being present

ON BEING PRESENT

Having a conversation is a lost art. When was the last time you spoke to someone and had an authentic exchange? Too often, we hide within protective bubbles or behind automated handles, having forgotten how to make contact and be present.

Living in the moment has become an antiquated notion.


I remember a time before the World Wide Web. Back then, I had to make my own fun because I didn’t have 1.3 billion websites to trawl through or hundreds of on-demand streaming services for entertainment. I perfected methods of procrastination that didn’t involve spending hours on social media—brain going soft—scrolling, swiping, hashtagging, double tapping, commenting, or liking the posts of my contacts.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reclining on my sofa now and then to binge watch robot “hosts” become sentient or Clare Underwood usurp her villainous husband. I’m a fan of beautiful photography and insightful posts my friends and family craft. It’s convenient to Skype or WhatsApp with a beloved residing in a different city or on another continent.

AltaVista
Hey there AltaVista, I remember you. Image from Techspot.

Where things get sticky is when we go offline and find ourselves standing face-to-face. You there and me here, translating thoughts into speech, action, and non-verbal cues. As a natural conversationalist (of course, I’m a Gemini) I get riled when speaking to someone’s profile or crown of their head while they cater to something categorized as “important” on the electronic device in their hands.

I’m amazed at how the digital applications and services we’ve designed to bring us closer together have, in fact, forced us apart. They’ve made a lot of people horrible at communicating. If I had a fiver for every fractured, cursory, or stilted conversation I’ve had in the last year I’d be able to fund my next vacation, which would (at least) make me feel less aggravated by the uptick in crude behaviour.

To be clear: I’m not talking about standing around at a professional function, riding next to a stranger from Brooklyn to Harlem, or waiting for your friends to arrive at a party. There’s always a time for making small talk about the weather, Cardi B’s new album, or the latest Kardashian quagmire.

wherever-you-are-be-all-there-quote-free-print-mountainmodernlife.com_
Photo from mountainmodernlife.com.

But we have lost our way when it comes to being on the level. We stuff food in our mouths without taking note of taste or texture. We get on trains, planes, and buses to fixate on a screen instead of enjoying the ride and cutting loose our imaginations. Having a conversation is a lost art. When was the last time you spoke to someone and had an authentic exchange? Too often, we hide within protective bubbles or behind automated handles, having forgotten how to make contact and be present.

Living in the moment has become an antiquated notion.

This is because we’ve created a world full of catch-22s. The fear of missing out keeps us up at night and ADHD distracts us during the day. But while we might be desperate for stronger networks and closer connections we don’t know how to be conscious, candid, or compassionate. And why should we? Taught to rely on cloud-based tools for communication we’re unable to look someone in the eye and make contact the old-fashioned way.

A friend asked recently, “Why are you so attracted to boxing?” His palms upturned as if to say, I want to know what the hell compels you to hop around a ring and get punched in the face. I reflected briefly before replying—there are countless reasons for why I fight. Everyone has their own set of deeply personal answers. Some chase after fame and notoriety. Others are driven by the theatre of it, the spectacle. Many enjoy the high intensity workouts. A few get off on ripping into someone until they draw blood. But regardless of whether you think of fighting as an art, a primal dance, a type of play, or form of rebellion, one thing is for certain…

It’s a way to experience everything the present moment has to offer.

being present
@linktno and @kathreenmarie get down during the women’s 112 lb division bout at the USA Metro Golden Gloves final.

Although my response involved several components, it centred on living with intent and immediacy. Nothing else exists when your body is turned into a weapon and adrenaline floods your veins to fuel your entire system.

This is why I think I’ll continue to explore my relationship with boxing. The ride may have been rough the last quarter (Should I quit? Is it time to try something else?) but when I enter the ring things, temporarily, make sense. They shift into place. There, I forget about myself and just sweat, move, breathe, grunt, hear, feel, and taste.

Fully present, I am primed for the experience.

In that respect, boxing is similar to other grounding elements in my life: yoga and running, writing and reading, or even sitting across from a friend at a café. These disciplines and gifts are restorative and humbling because they slow the world down, unraveling time long enough to access what is truly important.

And that’s to get rooted in the here and now—the only moment that really matters.

1 thought on “ON BEING PRESENT”

  1. All so true. I’m a true believe in the power of technology and the good it can do, but it has left us socially stunted, and can often create an alternate reality (which is sometimes way scarier or more uncomfortable than life). Trying to live in the moment, in the “real” reality seems like a good start.

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