From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Live in the present for 15 minutes a day

I'm really bad at the whole living in the present thing. Like, really bad. I have a pretty bad memory of the past as well. In my head it's all about the future. I tend to see today as a way to get to where I want to be later on. I plan relentlessly--how to get an agent, how to do more marketing, how to manage a day-job, how to get this book out as successfully and efficiently as possible--all plans to take me to some future place.

Which is okay, even good, in some ways. Planning is good. However, there are two major consequences to taking the future planning thing to the extreme, which I'm noticing in my life. First, the awesome things I already have in my life go horrifically under appreciated. Second, when plans don't work out as planned, or when, for whatever reason, planning itself is impossible for a while, it tends to lead to some pretty major freak out.

So, I'm challenging myself and anyone else who wants to join me to spend at least 15 minutes a day not thinking about the future, and immersing myself in the here and now. It is going to be hard, but I'm going to do it with certain awesome present presents:

  • Music. Maybe some days I'll just lie on my floor close my eyes and feel the rug and totally focus on some really good music. Or maybe dance around to it. I'm not above admitting that sounds fun.
  • Nature. This is an obvious one, but for a reason. This is a great time to do it too, when things are starting to get warm and green. I've got some way cool parks and lakes (and even sandstone arches if I want to drive that far) in my little desert bubble of a state, and I could definitely be taking more advantage of that. Every place has beauty, you just gotta find it.
  • Food. When was the last time you sat down to a really good meal and just enjoyed the taste of the food in your mouth, and took your time, without thinking of anything else? For me, way too long.
  • Other people. This is the most natural anchor-to-the-present for me. I can be listening to music or outside or eating dinner and still easily be thinking about plans for the next blog post or agent research or next writing project or whatever. But when I'm in a good conversation with someone else I just forget to think about all that other junk. It's refreshing, really.
What does this have to do with writing, you ask? (Even my plan to not plan is a plan. I told you, I'm relentless). Becoming more observant will automatically make you a better writer. Your words will be much more vivid and exciting when you know intimately what a crow sounds like or the smell of a wet parking lot or the taste of barbecue ribs. Living gives you something to write about. As well as being, you know, better than not living.

So there's the plan. What do y'all think? Are you as plan-crazy as I am? What other suggestions do you have for enjoying the present, even just for a little while every day?

Sarah Allen


  1. Oh gosh, Sarah, I understand this all too well. I am trying, very hard, to be where I am. Good luck with it.

  2. This sounds a lot like what's called mindfulness meditation, which I try to do too. You just take a few minutes to be fully present and aware of where you are in life right now. It's amazing how much that helps for us crazy-planner types! Just a moment to chill and appreciate life.

  3. Sarah, I really needed to read this today. I am actually about to make me some coffee and enjoy my 15 minutes. Thanks for the post. :)

  4. I know what you mean. Sometimes I get so busy thinking about the future I forget to have any sort of fun. So I try and make time every evening just to relax, forget about all those tomorrows and do something for me, for today.

  5. I find this so easy to do - especially walking across my local fields. Even last night, on a 5 min walk to my friend's house, I walked along staring up at the stars. Venus and Mars (I think) were close together and very bright. It was so beautiful. I can't stop myself from just 'being' when I'm walking, until I walk into a tree or a person or a very muddy puddle :-)


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