How I Learned to Be Present and In the Moment

Nov 4, 2014 9:00:00 AM Stephanie Chandler-Simpson Being Present

be_present_and_in_the_momentA few months ago I went on a six day River Trip.  We booked with an Outfitter called Winding Waters River Expeditions in Idaho.  If you are thinking about making a trip like this I highly recommend them. I’ve been camping before so I was a little prepared for the way to pack and what to bring or not bring but I realized as I begin to sort through my suitcase and decide what to leave at the hotel that I had never been completely “off the grid” before. No electricity, no bathroom, no TV, no internet, and no cell phone.


Okay, when was the last time you went more than a few hours without your phone?  Suddenly I realized I was going to be unreachable, out of touch with the world for six days! That’s a long time! I begin to feel panicky. I frantically checked and rechecked my email, face book and bank account.  As if somehow I could store up all this information. What if I missed an important call? What if something happen to my kids or my parents? I made one last call to each of my family members and explained this really would be the last time we talked for the next week.  Then ceremoniously I turned off my phone and packed it in my suitcase that would stay at the hotel.

I thought I understood what it means to be present and in the moment. But some things can’t be learned or understood they must be experienced.  The only way to truly be in the moment is:

  • not be worrying about the past and
  • not be planning for the future. 

No doubt I could have spent six days off grid on the river and still worried and made plans but here’s how it unfolded for me. 

First of all I intended on doing my best to be in the moment. I wanted to experience every moment as it unfolded.  Being on the river, sleeping under the stars, eating great food… maybe I was just exhausted and hungry but the food was wonderful.  The first three days were the most difficult.  I kept thinking of things I didn’t do or thought I needed to do. Phone calls I needed to make, emails to send. Projects that I was in the middle of. With each thought I would say “I can’t do anything about that right now so let it go”. Then on to the next thought and again letting it go. Then came the ideas.  Thinking about all the things I could do. New projects and ideas that needed to be planned.  Again I would say “I can’t do anything about that so let it go”.  At the end of each day I would write in a journal and any genius idea I had I’d just write it down.  By the way I haven’t implemented any of those “great” ideas since I’ve been home.

At the end of day three it happened. Nothing! There was nothing to think about or worry about or plan.  I couldn’t do anything about it any way, right!  As I searched the massive star covered sky that night I realized for the first time in my adult life I was truly in the moment, I was present and with that came peace.  For the next two days I floated, literally, down the river and in my mind.  Peaceful and present.  On the fifth day it was back.  As the trip came to a close so returned the thoughts of what was next. I very quickly adjusted to my phone at my side but here’s my lesson from the river.

1-    The world keeps turning with or without you.

2-    Most of the time – You really can’t do anything about it in this moment.

3-    It takes more than a long weekend to truly let go.

4-    You can’t really let it go without literally letting it go. Sometimes you need to disconnect.

I’m not saying you need to book a six day River trip but I do recommend you find what works for you to be truly in the moment, even if it’s only for a couple of days a year. 

The first thing I did when I returned home was book another six day trip for next year.