“You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry. Don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” - Walter Hagen
According to Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment in the book Now, Discover Your Strengths, focus is one of my top five strengths. However, there are times I find myself feeling scattered – thinking “ahead” to the next thing I need to be doing instead of giving my full attention to the current moment.
Recently, we had a monarch butterfly migration pass through our backyard. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of monarchs would flit through by day sometimes stopping to rest on low hanging branches in huge clusters – a fragile orange and black piece of art. One night last week during what I might call the peak migratory period, I found myself outside in a cold rain mesmerized by the sheer numbers and their beauty en masse, their perfect wings lit by our porch light on a low branch near the deck.
Although I had noticed them the prior few days, I felt compelled to grab my camera right then despite the dark, cold, and rain to capture this moment lest they all fly away by daybreak. The falling leaves around them signaling the change in seasons made the urgency seem even greater. While my first thought was to wait and get the picture in the morning, I decided I couldn’t take the chance of missing the moment forever. Surely other moments in life have passed when I thought I could do it “tomorrow.” As it happened, I did not see nearly as many butterflies together in the next few days – and now they are completely gone.
I had to remind myself to focus on that moment and not rush inside to fulfill the duties on my mental (and written) list. It’s a lesson we can all use sometimes: stop and “smell the roses!” Maybe you need to focus on the sound of your children’s voices as they play and enjoy the laughter (and even the chaos) versus wishing they would be quiet so you could concentrate on whatever task is at hand. Perhaps you need to ponder the beauty in your surroundings or in those you care about, really stopping to concentrate on them and use all your senses to listen, see, hear, and smell.
When we give our full attention to the present – even when completing a project for work – our lives are richer. Being fully present for life means not worrying about the next thing so we can BE where we are. I plan to take a few more moments to “smell the roses,” even if that entails standing outside in the rain! For me, that means feeling the crisp fall air and not wishing for the warm sun of a month ago, enjoying the green blades of grass and green leaves while they are still green – and even enjoying the turn to yellow and brown (though that’s a stretch, I’ll admit!).
What will you focus on to truly enjoy the present? What do you need to give your full attention to this evening, tomorrow, or this weekend? Share your commitment to be fully in that moment!
If you are interested in learning more about the monarch butterfly migration or tracking their progress through your locale, check out http://www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/.
Yes a noble goal I can achieve once in a while. I have recently changed my route to and from work to an incredibly beautiful drive along the Long Island Sound coast rather than the highway. It takes and extra 10 or 15 minutes, but it is well worth it. It amazes me that I have been missing this beautiful drive for 25 years just to "get there" wherever there is as fast as I can.
Your beautiful photo says it all. Now is the most precious moment there is.
Thank you, Sylvia, and that's a great example, Nate! You "give up" 10-15 minutes but gain an immeasurable ammount of peace and beauty. I would love to see that New England view you speak of!