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

Living the Experience

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 these experiences, I can be tempted to reach for my smartphone and take a picture. An artefact I love. A landscape that fascinates me. A meal I enjoy.

From my memory. Archived for posterity. To document my adventures and experiences. I have done this again and again because I can. Because I love photography.

But sometimes I 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 for my phone and take a picture.

When I take the tube, bus or even walk down the street, I see people staring at screens instead of noticing their surroundings, movements, people and nature. It is the same in places of life – gardens, libraries, airports, train stations, coworking spaces, coffee and tea houses.

Are we so lonely to be so connected 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 outdoors, I sometimes try not to use my device or turn it off to focus on the experience. Instead, I live the experience, feel it, and am fully immersed in it.

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

It is like a tea ceremony. I take time to step out of the social grid. I make small gestures to begin the sensory experience. My taste, my smell, my ears, my touch. My intuition and curiosity.

It is a ritual I do offline to be mindful and present. To be immersed myself in what I am experiencing.

Living the Experience Together

I also believe that I can be mindful and present with people. It starts with being respectful, polite and caring. Sometimes people don’t do that.

The other day I went to WeWork in Paris. The coworking place for startups and big companies. I was here to discuss a possible collaboration on workplace learning with an HR manager from a big company.

When I arrived at this beautiful building, I was amazed. How lovely it was designed and decorated!

I was also charmed by the welcome I received from one of the HR manager’s colleagues, who smiled kindly and offered me a glass of water with a twist of lemon.

I noticed the environment and the behaviour. I was then introduced to the HR manager to start the personal interview in a quiet lounge.

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

“I’m sorry, but I’m bringing my laptop so I can take notes as we talk. Don’t mind my typing. I will sometimes look at you and ask questions.”

Inside I was disappointed. I said nothing for a moment. Then I stuttered: “Fine”.

Before breaking the silence, I said to myself:

Why is this?

Why can’t we connect on a deeper level when we talk face to face about the possibility of working together?

Aren’t we here to get to know each other? To be mindful and present?

If 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 that person, but it’s not going to work.

The next time we experience something, alone or with someone else, can we let go of our devices and the internet for a moment to connect more deeply and be fully immersed in the experience here and now?

This way we are much more curious and attuned to the experience we are focusing on.

Discovering the Tapestry Book

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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