground.
  • Take a deep breath, in and out, and notice how your body feels. Do you detect any emotions within you? any sensations in your body?
  • Take a deep breath, in and out, and notice the sights, smells, sounds around you.
  • Focus in on the things that you hear. What do you hear? Are there loud sounds? Are there soft sounds?
  • Continue breathing, in and out, and feel yourself in your body. Right here. Right now.
  • Now let your attention turn to the Holy One. Can you detect the presence of God? Where is God’s presence? Is God beside you? Above or inside you? Turn your attention to that presence and let yourself rest in it. Keep breathing slowly and deeply, and allow yourself to rest in God’s presence. Continue as long as you like.
  • Now begin to bring your focus back to this present moment. As you let your senses move back into the room, remember that you can come back to this peaceful moment at any time during the day.
  • Perhaps there were important words or thoughts that came to you during this time. Make note of these, and take some time later to write them down in your journal.
  • When you are ready, open your eyes. And come back to this space.

If you have more time for this exercise, enter into a time of prayer, silent or vocal. Make a list of the things for which you are grateful. Or spend some time journaling in words or images.

Return to this grounding exercise throughout your day. Practice being present in a conversation with another person. Step outside and ground yourself in God’s creation. At the end of your day, practice being in the present moment and offer in prayer the places during your day where you saw God’s presence in people or situations.

From Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent. Copyright © 2020 by Beth A. Richardson. Published by Upper Room Books.