I had trouble being present in the moment. Sound familiar? The constant vibrating, buzzing, beeping, drop-ins, interruptions and distractions keep us from focusing on the only thing that matters: The present.
It seems obvious, but the future hasn't happened yet, so worrying about it is futile. So often anxiety is mistaken for planning or preparing. Planning and preparing sets a direction and allows you to be proactive when opportunity presents itself. That is different than anxiety or worry. Anxiety about what hasn't happened yet and worry about what has. Since the past has already happened, the best you can do is lament the choices you made or didn't make. And that doesn't help. That moment is over. Many people wear this worry about their past like a badge of honor. It gives them something to do. It gives them an excuse for their self-imposed limitations. And to be sure, I have been guilty of both at times.
But the present is the only moment you can influence right now. So be present.
Last year I changed everything in my life. My job, my home, my life--everything. Now, I have a high tolerance for dealing with change in my professional life, but like so many of us, it gets more difficult when the change is personal. And dealing with that change was overwhelming me. I found myself lamenting choices I made and fearing choices I had yet to make. I wasn't being very present.
So last year I embarked upon a journey to force myself to be present, if only for 5 minutes a day. I made a goal to watch 300 sunrises or sunsets and be present in the moment for 5 minutes. Just 5 minutes. Simple enough, right?
At first, it was difficult to even watch the sunrise. The entire month of January and February were cloudy. There were only a handful of days where the sunrise or sunset was even visible. Which brought me to the first lesson of this intentional adventure: Life will always have cloudy days; its how you react that counts. I could have despaired that the goal was "impossible" and that I'd never reach it, but instead, I grew more determined. I would check the weather the night before to see if a sunrise was possible and I'd step out of the room if the sunset seemed to peek out.
Then the clouds broke. In March the sunrises started to come more frequently and by being present, I was able to discern the first important lesson: the sunrise is about hope. As the personal change threatened to overwhelm me, I looked more and more forward to the sunrise, because each one seemed to say to me: "it's all possible again." It reminded me that I can choose how may day is going to go. That I can choose again what I will allow to affect me. That the day before didn't matter as much as the day ahead. That tomorrow is stronger than yesterday and today hasn't happened yet. That I have the power of choice in my life and each day comes with fresh hope.
As the months wore on, I began ticking off more and more sunrises and sunsets. With the sunrise being the harbinger of hope, I began to learn more about the power of the sunset. The sunset is different. It came in so many forms and fashions it was hard to define the experience. It came with rainbows, and lightning and beautiful clouds and stark blue skies and reds, oranges and purples. It came with more "stuff".
Then it dawned on me, pun intended, that the sunset is about reflection. Reflection about our ever-changing lives. Every day it is different. I learned about being grateful. About reflecting on the little moments in the day that made it worthwhile. About feeling the pain of things that didn't go well. About giving my day 5 minutes to overwhelm me with the good, the bad and the amazing. To really feel my day. Because every day is different and everything deserves time for reflection.
While it may seem that looking forward to a new day with hope, or reflecting on the things that have happened in a day are anti-thetical to being present, nothing could be further from the truth. As I learned to be present for five minutes, the sunrise automatically triggered the feeling of hope, allowing me to truly be present, and the sunset initiated a pattern of reflection--creating the opportunity to be present with my own thoughts and feelings. It became a habit. And that habit bled over into the rest of my daily life. I developed a habit of hope and reflection.
What started as a journey of being present to enjoy nature painting the skies has morphed into a life-altering experience, devoid of purpose or intent, but filled with meaning. As you watch the sunrise or sunset, you surely marvel at the colors, but do you fully appreciate that this miracle happens every day. This little miracle is designed differently. If we looked for the same miracle--the same sunrise or sunset--we would be disappointed. But the miracles we seek come in many packages, big and small, so I learned to be more aware of the little miracles. They are the simplest to appreciate and can bring joy and appreciation to the darkest of nights.
So I ask you to consider watching with me. Will you spend 5 minutes changing your life? Watch the sunrise and feel the hope. Watch the sunset and reflect on your day. Appreciate the beautiful and simple miracle of the dawning and setting of the sun. Find your own meaning as you focus on being present. And then see what happens in you.