Making Connections – One of the Many Gifts of Being Present
I can’t believe it has been months since my last blog post. Where did the time go?
My perception of time flying is likely a reflection of living a very full life these days. In other words, I have been really busy. I am sure many of you can relate.
But, I’m not complaining. On the contrary, I am truly thankful for the many great experiences I have had over the past month. They have allowed me to connect with incredibly talented people, all of whom are doing their part to enrich our lives and essentially make this world a better place.
One theme that stands out among the work of each of the artists, health providers, and entrepreneurs I’ve been fortunate to meet and collaborate with over the past month, is the importance of connection; real connection. The kind of connection that can’t be achieved through a screen or a device. The kind that can only be experienced by paying attention to the small things, the things that can easily go unnoticed but are essential to allowing us to feel grounded in a world where the constant distractions take us away from being present, from being connected to the ‘here and now”.
The month started with the launch of Walking with Walser, a delightful little book by my friend Daphne Gordon. Through Urusla, Gordon takes us on a journey full of quirky insights and reflections in response to the things she notices during her daily walks along Queen Street in Toronto. Her fascination with the little things gives Ursula a child-like quality that is so compelling it inspires the reader to want to leave the house on foot to experience the adventure that awaits outside, an adventure that is always available provided we are actually prepared to pay attention.
This theme of attending to the “here and now” was the focus of discussion among all the presenters at the Integrative Health Institute’s free information night titled, The Next BIG Thing in Brain Health. As clinicians from our various backgrounds, we talked about the physical, mental and emotional benefits of mindfulness, a state we can practice by engaging in activities with the intention of remaining focused on the present. We discussed the importance of slowing things down, and observing our own thoughts without judgment so that we can make conscious choices, rather than engage with the world in a reactive manner.
As we noted that evening, advances in the field of neuroscience are literally showing us that these kinds of experiences contribute to the resilience of the brain as we age. Focused concentration, new experiences and having fun are all important for the brain’s ability to adapt to its environment and to form new connections. This is what allows us to learn and make new memories throughout our lives.
Unfortunately, much of our modern technologies, or rather our attachments to them, seem to be leading us in the opposite direction, into a state where rapidly shifting attention has become the norm.
One of my favourite moments of the night was when Corinne Korytkowski, mindfulness coach, acknowledged that we all, including us “experts”, struggle with being present. Amen! It certainly is not something that comes naturally to me. But it is something I have been working on in a conscious way for the past 10 years.
My children have probably been my best mindfulness teachers to date. There is nothing like a screaming child to make you let go of your best laid plans. On the flip side, there is little that compares to experiencing the world through a child’s eyes and being reintroduced to it as a place of wonder and amazement.
So, whatever it is you do today, consider taking a moment or two to slow down, “unplug”, and really pay attention to what is happening in the moment. You might be surprised by what you experience.