The Art of Presence: How to Slow Down & Be Present in a Fast-Paced World

Written by Theresa Kim

Is it possible to experience ultimate happiness in this life?

Many self-help books, motivational speakers, and product advertisements tell us that we can experience such happiness… if only we could reach our goals, meet right people, own innovative new products, or maintain certain lifestyles. However, there is often the feeling of emptiness that comes after we obtain these things. Then, we question our pursuit of happiness and wonder if we’ll ever experience true happiness and fulfillment.
During the first Theology on Tab of this year, Megan Turland, a missionary with Catholic Christian Outreach, stated that we can experience ultimate joy in the presence of God. As Catholics, we can experience the presence of God during mass (especially in the Eucharist), through His words in the Scriptures, and through fellowship with other Christians. In addition, we can be in God’s presence every moment of our lives when we practice the art of being present in following ways:

1) Be aware of our surroundings
Megan shared a story of her little daughter who was fascinated by a construction site and noticed its details that Megan never noticed before. This experience helped Megan realize how much she might be missing out on what is happening around her. Moreover, she felt a sense of gratitude for things about the construction site (e.g., construction technology) and also for her daughter and her inquisitive mind.
As we notice and pay attention to what’s around us using our five senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell, taste), we can invite God into those moments and ask Him to show us what He sees. We may be able to see things and people to which God wants to draw our attention and feel thankful for many things throughout the day.

2) Be more available to people around us
The Gospel of Mark (5:21-34) tells a story of a woman who, with a hope for healing from her ailment, touched Jesus’s clothes. Although there was a large crowd of people around him and he was in an urgent situation (on his way to heal a dying girl), Jesus noticed the woman touching his clothes and took time to pay attention to her.
In a similar way, we can take time to be present and actively attentive to people around us with all of our being – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

3) Practice the daily examen
We can practice the daily examen (a Jesuit practice from St. Ignatius of Loyola) by carefully reviewing our day and recognizing God’s presence and our experience of Him in it. At the end of each day, we can ask God to show us our day through His eyes, give Him thanks for the blessings, and make a resolve for the next day (e.g., to be more available to God).

Many people and things demand our attention and energy during our busy days, and the world may offer numerous means to happiness. However, God says the worldly ideas about and ways to happiness are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8). Only when we take time to be in His presence, we can experience the true fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). Learning to be present to all moments of our days might be challenging; however, it will be a worthwhile effort as we learn to encounter God in those moments and experience ultimate joy and fulfillment that only He can offer us.

About the Author: Theresa Kim is a blog writer for Faith Connections. She is an aspiring freelance writer and a polymath with many, many interests and passions, including writing, visual arts, mathematics, social justice, and (of course) God and the Catholic Church.