The police tell us, to avoid the risk of becoming a crime victim, we need to be aware of where we are – know where you’re going, keep your purse and packages held securely, have a mental plan in place of where to go for protection. In books from business, to the personal, to the sacred with such titles as “The Power of Full Engagement,” “Be Here Now,” and “The Sacrament of the Present Moment,” we are encouraged to live moment by moment in full awareness.
How many of you have experienced driving someplace and all of a sudden it dawns on you, you can’t remember the specifics of the driving process. Your mind was somewhere else the majority of the drive. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to say, “Thank you, God, that I’ve arrived at my destination safely because I certainly wasn’t paying enough attention to have gotten me here on my own.” This is so universal, I assume a 100% response to some similar experience.
Because I apparently live way too much of my life on autopilot, I’ve thought about people who perhaps live more in the present moment than I do and I have extrapolated some keys for living a more aware life. My example is primarily my daughter in a recent shared experience. I wanted to make a trip to the Joplin area for research on a novel I’m writing based on genealogical truth. I wanted pictures in my head to help me visualize the place. I asked Kay if she would like to go with me and she agreed. You need to know, it she hadn’t gone, I would have just hopped in the car the next morning with camera and paper and been back that night. Kay made me make a plan for how to best utilize the time so we spent four fully planned days and reaped benefits I would never have expected. Addresses and property owned from probate files from courthouse records, newspaper articles on the wedding of my grandfather and grandmother as well as a picture of life in the community in 1900 from the genealogical society, and four pages from the library archives of front page news of my great grandfather’s death, services and business community reaction. The information we got allowed us to take pictures of actual home sites and business in multiple cities, as well as photos from visits to their grave sites. We saw countryside and beautiful scenery to incorporate in my novel, but the result was purposeful rather than random, due almost exclusively to my daughter’s ability to live life with awareness.
Here are my conclusions from the experience:
First, as Stephen Covey said, “begin with the end in mind.” Kay knew what information she had as well as some of the holes she would like to fill in and she had a working knowledge of possible places to go to get answers.
Make a plan – both broad based and specific. My plan was only broad based, but Kay’s included the specific and it was the specific that netted the best results. Keep the whole picture in your mind – if not, you may miss pieces that would fit that you weren’t looking for in the moment.
Stay open to the spontaneous and serendipitous. All of the newspaper articles were serendipitous. Reading the article my grandmother wrote to put in the newspaper about her leaving Missouri to come to Oklahoma to get married was totally unexpected and a great pleasure. It was the taking the time to read newspaper archives that netted that great benefit.
Keep all your senses open – God gave them so use them. Remember there’s more than just the surface to the senses – explore the possible meanings to the sensory input – ask the 5 journalist questions – who, what, when, where and how and allow your mind free reign to explore the answers.
Bring all your education, experience, and skill to the moment – all can be useful. Kay is a librarian and she utilized all those in the service of this trip. She’s also a manager and she used her ability to delegate, plan and implement the details as well as to integrate the information we got into the whole of her research. In addition, she’s also a daughter, wife and mother and she brought all of those experiences and responsibilities with her to maximize the experience in terms of the research as well as relationship building.
Enjoy the moment – if life is just a task to be gotten out of the way, what’s the point?