Being Awake and Being Present


Being awake in your life is one piece of being present in the moment. Maybe the two are actually the same. It’s about being fully present wherever you are rather than having your mind one place, which is not where your body is. In this complex world we speak often of multi-tasking and wear it as a badge of honor that we can do many things at once. And, even though it is possible, I’m not so sure that it is beneficial because it means that you are not fully present with anything that you are doing.

It is tempting to sort the mail, check your email or flip back and forth between various tabs on your computer while you are talking with someone on the phone. What happens is that you become fragmented. Yes, you can do it and likely feel that you are successfully pulling it off. However, each time you shift gears your attention gets pulled in a different direction and you are not fully engaged with anything.

I know that I am going to get feedback about this, especially from the generation who has grown up with computers, smart phones, and social media. I can already anticipate the reaction of, “I do it all of the time and I am very productive and successful.”

What I am suggesting is that you might try focusing fully on one thing at a time. See what happens. Practice giving your full attention to the person who you are talking to. Focus on them, really listen to what they are saying without your mind preparing what you are going to say next. See what happens.

You know how it feels when you are talking to someone and you can hear them doing something else in the background. You know that they are only half listening to you. Our culture has become one that applauds multi-taskers. They look so busy and seem so efficient. I wonder if that is true. Perhaps they are simply very busy. What might happen if you worked on things serially – completely focusing on the task at hand before moving on the the next? Notice that I didn’t say finish the task at hand. You can have several projects going, however intentionally move from one project to the next so that you can give your full attention to the piece you currently have in front of you.

This week, take a step back and see what it is like when you turn your full attention to one thing at a time. I have found it takes continually reminding myself to stay in the moment and not quickly check my emails – even as I have been writing this. There is a huge draw to trying to do many things at once. However, you really can only do one thing at a time, do the next thing, be in the present moment.

This week my intention is to stay awake in the moments of my life and let go of multi-tasking and see what happens. I invite you to join me. It’s trickier than it seems. Even as I was editing this piece, my computer was running slow, so I jumped to another tab to check on something else. Yikes! Time for me to be patient and stay present.


8 Responses to Being Awake and Being Present

  1. Susie September 6, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    I’m absolutely sure this didn’t come from the fact that I’m always doing “something else” when you and I talk. Really made me think. I’ve so become a multi-tasker that I don’t feel like I’m doing anything unless I’m doing everything. Ever try to get a Workability to sit in front of the TV and do nothing…but watch. YIKES !! You have to do something else…do your nails, knit, pay the bills, you can’t just sit there. Lots of times I plan my phone calls for a time when I am doing something else so I don’t just sit down, relax and enjoy the interaction. Ok girlfriend, I’ll give it a try….see what happens. (And just a note to the younger generation) I’m in the other end of the spectrum…started multi tasking before any one had a computer, pad, cell phone…etc.

    • Cindy Dove September 6, 2013 at 9:01 am #

      It will be an interesting experiment to see how focusing on one thing at a time goes. It may be a challenge for your Workability. I wonder if watching TV and doing a project falls into this category of being awake. Notice where your mind is while you are doing both. It might even be off somewhere else, thinking about the days events or upcoming potential dramas. The key will be if you have your mind where you are instead of 15 other places. I’m going to observe that for myself, too.

  2. Jim Beverley September 6, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Thank you again Cindy, As I was checking my emails in my morning routine, i read your challenge and acknowledge that is an issue for me. I have a perfect day to stay on task and will share with you when we talk next week. Good luck to you and those with whom you work on this excellent challenge.

    • Cindy Dove September 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

      Jim, it’s been an interesting process for me. I am learning how often my mind drifts into various tangents and have been actively bringing myself back to the moment.

  3. Paula September 6, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    I was told a story about an elderly man that kept repeating the same war stories over and over to his children. They, of course, would putz with other things while he told it again. None ever really gave their complete attention to what he was saying. One of his daughters had attended a semiar about listening since her last visit to her father. She decided to try it out with him. This time when he told his WW2 story, she gave all her attention to him, truly listened to what he was telling her. Her father never ever repeated that story again. Apparently he just need somone to really hear the story. Your muzings about the “doing ” while we pretend to listen reminded me of that today. We like when we are truly listened to, why not give others the same acknowledgement and courtesy. I am OK with not getting my whole list done these days and relationships are more important than tasks!

    • Cindy Dove September 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

      Paula, thanks for the story. It is a great example of the power of listening. We often forget how important it is to listen and how powerful that can be for both the speaker and the listener.

  4. Jean September 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    Thank you Cindy. This was a good reminder for me. I often do things, in the kitchen, when talking on the phone with friends. One friend often asks “what’s that” when she hears the clanking in the background. I’m going to make an effort to sit down and really listen the next time I get a phone call. I’m sure my friends will appreciate the undivided attention they will recieve.

    • Cindy Dove September 6, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

      Jean, I was thinking of the very same thing for myself. It is so tempting to “get something done” while talking on the phone. I wonder how much I have missed over the years. It’s going to be fun to see how conversations change when we are truly focused.