Recently I started noticing that many people talk about presence – how important it is for a person to enjoy the present moment, to be present, to focus on “now” instead of tomorrow. Every magazine, book or article that I would open would point out that being present is as essential an ingredient to being happy as it is to allow yourself to enjoy life the way it is.
So I tried really hard to be present. I would smell all candles in the store and try to memorize the moment. I would prepare for relaxing like it was an exam – carefully picking a face mask, bath soap, bath salts, lotions, book to read, plan to drink a specific kind of tea afterwards to ensure I was really enjoying myself. However, what would happen most of the time was similar that usually happens to many people who try meditating for the first time – instead of relaxing and learning to control my thoughts, I would have my mind actively working while I was in a bath, spa salon or any other relaxing place. Instead of enjoying being present, my mind would focus on future problems- what I should cook for dinner, when is the next bill due, what to get my brother-in-law for his birthday, what to tell my manager during our next meeting… I simply couldn’t do it! In fact, the more I tried to be present, the more active my mind would become. So I gave up on the very idea and even forgot about it, until one day.
One day I was walking to work with my husband, and we decided to take a new route. The weather was warm and spring was in the air. Suddenly I heard birds singing. I slowed down and started looking around, like I was the first time in this city. I enjoyed looking at every house that we passed, finding something unique and beautiful about each thing I saw. Then it hit me – the secret to being present is doing one task at a time. When I only focused on walking to work, I was able to take longer breaths, really see the neighborhood we live in, enjoy every sound of morning city (well, almost every sound, except for the Fire Track passing by). This is why when I travel on vacation, I enjoy the cities or towns I see – because I focus on them and on actually seeing things, I don’t try to look at things while browsing my work email or thinking about the project I am working on. Multitasking kills joy, because instead of focusing on and enjoying doing one thing, we try to do multiple things in the same time, and then we wonder why our mind can’t be productive or happy. Study after study showed that creative, innovative, happy and energetic people are the ones that do not multitask. Instead, they take the time to and focus on the task that is most important to them, and wander around or question things.
So when was the next time I went for a coffee, I no longer used my phone. Instead of meaninglessly flipping through Instagram pictures on my phone, I would watch how my drink is made, inhale the rich scent of the coffee and caramel, look around at sleepy morning customers, and actually hear the cheerful music that was playing on the radio. That was the day when my coffee tasted better than any other coffee I had, because that was the day when I actually focused on its taste.