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Presence Over Productivity

“Stop measuring days by degree of productivity and start experiencing them by degree of presence.”

-Alan Watts

Today was a good day. It didn’t start that way though, I was particularly exhausted and the kids and I were struggling to white knuckle through the homeschool assignment list. Productivity was not happening, so I told them to go out and play since that kind of hands-off supervision was the extent of what I could seem to handle. I was feeling pretty down about my inability to get even the things we were meant to do yesterday done, when I looked up and saw my three kids had stripped down to nothing, were covered in mud, and were laughing hysterically. The sun was shining through their unkempt hair giving them all crowns of light and behind them a buck with giant antlers sauntered on the other side of our backyard stream. My jaw dropped, letting go of my control had let this beautiful, authentic childhood scene unfold in all its wild glory.

Valuing our time based on how much we get done in a day is one of the most reinforced culturally conditioned notions in our collective psyche and therefore one of the hardest to shake. It’s all wrapped up in our definition of success, our value as beings is in what we have done, our actions. What if we started considering our days by degree of presence instead? What if rather than asking, “how many boxes did I tick off today,” we ask ourselves: “How was the day experienced? How many times did I really look into someone’s eyes? Did I really taste my food? Did I acknowledge the sun today? Did I have any moments of spontaneous gratitude? How many belly laughs? Did I say yes when my kid asked if I would like to play? Were more of the day’s minutes spent with my phone or a human?”

The truth is, if you are already living fully and with presence, it probably won’t even occur to you to evaluate your day by any metric as this is the habit of one looking to the past or the future to determine how to feel now. But reflecting and assessing is important for most of us who have spent the good part of our lives looking for lasting happiness on the other side of outcomes, achievements, and actions, and having never found it there, are making the transition to redefining this idea of success.

So what is this new definition of success? Success comes from the word “succession,” as in one thing following the next. There is no end to it, there is no there, there. It is an evolution. Everyone and everything is evolving. What are we evolving to? Higher states of consciousness, greater awareness–we’re all fumbling towards enlightenment. When we evaluate success based on what we have managed to accomplish on the outside, this is all just shifting the pieces around on the surface of life, lateral change in the relative of mostly little consequence. But when we are able to make changes to our own state of consciousness through meditation, we are really evolving, and then our actions naturally help with the evolution of others.

The thing is, after all this evolving, you realize everything is all One, and therefore there really is nowhere to go. There is only to Be. Your degree of presence, this is the degree you experience Being in the waking state. This is the only question that matters. This is why we meditate, to draw the experience of Being we have in meditation up into our daily lives. Which strangely enough, will make you more productive.

That’s what’s delightfully ironic about all this. After my kids were in full “Lord of the Flies” mode, and I fully let go of whatever agenda or expectations I had for the day, I got back into the ocean of Self instead of the wave, and all my energy came flooding back. I put the kids in the bath, and in forty minutes had somehow managed to pick up the entire house, make tomorrow’s lesson plan and order take-out for dinner (I wasn’t about to cook, let’s not get crazy).


Muddy feet from today


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