In a letter written to James Harmon to be published in his book, Take My Advice, writer John Shirley writes, “What if we’re a lot more unconscious than we know? What if, even when we think we’ve got everything worked out and planned out, we’re actually, in certain ways, just reacting to things?” In this quote Shirley hits on the idea of being present in the moment without directly stating it. His quote talks about how much of the world is hidden from us and impacting our decisions, and how much is influencing us without our knowledge. When we begin to work on being present in the moment, we become more aware of what shapes the decisions we make.
I recently read Grant Korgan’s book, Two Feet Back, in which he describes his recovery following a spinal cord injury. What Korgan explains is that his injury gave him the chance to pause his goals, plans, and desires while he worked towards regaining feeling in the lower half of his body. He explained that he went from being someone who tried to plan every part of his day and life, to someone who had to enjoy the simplicity and spontaneity of each moment. His injury taught him the importance of being present in all that you do.
I think that Shirley’s quote speaks to the same understanding of presence that Korgan came to understand. When we focus and plan each detail of our lives, we spend a huge amount of energy and effort in a single direction, and we are then not aware of the little things that sway and move us away from that direction. When we focus on presence, we begin to understand what forces are trying to shape our coarse, and we can be more responsive to those events. These forces that we may not be consciously aware of may push us towards our goal, though possibly towards our goal in what seems like a less direct path, or they may push us to new goals that ultimately align better with who we are. Gaining presence helps us identify our emotions and reactions, and helps us understand our place relative to others.