Being Present

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“Be present. Don’t worry about documenting the moment with your smartphone. Experience it yourself.” — David Carr, New York Time writer via Marcia Conner

I love going to art exhibitions in Paris. I enjoy riding my bike along the river ‘La Marne’. I hiked on the top of Holyrood Park in Edinburgh. I love having lunch at the Italian restaurant in Paris, the Pizzeria La Felicita.

With all those experiences, I can be tempted to reach out to my smartphone and take a photo. An artefact I love. A landscape I mesmerize. —a meal I savour.

From my memory. It is archived for posterity. To document my adventures and learnings. I have done that on and on because I can. Because I love photography.

But sometimes, I can miss the details of a painting, a sculpture, a performance, a meal or a landscape in the living moment because I was too excited to reach out to my phone and take a shot.

When I take the subway, the bus or even walk in the streets, I see people who stare at screens instead of noticing their surroundings, movements, people and nature. It is the same in life places—gardens, libraries, airports, train stations, coworking spaces, and coffee and tea houses.

Are we so lonely to be so coned to our world through devices and the Internet? Have we forgotten to connect in person when we leave our home sweet home?

When I experience something at home or outside, I sometimes try not to use my device or turn it off to be focused entirely on the experience. Instead, I was living the experience, feeling it, and being immersed in it fully.

It also happens with analogue artefacts. For example, it happens when I listen to a mixtape I recorded years ago, with the album of Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

It is like a tea ceremony. I take time to go off the social grid. I make small gestures to start the feeling experience. My taste, smell, my ears, my touch. My intuition and my curiosity. It is a ritual that I am doing offline to be mindful and present. To have a crush on what I am experiencing.

I am also convinced that I can be mindful and present with people. It starts with respect, being polite and caring. Sometimes people don’t do so.

The other day I was at WeWork in Paris. Tcoworkinging coworking startups and big corporations. I was here to discuss a possible collaboration with an HR manager from a big corporation in workplace learning.

When I arrived at this beautiful building, I was amazed. How lovely, designed and decorated it is! I was also charmed by the welcoming of a colleague of the HR manager, who was smiling kindly and offered me a glass of water with a zest of lemon.

I noticed the surroundings and the behaviours. Then I was introduced to the HR manager to start the face-to-face conversation in a quiet salon.

What happened next was disappointing to me. It is also a living example of not being mindful and present in a relationship with someone. The person in front of me says something like:

“Well, I am sorry but I bring my laptop so that I can take note during our conversation. Don’t be annoyed by my typing. I will sometimes look at you and ask questions.”

Inside of me, I was disappointed. I said nothing during a silent moment. Then I burbled: “fine”. Before I broke the silence, I told myself:

How is that? Why can’t we connect on a deeper level when we discuss face-to-face a possible work collaboration? Aren’t we here to get to know each other? To be mindful and present?

When the reciprocity is not there with someone else, I would say that you can do whatever you want to try to be mindful and present with this person, but it won’t work.

Next time we experience something on our own or with someone, can we let go of our devices and the Internet for a moment to connect deeper and be immersed fully right here and right now in the experience? In that way, we are much more curious and attuned to the experience we focus on.

Tapestry goes through my flâneur’s journey and goes of my personal learnings, stories and reflections in an e-book format. Through thoughts, experience, practices, inspirations, nudges, and questions, I share my story to work and learn continuously in a networked world.

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