How many of you are present in life? I think the thing I have struggled with most in my life is being present and very rarely have I ever been stuck in the moment. I think about the future most often now-a-days, but I used to be haunted by my past. To be honest, I think this is what most of us struggle with.
What is the issue with not being present, though? For starters, we can never fully appreciate life for what it is if we aren't present, but that is a given. Not being present is a major drain on our mental health and our overall capabilities.
As an athlete, I know this all too well. In a game we worry about our last mistake. After games we dwell on those same mistakes. We have anxieties about the performances to come, hoping to land a contract that is suitable to us after the seasons end.
Problems, anxieties, complexities and struggles are never absent in life, yet we let them rule us. Why do we not have this conversation more often?
During the beginning of the pandemic, The Last Dance documentary was released, following the journey of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, arguably the greatest team to ever play the game of basketball. The Bulls legendary coach, Phil Jackson spoke on what made Jordan the greatest player of that time. Sure, he had an intense work ethic and competed like no one else in the league, but what Jackson attributed to Jordans success was his presence. He never worried about the shot before or the shot after, just the one he was taking right here, right now.
In my own life, I have felt burnt out over the past week in particular. From a basketball point we are underachieving as a team. We have probably the best group of guys I have ever played with in terms of accountability and desire to win, and we are certainly one of the most talented teams in the league. So I find myself stuck in the past, recounting all of our short comings hoping to come across the magic piece that will get us back on a winning streak.
Key word- past.
Outside of basketball, I am finishing up launching my mental health firm, constantly trying to plan for everything that will come my way so I can be ready and deliver the greatest service to those in need I can. I want to see how I can grow into the right avenues and programs that will be most beneficial to the world. I am running before I have even crawled. I am stuck in the future.
Key word- future.
Yesterday, Carlie and I went for a walk on the beach for sunset. For now, we live on the Sunshine Coast, here in Australia. The name matches what you would expect it to be, winter time is usually in the 70's (20 Celsius) and anything below that is a shock to the system.
Yesterday afternoon was especially cool, dropping to the 50's for sunset (I know where I have grown up and where I have played in Europe and how cold they are. Maybe it is the old age thinning my blood- that is a thing right?) Whether you think I am just being high maintenance or not, it was the worst day of the year to watch the sunset but we went anyway.
For those of you who know me or have been following along, you know how much I love sunsets. I never realised why until last night. This is what I realised and how important sunsets really are to us.
WE SEE THE BEAUTY IN WHAT IS DIFFERENT
Sunsets teach us the importance of difference. We go through our days without much care for a clear day. Sure we recognise the sunshine and enjoy it, but to my knowledge, no one sits there with their camera pointed at the sky taking photos of it. We wait for those special moments where the sky turns to pinks, oranges, purples and blues.
In todays world, there is a lot of hatred for what we are not. Whether that is driven from insecurities, ignorance or traumas, we do a horrendous job of accepting others for what and who they are. We all believe in something, we just do not believe in ourselves enough. Each sunset is different from the last, yet we see them all to be beautiful in their own right. Why do we not look at what is different in ourselves as beautiful? Maybe it is time we do.
TEACHING US PRESENCE
Being able to see what is beautiful about a particular moment or person is a skill. Yet to truly be able to harness that gift, we must be able to sit still in the moment. We must allow the world to slow down, to allow ourselves the ability to detach from all of the thoughts that run through our heads. We become prisoners of our own mind, as the late great Bob Marley said, "emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds."
I have been the absolute worst model of this in my life, however it is something I am certainly more aware of and thus, striving to make a better effort to allow myself to let go of what holds me back.
The echoes of our mind begin to construct the reality that is before us, simply because we allow it to be that way. To free ourselves of those echoes and regain the control of what we believe to be true is the way forward to a healthier, stronger mind. With that clarity, we can accomplish anything we desire.
I look at Kanye West, someone who has been ridiculed and mocked for the overwhelming majority of his career. He's eccentric, no doubt about it, but his mind is working for him, not against him.
I look at his earlier interviews quite often, and he constantly talks about the power of belief. That he has chosen to believe in himself and not allow others to put their own limitations on him. Say what you will about him, but today he is a multi-billionaire. The guy has to be doing something right.
In my life, I have never heard anyone say they went to watch the sunset because it makes them feel badly. I have never heard anyone say they went to a sunset and all of these thoughts raced through their head and overwhelmed them. It is because we find peace within ourselves, taking in what is in front of us.
When I first came to the Sunshine Coast in 2016, my mother was on the verge of passing. I knew I had said goodbye to her for the last time when I boarded my flight, and to be honest, I did not feel okay with that.
All day long, I would be riddled with the thought of my mother being sick, withering away, the enormous burden that was brought on to my brother and the feelings of shame and guilt that were within me. I was hurting.
However every afternoon, for 30 minutes or so, I would walk down to the beach and watch the sunset. Everything stopped inside of my mind. I had no thoughts of the past of leaving my brother behind, nor did I have thoughts of what the future was going to be like without my mom. Instead, I had peace. I had freedom.
I was liberated from the shackles of my own mind, free to escape and breathe.
WE UNDERSTAND THE FLEETING MOMENT OF THE PRESENT
Here in Australia, the sun is up for roughly 11 hours in winter which is a pretty good amount compared to many areas of the world (looking at you Finland and your maximum four hours of sun.) All day long we enjoy some sunshine and not much seems to change. Then the golden hour hits.
Isn't it incredible how you can watch the sun literally drop in the sky, yet we do not notice much of a difference during the day? Our attention is drawn to the sun, watching the glow dim and the colours in the sky shift.
With each blink of our eyes, the colours, magnification, vibrance and shades all shift. This is our reminder of how fleeting our lives are. Everything comes and goes within an instant when we are present in reality. When we let things flow as the way they intend, our experiences become more revolving and we enjoy our experiences more.
When it comes to emotions, no emotion is intended to be with us for long periods of time. It is our decision to intertwine ourselves with these emotions, trapping them within us. This is why happiness and joy are so fleeting. All we want is for them to stay because we perceive that to be a "good" emotion.
Depression, on the other hand, tends to stick with us for days, weeks even months at a time because we resist each moment we spend with it- trying to fight off the dark cloud we are under.
Sunsets represent how our emotions are supposed to work, just flowing in, being exactly what they are for what they need to be and moving on, allowing the next phase to come through. Just allow the freedom and liberation of yourself to take place. Those past events cannot be altered and those future events cannot be effected. Only the present moment has its place.
ENJOY THIS FOR EXACTLY WHAT IT IS
In life, we take nothing but the lessons we have learned with us. We cannot take the house we buy, the car we drive or the clothes we wear with us. We make ourselves better before moving on to our next journey, whatever that may look like for you in your beliefs.
The sunset is the same, yes we can take a picture to remember it, but we can only take the memory with us. There is nothing tangible to directly take from a sunset. There is no money, no prize and no physical gift from the sunset. What I have learned greatly over the last three years is that the best things in life, the ones that mean the absolute most to us, have no price tag. Maybe it is cliche but I know there is truth within that.
A very wise man told Carlie and I to bring nature to the city, meaning that if nature is where you find peace, bring a garden to a city to calm your nerves. Find peace within yourself and project that out.
For myself, I need to bring the sunset with me throughout my days. Presence, liberation, beauty and an understanding that this human experience is fleeting. We are here for a very short period and then it is all over. Enjoy every single moment that you are gifted because at some point that finite amount will expire.
To make the impact you want, you must understand the present for what it is. In a world where control is often well outside of our reach, control the moment you are in, because there will never be another moment for the rest of your life that you can control.
Find presence. Find Peace. Much love.