As we begin Summer, many of us are feeling relieved. Kids are happy for the summer off from school. Teachers can relax without the pressures of Covid necessitating simultaneous in-person and remote teaching, and without the fear of gunfire in their schools. Many workers look forward to time at the pool or beach on vacation. Dress codes are relaxed, summer meals more casual and bedtimes less rigid. It’s not all easy: camp or day care must be arranged and not all can afford a pool membership or trip. Still, there is something about summer that whispers: “Slow down… laugh a bit, enjoy the moment.” It’s time to breathe, reset our awareness, slow our pace and be more present.
Lately, it seems everywhere I look I see reminders to be present. This is the message in The Week’s June 10, 2022, article “Why More Is Never Enough,” in Mindful Magazine’s Gratitude Journal “Gratitude for Small Things,” and on the Calm meditation app, “Relaxed Open-Hearted Presence” by Tara Brach. We, humans, need these reminders to allow this moment simply because it is the present moment. If painful, we benefit by accepting what is occurring rather than resisting it, because pushing unpleasant things away activates our nervous system’s fight or flight response with all its physical and emotional distress. Resisting discomfort accentuates suffering. If the moment is pleasant, allowing it means to really notice it and, as positive psychology suggests, stay with the positive moment a bit longer, savoring it. We can linger with the simple enjoyment, silently labeling it, “This is a good moment.” Researchers have found that when we intentionally notice and linger with a pleasant experience like the aroma of our coffee or tea, or the intricate petals on a flower, we increase our capacity for joy. As poet and author Mark Nepo says, “One key to knowing joy is to be easily pleased.” And that is the rub. Often, we miss the opportunity to experience joy because we are holding out for the spectacular, rare events like winning the lottery or “losing 25 lbs. in 30 days” as the ad promised.
So, the reset I propose is to be intentionally present to what is. Let’s look for all the little moments of enjoyment, awe, beauty, and simple goodness in this messy life. If at work, look for the employee working diligently day after day (not just the top salesperson in the company). At home, look for the small chore your child did without complaint—ok, maybe a little complaint, but they did it. Say “thank you” to your partner or friend for listening when you complained (again) about your day. This summer, let’s slow down and reset our distressed, weary selves with the gift of presence.