Be Here Now

Last week I took a little camping trip with my family. For some reason it felt like a magical time of connecting with my daughters and husband, totally “away” from the Internet and the phone and the office. I admit I find it challenging, but I worked hard to stay off the Blackberry and simply be—enjoying the mountains, having a great time with my family.

I think I’ve struggled with living in the present moment my whole life. In the last few years I’ve noticed how virtually everyone is afflicted with this diminished ability to be here now in the current time and place. Often our attention is focused “over there” instead of “right here.” Tomorrow or yesterday instead of today.

Being Elsewhere Now has been elevated to an art form, thanks to ubiquitous electronic devices designed to take us OUT of the moment and transport us somewhere, anywhere else. We’re on our cell phones all the time—and that means we’re not “here” but elsewhere, with that other person to whom we’re talking. And iPods? No better way to transport ourselves than by plugging in our earbuds and checking out. Blackberries and iPhones ensure we can be connected with OTHER times and places anytime we want, and never be confined to the present moment. Our attachment to Twitter and Facebook feeds our addiction to documenting the small moments of our lives rather than just living them.

The whole idea of being here now has not only been lost, the very concept seems naïve in this sophisticated “anywhere but here” world. It takes discipline to reject the temptation to focus on other-times-other-places instead of on here and now. But there are incredible rewards. The beauty of the present moment is magnified when compared to the abstractness of things long ago or far away or still to come.

We can’t live in tomorrow, and we can’t live anywhere else but here. We can’t live “elsewhere” in our minds and still expect to experience life in its fullest. As writers, will we be able to fully capture the truth of life if we are not giving it our deepest attention?

I challenge you today to pay attention to your own patterns. To what degree are you living in the present place and time? Are you here now, or are you somewhere else? How is this affecting your enjoyment and fulfillment in each day? Just pay attention.

*Photo courtesy of my 10-year-old daughter.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Susan Helene Gottfried on July 30, 2009 at 2:07 PM

    >I just got back from four days in magnificent woods, myself, camping with the Scouts. One of the reasons I've embracing camping and taking my family for hikes and bike rides is for this very reason. Because I can relax and LIVE for a bit.

  2. Samantha Clark on July 29, 2009 at 12:21 PM

    >Great post, Rachelle. Thanks. I know exactly what you mean. I find it hard to switch off, both from my books — which isn't necessarily a bad thing 🙂 — and from my always long list of things that have to get done.

    But when I look around at all the technology we have, I often wonder if society has forged forward too fast and we've forgotten about the beauty in simplicity. Although I appreciate technology … to a point (I love email and the Internet), I think the world could do with going back to a more simple life. Some of the happiest people in the world live in small villages with little in the way of technology. When we can tear ourselves away from our BlackBerries, iPhones, etc., we can see the beautiful world God has given us and truly appreciate it.

  3. daya dissanayake on July 28, 2009 at 9:46 PM

    >In Sri Lanka i do not have so much of a problem living int he here & now. i do my writing around 4.00 am – 5.00 am. then i work in a business office. but rest of the times and weekends i am with my children and grandchildren. fortunately my daughter lives in a tea estate in the hill country, only 4 hours away from the city. we also have a hideout in a coconut estate near the west coast only 2 hours drive away.
    also when one believes in the Buddha's teaching, that nothing is permanent in life it is easier to live one day at a time

  4. vicariousrising on July 28, 2009 at 2:53 PM

    >Excellent reminder. I'm in recovery from alcoholism, so I try to practice living mindfully daily. My life is all the richer for it.

  5. Kristin on July 28, 2009 at 12:24 PM

    >So true. I struggle with this a lot. thank you for posting!!!

  6. Anne L.B. on July 28, 2009 at 2:52 AM

    >I've come to love Facebook because it allows me to be with so many people who are genuinely important in my life. I'm no longer playing a poor game of catch up with them when I do see them, because they've become part of my everyday life.

    Likewise, when I'm away from my husband and kids, the electronic gadgets that keep us in touch (mostly cell phones) put them with me now, enabling me to have more freedom than I otherwise might.

    Whatever the pull to be somewhere else now (a very valid point), there's also the ability to be more fully engaged with most important people when we're apart.

  7. Anatole on July 27, 2009 at 11:16 PM

    >I'm about the only person my age that does not have a cell phone (courtesy of a small bank account), and I'm always forgetting to recharge my iPod. So that pretty much makes me the most "in the moment" person around in my area.
    And I'm not complaining in the slightest.

  8. Tara on July 27, 2009 at 10:13 PM

    >I'm fortunate to work from home while juggling two kiddos. I have schedule breaks for each kid–it forces me to get away from the computer screen (which is probably good for my eyes and wrists), and it pulls me into their present time. Can anything be worth missing the laughter of my kids while I chase them around the trampoline?

  9. Linda on July 27, 2009 at 9:44 PM

    >I just posted about the same subject. However my distraction isn't technological, unless I consider my spaghetti wired brain technology. NOT. My challenge is that my brain is always processing. Besides the thing I'm attempting to do or the conversation I'm involved in, I too often split my efforts. I divide my attention and everything is cheated. I'm working on better absorbtion skills. Thanks for the post.

  10. Terri Tiffany on July 27, 2009 at 8:21 PM

    >Oh you hit me hard with this post.Ouch! I really do tend to live in the future–and I miss out on today. I was just talking about this with the ladies in my group and have decided to stop saying "What if?" and just live today without fear.

  11. Rose McCauley on July 27, 2009 at 7:29 PM

    >Loved the picture of the trees lifting their hands to God in prayer. (ala Joyce Kilmer) Tell your daughter she did a great job! I think it is easier to live in the "now" when we are surrounded by God's handiwork. I suppose one of the reasons is that it shows us how small we are in comparison to our God and His creation.

  12. RickNiekLikeBikes on July 27, 2009 at 5:56 PM

    >Wouldn't it be nice if we were simply content with here? If I did, I could probably enjoy where you are more.

  13. Lisa Lawmaster Hess on July 27, 2009 at 2:35 PM

    >Ouch! Guilty as charged. Though I look at some of my colleagues who are attached at the hip to their Blackberries and think, "Thank God I'm not like that," I have plenty of room for improvement. Thanks for making me think.

  14. Mark Adair on July 27, 2009 at 2:23 PM

    >Thanks for the good word, Rachelle. I think somewhere deep, down in my emotional core I've equated "being in the moment" with dying, or at least an absence of life. To the point where a necessary period of de-programming precedes my times of just being…maybe it all has something to do with the decaying, fallen world that we inhabit, and trying to escape the entropy therein…

  15. Enjoying the journey, Karla on July 27, 2009 at 1:26 PM

    >Great post! I am visiting my parents in Utah and love the moutains. I constantly find myself having to pay attention to lay down the electronics. When I do it is amazing to me that when I sit down later to write how it just seems to flow. We all need to be reminded to let go the the electronics and just live in the moment enjoying our family around us because time moves way too fast!

  16. Dawn Kinzer on July 27, 2009 at 12:55 PM

    >I also struggle with living in the "now." I'm a planner and have a tendency to live in the future.

    But I'm working on living more in the here and now – especially when I'm with family or friends. I want to give them my undivided attention.

    Last Friday morning I decided to take the day off from work. After three days of tension headaches, I thought I was due for a break.

    It ended up being exactly what I needed.

    I actually took time to sit on the deck in my backyard and enjoy the flowers, birds, and peace and quiet. I savored my coffee. Spent time in prayer.

    I spend many hours maintaining the yard – I have tons of flowers – but I rarely take enough time to appreciate them.

  17. Jana on July 27, 2009 at 12:36 PM

    >"Wherever you are, be there."
    Some of the best and most remembered advice I ever received. (More than twenty years ago…)

  18. Liesl Shurtliff on July 27, 2009 at 11:47 AM

    >Thank you for sharing this. I'm going to go play with my kids now.

  19. Heather on July 27, 2009 at 11:38 AM

    >WOW!!! Thank you, Rachelle. I needed to hear this a lot today. There's so much going on my life that I tend to stress out and have a had time enjoying where I am in life. I think today will start to change that. :0)

  20. Jenni Saake (a.k.a. InfertilityMom) on July 27, 2009 at 11:09 AM

    >So glad you had such a wonderful time "being" with your family. 🙂 Our pastor was just sharing yesterday about a study he read on family happiness. Only 3% of families in that survery rated themselves as truly happy with their family as a unit. Of the many things evaluated, the one and only common thread these families shared was that they were "camping families" who regularly took time out to go camping together. Don't know his source, but it was an interesting statistic. We will be taking our first family camping trip this fall (and you are welcome to follow our planning and travels as I blog it all at )

  21. Candee on July 27, 2009 at 11:07 AM

    >Thanks for the gentle reminder to keep my focus on the most important things in life.

    Just yesterday, I was rejoicing that school starts in three weeks and my kiddos will be out of the house (and not fighting with each other all day long).

    Today, I'm reminded that I only have three more weeks of unstructured time to spend with them. So, maybe I should turn off the computer, put down my pen, pop some popcorn, and watch a movie while snuggled on the couch in our pajamas.

  22. Camille Cannon Eide on July 27, 2009 at 10:24 AM

    >I had not quite put my finger on why people whipping out their cell phones to answer (or place) a call while conversing with live people bugged me, but you said it. Dismissing the present. And those in it.

    But while I haven't gotten as plugged in/addicted to cyberspace via portable web gadgets, I have found I am just as guilty of focusing on another place, another time. I find I'm guilty (as are my protagonists) of taking people for granted: those I live with, and those whose paths I cross. I can greet a person whom I haven't seen in a while with a nod or "hello, howz it going" and keep going. Focused on what I gotta do, followed by a new something I gotta do. Miss what could be a Moment, an important Touch or Connection. I think not now, next time. NEXT TIME is not promised to any of us [again, a lesson from my protags :)]

    Being Elsewhere Now also plagues me as a writer. I want to be UP THERE. With the best. Where the bar was set by Kingsolver and King and Kidd and Gruen and all those whose work I admire. (blogged about that here, Permission To Be Here For Now.) When I don't clear the bar with my own writing, not only am I frustrated, I forget to give permission to be where I am now, to remember how far I've come, remember nothing good comes quickly or easily. I must remind myself to be patient with the process and be where I am NOW and not worry that it means I'm being complacent (also works for beating oneself up about where one is at as a Christian, spouse, parent, friend, etc).

  23. Cheryl Barker on July 27, 2009 at 10:15 AM

    >Great reminder, Rachelle. That's one of the wonderful things about getting away from it all for awhile — we're reminded to take time for joy each day…

  24. katieleigh on July 27, 2009 at 9:55 AM

    >My choir director used to urge us to "Be here now." Part of it was that he wanted us to pay attention and sing – but he also wanted us to experience the music, in the moment.

    Thanks for the beautiful reminder.

  25. Marla Taviano on July 27, 2009 at 9:54 AM

    >Love this.

  26. Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought on July 27, 2009 at 9:37 AM

    >I like here and right now.

    This post hits upon one of the main reasons I've resisted signing up for Twitter. I know myself and I think I would lose more of my here and nows.
    ~ Wendy

  27. Kristen Torres-Toro @ Write in the Way on July 27, 2009 at 9:23 AM

    >Wow, this is such a huge struggle. The fact that we're writers doesn't make it any easier. But you're so right–how else can we accurately depict our literary "nows" if we aren't able to be fully present in any of them in real life?

    I really try to be intentional about this. It's very easy to be overseas and to be thinking about what I'm missing in the States, and then returning to the States only to think about either what I'm missing or where I'm going next. Being fully present–being able to release the things that aren't in the moment–is very difficult. But if we are able to do it, it's so worth it!

    Thanks for this reminder, Rachelle!

  28. LorelieLong on July 27, 2009 at 9:18 AM

    >Bingo. I've been really struggling with this lately – a couple weeks ago I was made to realize that this focus problem, coupled with my superwoman complex, was making me screw up some significant things.

    Among other fixes, I'll be disconnecting my data plan on my Blackberry at the end of my billing cycle. Just the fact that it was such a hard decision to reach tells me it's the right one.

  29. Rachel on July 27, 2009 at 9:13 AM

    >Poignant reminder and beautiful picture. Somebody's got a keen eye for a ten year old!

  30. Nicole O'Dell on July 27, 2009 at 9:11 AM

    >Very timely. I was feeding my infant triplets yesterday and ten minutes went by that I didn't speak. I was so lost in my thoughts about what I had to do next and focused on that to-do list in my head that I was feeding them like a robot instead of enjoying the moment with them.

    Vowing to be in the moment and enjoy my family more!

    Also, as a writer, I think this applies on a "work" level, too. The release of my first two books is this week! But, I also have two more completed mss to turn in this week by their deadline. I'd like to enjoy the moment with the babies I'm birthing a little more. Savor the goodness, so to speak.

  31. Billy Coffey on July 27, 2009 at 9:06 AM

    >Over the weekend we visited my mother's side of the family, who are Amish. No radio, no television, no computer, and no cell phone. Their only link to the outside world was the rotary phone hanging on the wall.

    We had a long talk about modern conveniences and traditional ways, and there is more than a little we disagree on. But there's no denying the fact that they're much happier in their simplicity than I am in my technological excess. It's a little ironic that I'm the one more connected to the world and they're the ones more connected to life.

  32. CKHB on July 27, 2009 at 9:02 AM

    >This is toughest for me as I try to find a new "day job." I feel guilty for not spending enough time with my daughter, but when I do spend time with her, I am often distracted, thinking that I should somehow be doing something more to "fix" my employment situation. No matter what I am doing, I seem to be thinking of the OTHER things I should be doing.

    I am working hard to isolate my writing time, job-hunt time, and family time, to embrace and focus on each task as I do it. Yes, they all need to be done, and so I am trying to be smarter about how I budget my time for each. Some things can't be multi-tasked. Sometimes you have have to accept that certain priorities must be set aside entirely to make room for others.

  33. Reesha on July 27, 2009 at 8:50 AM

    >This is so important to hear on a Monday. Thanks for the reminder and the challenge.
    Constant novelty on the internet has shrunk my attention span.

  34. Novice Writer Anonymous on July 27, 2009 at 8:47 AM

    >Beautiful post. Very thought-provoking.


    Novice Writer Anonymous

  35. Matilda McCloud on July 27, 2009 at 8:41 AM

    >I have been struggling with this very issue and this past weekend took a 24-hour break from computers. I'm trying to work in something everyday where I spend time being in the NOW, not on computers etc, like gardening, sitting in the backyard reading, playing the piano, taking a walk. It's difficult because you wonder about emails piling up etc, but I think it's necessary. All this "connectivity" is driving me a bit nuts (ie Facebook, etc).

  36. Cindy on July 27, 2009 at 8:36 AM

    >Thanks for the reminder, Rachelle. I went camping with my family last week as well and found it terribly difficult to focus for part of the time. I kept thinking about other things–namely my book I was close to finishing, what needed to get done when I got home, etc. But then I got home and all that was still waiting for me and I keep having to remind myself that all these things can be put off for awhile. But my family can't. And time to enjoy the here and now shouldn't. Thanks again!

  37. M. Dunham on July 27, 2009 at 8:35 AM

    >I absolutely agree.

    One of the things I do to make sure I stay in the present (hard enough when you're a writer/dreamer) is I use techniques developed in Buddhism to teach myself the importance of the now. Especially with working hard on two career paths (writing and other), I have to remind myself it's my daily accomplishments, what I do, who I meet right now that determines many things in my future.

    If you're interested, take a look around. There are many wonderful books/speakers on the subject. I can recommend some.

  38. Haste yee back ;-) on July 27, 2009 at 8:34 AM

    >You ladies need to discover Fly Fishing… you can't help "being in the now" watching for the slightest twitch in your floating line!

    Haste yee back 😉

  39. gina on July 27, 2009 at 8:29 AM

    >I wonder all the time if being available 24/7 has really helped us as human beings. We should just "unplug" more often.

  40. christa allan on July 27, 2009 at 8:25 AM

    >I've had to place my adult children on Blackberry probation when they're with me. Instead of conversation while riding in the car, having a meal out, or just generally hanging out together, they were spending time BBDM-ing and/or texting friends.

    I'm concerned society's breeding a generation of people who will grow up unfamiliar with eye-to-eye conversations.

    As for me, guilty as charged. I don't own a Blackberry, but I know I spend far too much time fretting about tomorrow and missing what treasures I might be waiting for me that day.

    Thanks for the reminder. And lovely photo.

  41. Yvonne Blake on July 27, 2009 at 8:19 AM

    >I'm glad you got some good family time. I find myself easily drawn to the world of my computer and my online friends. I need to make a point of really listening to my husband and kids and doing things with them.

    Thanks for the reminder of what is most important in our lives.

  42. ginny martyn on July 27, 2009 at 8:02 AM

    >I recently fasted Facebook for an entire day. It was a very telling exercise but I was able to spend all that networking time with God. It was amazing. Great post.

  43. Jeanette Levellie on July 27, 2009 at 8:02 AM

    >Yes, and thank you.

    I heard a preacher say, "If satan knows he can't make you bad, he will tempt you to be busy."

    Glad you got away and reconnected with your family,
    Audience of ONE

  44. Angie Ledbetter on July 27, 2009 at 7:56 AM

    >So glad your vacation and reconnecting was magical.

    This could be a book title: Being Elsewhere Now

  45. Jill on July 27, 2009 at 7:52 AM

    >I think as writers we often tend to be “somewhere else” as we create whole other worlds in our heads. I have to force myself sometimes to put away the imaginary world and focus on the real world in front of me.Plus, today’s society almost makes you feel guilty of you’re only enjoying “here”. If you aren’t multi-tasking several different other places, you’re made to feel that you’re not making the best use of your time.

  46. Katy McKenna on July 27, 2009 at 7:45 AM

    >Wonderful, Rachelle! (As you know, the protag in my WIP has this very dilemma…)I remember the first time (many years ago) my hubby and I went out to eat with friends and they each pulled out their cell phones and put them on the table. They looked like weapons to me, and felt like threats. In a way, they were. I immediately sensed that our “here and now” was being compromised. Someone else might interfere with our precious time together, and that person would be given precedence. I’ve never forgotten the sensation of being displaced in the relationship by two hunks of plastic.I also distinctly remember the first friend of mine who got “Call Waiting.” She would leave me hanging forever, having forgotten I was even on “the other line.” It got so bad that when she clicked over to answer the other call, I’d wait 30 seconds for her to come back and then I’d hang up the line.These days, I’m afraid we take this type of thing for granted, but that doesn’t mean it’s not rude. We’re just desensitized to it, both on the giving and receiving ends.Now I’m going to get off the computer and give my hubby a proper morning greeting!

  47. Chatty Kelly on July 27, 2009 at 7:44 AM

    >Great photo & I loved the s’more photo on Twitter too. I’m glad you all had some family time. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us.

  48. Corey Schwartz on July 27, 2009 at 6:47 AM

    >What a lovely post. I definitely spend too much time looking forward and back. My husband had us include these lines from the show Rent in our wedding vows.There’s only us.There’s only this.Forget regretor life is yours to miss.

  49. Jody Hedlund on July 27, 2009 at 6:39 AM

    >Oh, I’m definitely guilty of losing the here and now because I’m busy in cyberspace. And not only do we battle the pull of cyberspace, but also the pull to lose ourselves in TV/movies. It really takes a conscious effort to turn off those “other worlds” and slow our minds down to enjoy the simple pleasures of real life.

  50. Sharon A. Lavy on July 27, 2009 at 6:37 AM

    >Thank you for the reality check.

  51. Gwen Stewart--Singer-Scribe on July 27, 2009 at 6:01 AM

    >Rachelle, what a lovely post, and I agree that we spend too much time “plugged in”. I know what you mean by savoring the moment, but to me the best “being here now” always includes being elsewhere. Because we are made in God’s image, we are in the moment with a consciousness that reaches forward and back. For example, this weekend I attended a family wedding. I enjoyed seeing my sister-in-law, who was only seven when hubby and I started dating, marry her wonderful fiance. As I watched, I reached back in time: remembering her as a child, remembering my own wedding many years ago. I also peeked ahead when the priest spoke blessings on their future children. A wedding encompasses not just living the moment but acknowledging the arc of time. Recognizing and living in the arc is fullness to me.Like Jessica, I think I’ve always felt caught in that arc. I’m always looking forward, looking back, spinning daydreams both ways. In the end, putting words on the screen is just an outlet for those daydreams–I spin them plugged or unplugged.Thanks for this wonderful post and for the opportunity to reflect on a Monday morning. Have a wonderful week!

  52. Eileen Astels Watson on July 27, 2009 at 5:19 AM

    >Great challenge! I know I struggle with this all the time. I must say though that there is nothing like the great outdoors to help us grasp what is right and what is true. I’m looking forward to heading to a cottage in a couple of weeks for that. I’ll start working on “being here now” so I’m well practiced by then.

  53. Marianne on July 27, 2009 at 5:12 AM

    >Which is exactly why I find my meditation and yoga practice complement and support my writing. All three are all about attention.

  54. Jessica on July 27, 2009 at 3:04 AM

    >Cool pic, btw

  55. Jessica on July 27, 2009 at 3:03 AM

    >That’s so funny because it’s something I’ve struggled with too. Not with technology really, but I was an incredibly introverted bookworm. Always, always reading, always somewhere else in my head. Having little kids has, in many ways, forced my to step out my dream worlds and focus on NOW. They makes sure of it. LOL!This post reminds me of what my pastor is always saying, that when we’re somewhere, we should be all there (referring to texting, etc). Great post! You’re right. Fodder for stories and characterizations are all around us, if we’d pay attention.I guess this struck a chord. Sorry for the rambling. 🙂

  56. T. Anne on July 27, 2009 at 1:21 AM

    >It can be such a challenge but an important endeavor as we will never retrieve moments lost.