There’s this tragedy I commit occasionally:
Something gorgeous will zoom by, so I’ll screech to a halt, pull a U-turn in the middle of the highway, dash back to that spot, whip out my phone, take 28 different pictures, and then just move on, all without having spent even at least 28 seconds to simply be there and take it in with my eyes, seeing it unfiltered through a camera or through the lens of my best guess on other people’s opinions.
I’ll ponder back and realise in a sense that I don’t know what it actually looked like, you know? I’ll know what the picture looks like, but I won’t know what the air smelled like. I won’t know what sounds there were. I won’t really even know how it felt, mostly because I wasted too much focus fretting over how I could get it to turn out Instagram-worthy.
I still love taking pictures, though; and even though I know we shouldn’t have to take a picture to validate a moment, sometimes it can be one of the best ways to value it. So there must be a healthy balance blossoming in there somewhere.
I’ve supposed that a lot of this living in the moment business involves as much physical intricacy as it does mental or emotional. Like taking a really deep close-eyed whiff of your food before eating, for instance. Not only does smell prep your salivary glands and enhance your taste buds, but I also personally think it just makes eating all that much more enjoyable. The more senses you engage, the richer the experience. You take a moment to centre in on each one, rather than just swallow it through a single avenue, and together they blend into this harmonious symphony of sheer pleasure and delight.
And life becomes just a little bit more beautiful.
At least if the food actually tastes good.
I’ve tried this technique when I’m alone with God to mold it into my subconscious to be more present with other people. When I’m outside, especially out running or hiking in the woods, I’ll halt in my tracks and close my eyes, inhale deeply through my nose, and focus there. Then I hone in on the sounds of the wind chasing the birdsongs through the trees. If I’m barefoot, I’ll wiggle my toes a bit on the ground or perhaps just fixate on the air touching my face and hands. No, I don’t actually lick the dirt (except for maybe that one time back in Norway. It was worth it.) But you know how sometimes you can taste the air on your tongue if you breathe it in just right? Yep. Just like that.
Sure, it’s all somewhat spacey and poetic; but it works. When I open my eyes again, everything radiates so much more vibrantly. I feel so much more there. My body bridged my soul to the moment, and I at least feel a bit more alive. It’s just one out of many ways to go about it, but coupled with a delicately cultivated sense of wonder, a permissibly nurtured curiosity, and a genuine effort at selflessness, it at least helps me be a bit more present throughout my day from time to time, person to person.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” -Marcel Proust
I’m trying to teach myself that if I’m going to take a picture of something extraordinary, if I have the time, I ought to pause for a moment and take it in all the way. Perhaps even that way I could get a tiny bit more out of looking back on the photograph.