Being Fully Present As a Man

by Brett & Kate McKay on November 22, 2010 · 96 comments

in A Man's Life, Personal Development

Awhile back, I was taking a tour of a cave in Missouri. As our trolley rolled through the cavern, I was surprised to see people taking pictures….of the walls of the cave. Not pictures of the cavern or some spectacular formation of stalagmites, just pictures of the wall. Rock. I found this rather bewildering and couldn’t imagine these folks looking back in a few years at these dimly lit pictures or sharing them with their unfortunate friends.

This is perhaps an extreme example, but it’s also something I see whenever I go on vacation. There are people who seemingly cannot walk a few feet without stopping to take a picture. You’re seeing this phenomenon at music concerts, too. Instead of holding up a lighter, people hold up their digital cameras to snap a photo.

I’ve never been much of a picture person myself. To me the payoff-the documentation of a moment in time-is not worth the interruption of the moment itself. I want to soak the whole experience into my brain as it happens, letting it flow and taking it in through both my eyes instead of through the lens of a camera.

Of course I understand the desire to capture memories and recognize that for a photography buff, taking the picture is the experience. And how many pictures you like to take isn’t a big deal or test of your manliness. Rather, I mention my feelings about picture taking simply because it relates to my philosophy toward life itself. My goal is to be as fully present in every moment of my life as possible. And I humbly submit that this goal is one that every man should strive for.

Being fully present in all aspects of our lives-emotional, physical, and mental-is a manful way to live. It involves the self-control necessary to focus and engage body and soul with the world, while avoiding being distracted from what really matters. And it requires the bravery to face the world head on-to open oneself up to both unmitigated pain and undiluted joy. The easier path is to pursue every shiny thing that crosses our way or to numb ourselves and sleepwalk through life. But the easy path is not the path of true manliness. Isn’t it about time you started showing up for your life?

Being Fully Present, Emotionally, Physically, and Mentally

Emotionally

As men we can have a difficult relationship with our feelings. From a young age we’re often taught to buck up, that being manly means being stoic. Then when we are older and experience emotion, we don’t recognize it, don’t know what to do with it, don’t know how to channel it in a healthy direction. Being fully present emotionally means being able to recognize and honor your feelings, being able to experience them fully without getting uncomfortable, and then directing the energy from your emotions into constructive action.

Many problems men face personally stem from not being emotionally present. Take the Nice Guy. We’ve talked about him before. He’s the guy that everyone steps on. He’s constantly seeking the approval of others and never puts himself first. Consequently, he ends up dejected and bitter. Part of the Nice Guy’s problem is his discomfort with his own anger. He’s afraid of it. He can never say “I’m angry.” The Nice Guy doesn’t know how to be fully present in his anger when he’s taken advantage of, so he does whatever he can to bury and suppress his resentment. This only leads to depression, passive-aggressive behavior, or an eventual emotional blow-up, none of which are very constructive ways to navigate life.

Becoming emotionally present is imperative for healthy relationships. One of the biggest complaints from women about relationships is that their men aren’t emotionally present. What does it mean to be emotionally present in a relationship? Well, first, it means being present with your own emotions which enables you to express what you feel to your partner, whether it be love or disappointment. It means allowing yourself to be vulnerable. This need not involve becoming a sensitive pony-tail guy and crying at Lifetime movies. It simply means being able to articulate what you’re feeling when you’re feeling it.

The second part of being emotionally present in a relationship entails being comfortable and present in your woman’s emotions. Women want men to be the rock in a relationship. They want to know that they can unload anything on their man- anger, frustration, or sadness- without him getting uncomfortable or upset himself. Instead of reacting, women want their man to remain steadfast while empathizing with and anchoring them during their difficult time.

Physically

“I can’t be around people who numb their senses. Everybody’s allowed as far as I’m concerned to take their own like or numb themselves to oblivion, but I could care less. I have no sympathy for anybody who has the — lives in America, especially, and who decides, You know what, I’m going to numb myself. Drugs, alcohol, cigarettes … So I’m happy to be alive every single day. And I want my senses working 24 hours a day. And if you were in my room and we were going to have a liaison, and you were high, you’d be out on your butt before you could spell your last name. Because if you don’t want to experience me with all the senses God gave you, you don’t deserve to be with me.”

The above quote is from rock star and self-proclaimed “Epicurean Hedonist” Gene Simmons (from his infamous interview with NPR’s Terry Gross). Simmons said he’s never been high or drunk, not for religious reasons, but simply because he wants to be physically present in all the moments of his life.

There are two aspects of your physical presence: how you experience the world through your senses and how you experience being an embodied self.

“I would fain keep sober always…who does not prefer to be intoxicated by the air he breathes?” -Henry David Thoreau

Our physical bodies are our conduits for experiencing the world; we take it all in through our magnificent senses. Unfortunately, we often numb ourselves to these sensory experiences. At social events, we miss out on the pleasures of company and conversation because we’re too busy getting tanked. While eating, we keep ourselves from savoring the textures and flavors of food because we’re wolfing down our meals on the go or in front of the television. In the bedroom, we’re so focused on getting to the payoff that we don’t stop to fully immerse ourselves in the enjoyment of our partner’s body and the beauty of intimacy.

Just as we can numb ourselves from a connection with the world, we can also lose touch with our sense of being an embodied self. What I mean by this is that our minds lose touch with our bodies, with an awareness of our surroundings and of being a physical entity moving through space. We can go the whole day without any real need for physical exertion, any reminder of the house in which our minds are working. And the result is that the brains of many men are lodged in what might as well be dead weight they happen to be carrying around.

When was the last time you felt the power of your body, experienced it as an amazing tool? When was the last time you took note of the air filling your lungs, felt the strength in your muscles as they contracted, the blood surging through your veins, the sweat dripping from your brow?  When was the last time you felt fully present in your body?

Mentally

Have you ever been cruising through a book, only to realize that you don’t remember anything from the last five pages you read? Have you ever conversed with a friend only to have them call you out on the fact that you weren’t really listening at all? A lack of mental focus is the reason you’ve got a dozen half-finished projects lying around the house. Dabbling in many things is easy; focusing on one is difficult.  But great men of history knew that one of the keys of success was the power of concentration and the ability to hone in on a singular aim and see it through to completion.

Your wandering mind not only keeps you from achieving greatness, it also makes you less happy as well. Psychologists at Harvard University recently conducted a study on the relationship between our activities and our happiness. Using an iphone app called trackyourhappiness, they randomly checked in with the study participants from time to time, asking them what they were doing, thinking, and feeling at that moment. Not so surprisingly, they found that people were happiest during sex and exercise (activities in which we are fully present in our physical bodies!), while those engaged in commuting, working, and grooming felt the least chipper. But what was really interesting was the finding that not only were 47% of people daydreaming at any given time, but that the more a person’s mind wandered, the less happy they were. Focusing on the activity at hand increased a persons happiness. Of course some daydreaming is quite healthy for our minds and our creativity. But there is something to be said for giving yourself over to something-mind, body, and soul.

Technology and Presence

In our time, technology is unarguably the greatest challenge to being fully present in our lives. It affects each of the areas we just discussed. Socializing online can stunt our real world emotional growth and our ability to empathize with others. It’s harder to get outside and experience our physical bodies when there’s a 3-D flat screen television to watch and Black Ops to play. And it’s difficult to focus on writing the Great American Novel when you’re checking your email ten times an hour.

Technology can also greatly impact our ability to be fully present in social situations. When I see a man looking at his phone while his woman is trying to talk to him, I want to smack the chump upside the head. Everywhere you go, you see people staring at their phones, nominally present in social situations but really focused on these screens. They talk on the phone while surfing the web, text one friend while conversing with another, keep the television on while eating dinner with the family. The lure of the glowing screen can keep us from really listening to and experiencing each other, can prevent us from being completely present with the people in our lives.

What I personally find most fascinating is the way “social media” can affect our ability to be fully present in the moment by encouraging us to frame our lives for consumption by others. Online communities like Facebook provide new opportunities for connecting with friends and family. But it is a different form of communication. Instead of revealing ourselves to others in real time, we can very selectively pick and choose the version of ourselves we wish to show the world. Our pictures and tweets, our updates and avatars, are chosen not simply to express our personalities, but to create an image of how we want others to see us. But crafting this image can start interfering with our real self. In a column entitled, “I Tweet, Therefore I Am,” Peggy Orenstein explored this new phenomenon:

“The expansion of our digital universe… has shifted not only how we spend our time but also how we construct identity. For her coming book, ‘Alone Together,’ Sherry Turkle, a professor at M.I.T. interviewed more than 400 children and parents about their use of social media and cellphones. Among young people especially she found that the self was increasingly becoming externally manufactured rather than internally developed: a series of profiles to be sculpted and refined in response to public opinion. ‘On Twitter and Facebook you’re trying to express something real about who you are,’ she explained. ‘But because you’re also creating something for others’ consumption, you find yourself imagining and playing to your audience more and more. So those moments in which you’re supposed to be showing your true self become a performance.’”

With the over-consumption of social media, you may find yourself already framing how you’ll share an experience with others, while you’re still having the experience. If you’re already thinking, “Wait until my friends see this!” you’ve left the realm of being present in the moment.

AoM Man-Up Challenge: Pick three ways you can be more fully present in your life this week. Go for a run, talk with your wife, turn off the phone, block your favorite website (even if it’s ours!)…….

{ 96 comments… read them below or add one }

1 PointSpecial November 22, 2010 at 1:59 am

I agree for the most part…

But I think that a momentary pause for a picture can have lasting value that will help to spark memories of the event.

Case in point: I went on a backpacking trip to Colorado for 6 days and 5 nights. I have snippets of memories in my head… but I go back to the roll of film I took and view those pictures and they help to bring other memories back to mind.

Now, I didn’t have the camera glued to my face… in fact, I had to waste some pictures on the bus ride home so I could process the film (gosh, that sounds weird in this digital age, doesn’t it?), but there are views of majestic vistas and group pictures that remind me, a decade later, of the experience.

We even scaled a 14er, Mount Yale if my memory serves me correctly. It may not, because 3/4 of the way up I got altitude sickness… and I didn’t enjoy it at all. But I have the pictures of me making the accomplishment and of the amazing view… and I was actually able to enjoy it when I got home MUCH more than the 30 times I thew up on the side/top of the mountain!

As a side note… I also have a journal from that trip that reminds me not only how immature I was at the time (still in high school) but also reminds me of some of the experiences (which the pictures help with too!).

So it isn’t all bad!

2 Matthias November 22, 2010 at 2:03 am

Good article and quite challenging. I’m like the thoughts about intoxication and how it disconnects you. I’m not a boozer, but that 2-beer buzz has numbed me too often.

My main “escape” has been the screen, movies and tv, and last week I decided to abstain in order to better engage with my life. It has done wonders to my relationship with my wife!

Thanks for this! I’m gonna head out for a bike-ride as soon as I can!

3 Jim November 22, 2010 at 5:09 am

I like the article and agree with most parts although I would add that since becoming a father I wish I had taken a few more photos and videos when my kids were smaller.

More specifically I have trouble with the emotionally present part of the post. I find that when I express negative feelings about something that it tends to cause more problems than it solves and creates tensions in my relationships. Consequently I rarely share these until I have to. Secondly how do you reconcile expressing your emotions with “being a rock”?

Just trying to understand how to make this work for men and my family.

Jim

4 nathan November 22, 2010 at 5:11 am

Excellent article. Thanks very much for the insight.

5 Devon November 22, 2010 at 5:59 am

Fantastic article; one of the things I’m working on right now is being less technologically distracted. I have a really cheap phone, so I’m not as badly off as some others, but there is definitely work to do.

6 John November 22, 2010 at 6:11 am

There’s no contradiction between “being the rock” as a man, and also expressing emotions. When you jump to your feet and throw your hat in the air yelling when your kid scores a touchdown at a high school game, you’re expressing emotion.

Also, remember that we have WAY fewer emotions than women. That’s the long standing mis-conception… it’s not that we “Don’t express” our emotions, it’s just that we have fewer of them to express.

7 Mato Tope November 22, 2010 at 6:18 am

Bang on the money.

Living in the present moment sounds so simple, yet is something I struggle with constantly. Endless distractions, mind wanderings and ennui seem to get in the way. But I know these are only excuses, and it is down to me to become fully alive in the moment, to value the miracle that is life and to make the most of every encounter.

The following quotes help;

“We can live only in the present moment, in this brief now; all the rest of our life is dead and buried or shrouded in uncertainty. Short is the life we lead and small our patch of earth.” Marcus Aurelius.

“The present moment is always lit. There is nothing to worry about or fear in the present. Past and future are very dark, and that is where the fears are, and it is only fears of some sort which drag individuals to the past or future. It is much better and economical for us to avail ourselves of the brilliance and the light of knowledge which are of the present, and not associate ourselves with the darkness which really belongs to the past or future.
They will visit us and concern us sometimes.
Whenever we wake up and find that we are travelling towards the darkness of the past or future, please come into the light of day – the light of the present.”
Shantanand Saraswati.

“I go at what I am about as if there is nothing else in the world for the time being. That’s the secret of all hard-working men.” Charles Kingsley.

Brothers, sleep no more and awaken to this very moment; your life.

8 Tom November 22, 2010 at 6:29 am

I dropped Facebook last year when my laptop broke.

Never felt more alive during those 2 months.

9 Tra Hall November 22, 2010 at 6:40 am

ironic this article has a recommend on facebook link in it! Lol

10 Gary in AK November 22, 2010 at 6:58 am

All good, although a couple very fine points I might disagree with, for instance, in mental focus, “”A lack of mental focus is the reason you’ve got a dozen half-finished projects lying around the house. Dabbling in many things is easy; focusing on one is difficult.”" To focus on one thing to accomplish it, is all fine and dandy, but you must be careful not to over focus so as to only accomplish one thing, when several do need attention, all being equally important.

Don’t get tunnel vision and tune out too much while in pursuit of of a goal.

I’d also like to add one to ”being fully in the moment”;
Turn your damn cell phone off!
At least put it on silent and be considerate of others in answering or checking who is calling…

You do(or should!) your best to pay attention while talking to someone, or interacting in a group, making and maintaining eye contact. But checking/answering your phone constantly is like walking in and out of a conversation; you are distracted and not there. Reading and texting too. If your reading that little screen and distractingly noding at those around you, that is Not positive eye contact.
Its overall impolite.

There is nothing worse than the guy half(or less) there because he is talking to someone else, or interupting the place/time/event with forcing you to hear one side of a conversation that pertains to nothing around you, or where you are… Or the guy that insists on answering it just to tell someone they are busy… if your busy then don’t answer it! If its important they will call back. By all means, if you are on call for work or expecting an important call, answer, but excuse yourself politely from the conversation or event (etc), and quietly answer, and conduct a quick and concise call.

Its also much nicer, more polite to the person calling you to just not answer if you can’t devote all your attention to the conversation with them.

G.

11 Bill Huber November 22, 2010 at 7:11 am

I’m going to give the photographers the benefit of the doubt and suggest that they were amateur geologists or rock hounds and were capturing the image because they observed what they believed might have been a unique intrusion in the limestone and wanted to preserve the image for further evaluation at home…

12 Adam November 22, 2010 at 7:38 am

I find that I fail to be present when I do not get enough sleep. The less sleep I get, the less present I am in every area of my life.

13 Mark Nelson November 22, 2010 at 7:51 am

Thank you, oh thank you, for making a post on this topic. It is a vitally important discussion to begin in this increasing digital day and age.

While I admit that I have Luddite leanings, I must simultaneously posit that any individual watching the way members of my “Millenial” generation interact should have a cause for concern. At one point, I was amused when I saw two people who were clearly a couple walking down the sidewalk, each one texting separately on their own cellphone — but now I see it too often, and I realize it is a disease, an addiction rather than a quirk. We, as a culture, are so incredibly focused on our connections to our virtual friends and loved ones that we forget to interact with our real ones.

I remember when I first read Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash,” when Lagos’ gargoyle suit was discussed. I hungered after that kind of connection and information power. Now that we are drawing close to having it, though, I see the reason behind Hiro Protagonist’s disgust, and I find that I share it. Why should I revel in something that leads to people walking through nature or the city oblivious, unaware that they are different environments? Why should I revel in something that draws its user into the bondage and slavery of an addiction?

You may say that I am being over-dramatic. Perhaps you’re right — but personally, I doubt it.

14 Johnny Darko November 22, 2010 at 8:01 am

heh, my latest blog post talks about people and their phones at concerts.

but yes, i am also a firm believer in ‘mono-tasking’ – thats is, doing one thing at any one time, and doing it right.

15 Hans Hageman November 22, 2010 at 8:10 am

It’s good to know I’m not the only one who feels that way about photos and experiencing the moment! Great piece. I needed the reminder to “show up.” Sometimes life’s feedback in one area can cause us to withdraw even from our sources of emotional nourishment – like family.

16 Bruce Egert November 22, 2010 at 8:15 am

Your redacted comment about youngsters developing a profile based upon the ‘external’ rather than the ‘internal’ is of particular concern. Too many children, not fully mature, have access to astounding technology of which they have little understanding. Yet, technology is here to stay and will only increase in the hands of youth. Big challenges ahead which will need a new set of strategies.

Thanks for a very good article !

17 javid November 22, 2010 at 9:05 am

thanks ! very good

18 Shoeless Joe November 22, 2010 at 9:13 am

Right on. Time to enjoy each breath the Good Lord gave us.

Good point on the delicate balance with photographers fully experiencing events vs. merely documenting them. I struggle with that sometimes. I concluded at the end of one concert that I would have been better off just downloading the official pictures from the band’s website instead of wasting my time trying to achieve a good picture in a dark arena– and I would have experienced the music more fully.

19 chris November 22, 2010 at 9:30 am

“Pick three ways…”
1. I’m walking for at least 15 minutes during the day instead of working through any breaks.
2. Cutting out all the extra web sites I visit for my daily information overload. I really don’t need to learn 87 more ways to write a blog.
3. Engage fully with friends instead of half-listening while they are talking just so I can think about some problem I’m having. Fred Rodgers (Mr. Rodgers neighborhood) was described as a person who would give you his complete attention when you were talking with him. That’s my goal.

20 Trevor B November 22, 2010 at 9:45 am

While I agree with the sentiments of the article and the points made, I have to question the reason for picking on people who want to take photographs. Why is it these people are not “being fully present?” When I was in school I took one photography class and the main point the professor wanted us to take from the class is that photography is about seeing differently. I would argue that the people who are taking photographs, even if it looks like it’s just of the wall, are probably experiencing the space, event, activity, whatever to their fullest. I know when I go places, I take hundreds, sometimes thousands of pictures, and months or years later when I look back on them, I wish I took more. I can remember the place or what happened because I experienced it, but I have nothing to review in many instances. I think it’s important to be fully present as the article argues, I just don’t believe that photography detracts from that goal.

21 Brandon November 22, 2010 at 10:28 am

As far as the picture taking goes, (in a slightly irrelevant discussion) I feel like the digital camera age is ruining the quality of our picture taking in favor of quantity. When we had to buy film (remember the days) we would savor those 27 or so shots and use them wisely and in turn, greater moments were captured and less time was wasted just taking pictures to post on facebook. now that we have unlimited film and unlimited storage and a social media output for it all, you’ll see people take hundreds of pictures of essentially..nothing.

22 L. Remington November 22, 2010 at 10:29 am

The concept of being “fully present as man” is similar to living in the season we are in. If as men we try to live in a season that has past then we cannot be fully present. For example, if we are in the newly married season yet try to live in the bachelor season then we cannot be fully mentally, emotionally, and physically present for our wives. Understanding which season we are in will allow us to frame our reality and manage expectations. This will breed contentment and will quell our natrually restless spirits.

23 Peter Saydak November 22, 2010 at 10:34 am

Very cool post. I’m not completely sure I agree with the part at the beginning about people taking photographs though.

Other than that there was some fantastic stuff to think about. The part about the social media was bang on and I hadn’t ever really thought of it that way.

24 Tomas November 22, 2010 at 10:43 am

Excellent post!
I’m reading most AoM posts and they are all great, but i particularly loved this one. Thank you for writing this and continuing to promote a healthy, balanced and manly way of life!

25 Ed November 22, 2010 at 10:44 am

I agree with you about Facebook Brett. Too many times I have caught myself thinking “this would be great for facebook” or constantly pruning my profile so that I am portrayed in the light that I want my peers to see me in. The only thing is, I still think a little activity on facebook can be useful – the ability to ‘converse’ with my friends from around the globe is a great thing. However, it is so addictive. People now spend so much time ‘living’ on facebook that I fear the future of humanity portrayed in Wall-E (not neccessarily the living on a spaceship because the Earth is a wasteland bit, more the fact that everyone is hooked up to those electronic moving screen things), would you reccomend quitting facebook altogether and sacrificing the good things to become more present?

26 Ian November 22, 2010 at 10:53 am

Checkout John O’Donohue’s book Anam Cara. Lots of great insight on presence in life and beautifully written.

27 cp November 22, 2010 at 11:07 am

i wrote a related post on leading a healthy lifestyle entiled “Are you a Drive or Just a Passenger? http://escapetheherdblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/are-you-driver-or-just-passenger.html

unfortunately, as you have so eloquintely described, too many are not present in their own lives.

28 Don November 22, 2010 at 11:16 am

I noticed a common thread among the reactions to this and “7 Lessons on Appearance Learned in the Marine Corps” so I wanted to encourage people to try a different view.

Both articles have readers commenting on very brief opening passages (and in some cases even misquoting the sentence already on the page) in a fairly indignant tone. In both articles, I feel that these passages are merely vehicles to introduce the topic, to express a train of thought that the writers had to inspire the subject. It’s not the main thrust of the article, and to hone in on a single moment in the introduction is to miss the larger point.

29 Matt November 22, 2010 at 11:17 am

This was driven home to me so powerfully a couple months back. I was sitting at a red light and a minivan across the way caught my eye. There was a girl, probably high-school age, sitting in the passenger seat abolsutely rocking out to whatever they were listening to. Arms waving, head bobbing, she was fully immersed in enjoying the song, regardless of how crazy she looked to anyone else. It made me start wondering what happened to my zest for life, like I was just sleepwalking though it. I’ve got infant twins, so don’t get me wring, I was pretty much perpetually exhausted, but that just gave me an easy out. Since that day, I started running (just completed my first ever 5K without walking) and committed myself to be fully immersed in whatever I was doing, whether I’m playing with my daughters, cooking dinner, or singing in the car, regardless of who’s actoss the intersection starting at me. Maybe I can pass the inspiration along…

30 Sir Lancelot November 22, 2010 at 11:27 am

Very poignant piece. As an enemy of compulsive photography and virtual social networking you had me on your side all along. People feel the need to feel their vacuum with technology.

Everyone thinks I’m a weirdo when I go somewhere and I haven’t got a sad picture to show on my return. My reply is always the same – I tap my head with my index finger and say: “It’s all in here”. On the other hand the ones who like to brag about the hundreds of pictures they took on their vacation (digital photography is making things worse) sleepwalk through their supposed moments of relaxation with a pained
sense of duty.

A work colleague returned from his resort holiday in distress last summern because someone stole his camera. It happened on the last day so in no way could it spoil the enjoyment of his vacation. But he was in despair as if he actually though that by stealing his pictures they had actually stolen his expereience and the whole thing never actually happened. May I remind you it was a beach holiday, so it’s not as if he had registered some rare wonders from a hidden world in his camera.

And since there has to be a pedant commenting on every thread:

Gene Simmons dixit: “Everybody’s allowed as far as I’m concerned to take their own like or numb themselves to oblivion, but I could care less.”

Gene, if you could care less that means you care a certain deal. Perhaps you’re trying to say that you couldn’t care less? I take it grammar is not a compulsory subject in rock school…

31 STW November 22, 2010 at 11:54 am

More than once I have seen people walking along a boardwalk in Yellowstone with their eye glued to the view finder of a video camera. Their dilemma is to take their eye away for a bit to actually see what they are filming. I gave that up long ago. No picture can ever compete with the real thing. Luckily, when the road are open, I can be to any spot in Yellowstone in four hours or less.

32 Mitch Somerville November 22, 2010 at 11:55 am

The Budhists have a word for this: Mindfulness. I heartily recommend Thich Nat Han’s book “The Miracle of Mindfullness” to those wishing to explore the experience of being more present.

With regards to technology and presence one practice I’ve instituted in my business life is “E-mail free Fridays” on Fridays I eschew e-mail, instant messaging and text messaging. Choosing instead to connect with my clients, business partners, and peers face to face whenever possible, and by phone as a fall back. This has gone a long way to creating a personal connection and establishing a repiore that I don’t believe would be possible in digital communications.

Likewise I don’t engage in online social networking (professional networking is another story) simply because I believe that if someone is my “friend” then I’ll see them regulary, we’ll send letters and e-mails, we’ll hang out and have shared experiences. They don’t need to be constantly updated on the status of my life, if they were we’d have nothing to talk about when we visited face to face. I see too many people who are consumed by their online presence.

33 Layson November 22, 2010 at 12:06 pm

I agree that the goal “to be as fully present in every moment of my life as possible” is something every man should strive for.
However, I submit that every man should also strive to devote a small amount of time each day to some type of meditation & contemplation. Preferably in the morning. Whether it’s drinking a cup of coffee or tea in silence while glancing out the window,(something my Grandfather does) or actually sitting down on the floor, closing your eyes, and mentally planning your day.
Something to calm & refresh the mind before you spend the rest of the day facing the world head on while being fully in the present.

34 Dan November 22, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Great post! I have missed countless hours of my life to web surfing that, in retrospect, was absolutely useless. I’ve gotten better about facebook, but I still craft my image there, often pruning update ideas (mostly a good idea) and thinking of witty comments.

I’ve been exercising recently, so today I’ll try to focus on the moment instead of losing myself in the music.

35 Josh November 22, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Great article. I sometimes joke with friends that Angry Birds is a “relationship ruiner” because it is so damned addictive. Perhaps my man challenge will be to delete it!

Also, I agree with the picture taking thing, though with a new baby (congrats again McKays), I would bet the amount of photo taking has increased exponentially!

JDP

36 Andrew November 22, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Incredibly important concept for being a confident man who lives life instead of avoiding it while waiting for it to end ;).

I especially like this line near the top:
“And it requires the bravery to face the world head on-to open oneself up to both unmitigated pain and undiluted joy.”

Living in the moment is one of the easiest things to imagine and yet one of the hardest things to actually practice… many spend their whole lives chasing it and never pull it off.

Humans appear to be hard-wired to constantly either look backwards or forward, never in the ‘now.’
This is unfortunate because, you could say that, ‘the past’ is imaginings of things that did happen but are no more, and ‘the future’ is imaginings of things that have not ever happened and will probably not occur exactly as you imagine.
In other words, both the past and future as we experience it is not real, and these two places are where we spend most of our lives, waking and asleep.

It maybe fair to say that if you are not experiencing the ‘now,’ then you are not experiencing the real.

So I say fantastic article sir! You are encouraging men who read it to not just enjoy life more, but to experience a life of reality, instead of living in their heads mulling over gone-forever replays of the past, or worrying about the pure mental fabrications we call the future…

37 Andy H November 22, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Sorry, I had to laugh at the first paragraph of the article. I’m one of those crazies who stops to take a photo of the cave walls. As a digital artist, I’ve found some of the most amazing textures in what, from a few feet away, looks like a featureless patch of bare rock. In all fairness though, I doubt anyone on Facebook wants to see my texture collection.

38 Kenneth November 22, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Im in college, and while I used to be that person with the ipod on jammin on the way to class I had a realization the other week(that was cemented by this article). Its honestly weird, a bunch of zombies walking to class. If I ever say hey to someone its like they dont even see me. Where are the smiles!? Everyone just zones into THEIR world. What I hate more is when you’re talking to someone and they just stare down at their phone. I used to do that to thats why I never carry my phone or ipod. Saves room in my pockets for my pocket knife =[]

39 JGW November 22, 2010 at 2:36 pm

I greatly enjoyed this article, and it is relevant too my thoughts. I had been waiting for an article like this for some time, as well. Bravo!

I enjoy the part you write about people taking pictures at concerts, as I stand to sympathize greatly with that example, as just recently I was at a Brad Paisley concert and could not help but notice the entire front row was lit up with cameras from beginning to end. I am not one to make assumptions on why they will not shut off their camera, but it does make me wonder what satisfaction results from watching a concert from a two-inch screen. This person is performing for you, and you also paid $60 to stand in front of him. I find it a better idea to REALLY pay attention.

And the part about text messaging stands out too me like a sore thumb. I was just recently on a date with a woman and it was a huge turn off that she would start texting somebody every five minutes. It was not an issue of her being disinterested, but rather an issue of her being unable to concentrate on the moment!

40 Lena November 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm

I did a month-long tv fast. I’d watch movies with friends but I forbade watching tv or movies all by myself in my house. It really helped break its hold on me. I think I need to do it again, I’m getting captivated by that darn glowing screen once more.

41 Brucifer November 22, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I think it has to do with being a manly minimalist as well. Even though taken with a digital camera, each and every picture that is captured, contributes to one’s “clutter” of stuff one collects.

I think there is also something about many people being actually afraid to confront their environment without the ‘filter’ of a camera viewfinder and thus, technology becomes a buffer against or even a barrier to authentic experience. Its like watching a TV scene through your viewfinder, except that you are actually there in real-time.

I’ve seen people being so very busy taking pictures, that the act of taking pictures, taking pictures, taking pictures, …. has overpowered whatever the environment the pictures are being taken in.

Are we becoming afraid of interacting with others and with our environment without the buffer/filter of technology?

Don’t *even* get me started on text-messaging. In fact, I recently had the same experience as JGW.

42 Rick C November 22, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Excellent article. I fully agree with you, as I have noticed the same trend. In fact, it reminds me of an experience of my own just earlier this year.

I went to Las Vegas for a bowling tournament with a large group of people. We stayed for 8 days, though the tournament only ran for two – for obvious reasons (read: IT’S VEGAS!). In order to save money, we rented a van, which sat 7 of us pretty comfortably. Well, said van was full of wannabe photo-buffs. I got several pictures myself, so I’m not completely guilt free – but some parts were ridiculous. As anyone who goes to Vegas knows, most of the fun is in the experience itself, which we missed out on a lot of because much of the time, we were driving up and down the strip just so everyone could get pictures of all the famous casino’s and sights. While there were several pictures taken of the Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace, The Rio, etc – we only actually spent time in a few of the casinos. I have plans to return next year, and I’ll be traveling with a different group, who is more interested in the experience than in the photographs.

43 Alex November 22, 2010 at 5:38 pm

If you always live in the moment you will never need a picture to remember anything, you will always be focused on now.

44 Saeed November 22, 2010 at 5:50 pm

1 not randomly pausing while im studying so i can check fb, youtube, AoM or watch a netflix movie… and actually get some work done. (i’ve been doing that way too much the last few days)
2 make a decision about my thanksgiving plans and not look back (either go home to NJ, or stay in cleveland area)
3 not oversleep tomorrow past 8 a.m. , class is later on tuesday/ thursday, i keep sleeping in those days

45 Jeff November 22, 2010 at 8:48 pm

@John (post #6). You posted:

Quote— Also, remember that we have WAY fewer emotions than women. That’s the long standing mis-conception… it’s not that we “Don’t express” our emotions, it’s just that we have fewer of them to express. —End Quote

That’s an interesting theory. Will you list a few of the emotions that women have, but men don’t, please?

I believe it is the depth of feeling that is different, instead of the extent of the emotional repertoire.

46 Chris November 22, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Great Article.

Regarding the photo’s it is a difficult balance if you enjoy the photography itself. The artcle is timely for me as I have my 4 year old daughter’s balet recital this weekend. So that I can enjoy the recital to the fullest, I attended the dress rehersal last weekend and took a rediculas amount of photos. Next week for the main event my camera will be safely stored at home and I will get to enjoy a very special and unique time that will bring more than one tear to the eye. Surely the best of both worlds.

47 Connor November 22, 2010 at 9:29 pm

This article was awesome. As a newcomer to Art of Manliness, I find your articles are almost always terrific, but this one is extremely helpful.

Being present in the moment is so important. When I returned from my first overseas trip, I looked back at some of the photos I took and even said “That looks fun” at some of them, but couldn’t remember the actual experience. I leave my camera at home for the most part now.

48 Sean November 22, 2010 at 10:20 pm

All the other things aside, as a photographer i would like to share something. While photos of a wall like that seem bizarre, i am often seen taking pictures of otherwise bizarre objects, sturctures and places. And while i do take in many of my experiences in full (often taking long technology free stints), some of us take great satisfaction in the freezing of small bits of time. Call it a different way of seeing the world but i really do get satisfaction from the futile act of trying to preserve a moment in time. Seeing the world in stills is not for everyone, but i do quite enjoy it, and if it werent for the photograph-minded among us we would not have the hugely insightful pictures of everyday life we have from years past. taking a plain-and-boring picture of a building seems pointless now. But that same picture could she light on how we live to the future.

49 JR November 22, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Great article, as usual.

I, like most people disagree about the picture taking aspect of the article. I feel that taking a picture can add to the experience. I agree that it is sometimes done to often, but I cherish the photos I have taken during my travels around the country, and the world. When I take a photo, it means something. I’m not the type who points and shoots randomly. I think that helps when I look back at them, and instead of seeing that one moment, and remembering the feelings of that time, many feelings and thoughts come back to me.

Besides that though, excellent points made.

50 Andrew November 22, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Great article, Brett. I agree with you on pretty much all counts–I was frustrated and annoyed to no end when standing on the summit of Cerro San Bernardo in Patagonia and looking over the incredibly beautiful view, that all people could seem to do was chatter away and try to capture the moment from behind their lenses, rather than actually being still and taking it all in. Ditto with cellphones at concerts, to an even greater degree. Really? People are fortunate enough to be surrounded by a sea of humanity having a great time at an electric event and they not only lift their cellphone up to record it (as if anyone wants to see the dark and grainy, almost indistinguishable footage that will inevitably be uploaded to facebook or youtube), they actually watch the concert through it!

I had facebook for four and a half years before quitting cold turkey in March. I didn’t for one second experience withdrawal symptoms, and I haven’t missed it at all since…and I have more excuse than most to use it as a communication tool. I’ve lived in 5 countries on 4 continents over the last 10 years, so my friends are flung far and wide, but the narcissism and one-upmanship of status updates and wall posts and microblogging (such as Twitter) just weren’t worth it. I’ve since found that a handful of close friendships have not suffered in the least–if anything we’ve been able to carry on more profound and meaningful conversations through email, rather than the bite-sized snippets of wall posts or messages. And I totally hear you on creating and honing your profile to show yourself in the best light, to create others’ experience of you. I would submit that facebook is not inherently evil (Twitter is! Who cares if you are in the middle of pinching the biggest loaf ever?), but that very very few people have the self-discipline or indifference to use it simply as a 5-minute-a-day communicative tool. The vast majority get sucked in.

Sorry for rambling.

51 Robbo November 22, 2010 at 11:24 pm

I agree with a lot of what what said in this article. It’s something I’ve done a bit of reading about myself.
For anyone looking to further develop these skills, I’d recommend seeking out a book called “The Way of the Superior Man” by David Deida. It expands on a lot of the themes in this article. It’s in the context of men’s relationships with women (a lot of it concerns sex) but a lot of it is easily applicable to everyday life.

52 Matt November 23, 2010 at 12:20 am

My Three:

1) Do not check phone while in conversation; leave phone at home AT LEAST one time per week.
2) Only go on computer for productive reasons.
3) Have a deep conversation with AT LEAST one person a day.

53 Victory Unlimited November 23, 2010 at 12:30 am

Interesting article, and a timely one also.

I’ve noticed that the faster the pace of the world around us, the easier it is for all of us men to suffer from what I like to call FOCUS FRAGMENTATION.

Focus Fragmentation is the result of all of the demands that pull on us as men. In a world that celebrates the ability and the necessity of multitasking——–it’s almost a medal of honor for a man to be able to brag that he has “a lot to do” and that this is what makes him “capable”.

However, rather than a medal of honor, it’s actually more like a badge of bravado——a barrier that some men hide behind to avoid spending time with someone that they routinely neglect—–THEMSELVES.

Rare is the man who can turn off the TV, shut off the Blackberry, click off the radio, and just sit quietly alone in a room with nothing to occupy him except HIMSELF. I often advise men of the importance of investing in themselves just as much or MORE than they do in investing in other things (careers and women included). And the reason I recommend this is because I know how important it is for a man to LIKE who he is first——–and then spread his enjoyment and his recognition of his own value with others (in his career and in his dating and relationship life).

In other words, my recommendation for men who want to maximize their presence as you have so clearly stated in this article is simple. And I sum it up in just 3 words:

Be…

Here..

NOW.

Victory Unlimited

54 Kyle Fadeley November 23, 2010 at 12:47 am

i know this is super nit-picky, but it would help me– and hopefully others– if you used two dashes instead of one to represent breaks in a sentence. when i see one, i associate that with a hyphenated word, and there is a two second time of confusion. just a smal tip.

P.S. I LOVE this article!! i think so much time we all spend disconnected, and this is so helpful in avoiding that. thanks so much!

55 Gareth November 23, 2010 at 2:28 am

A great article, Brett, which brings up a lot of relevant and important issues. A lot of technology, such as mobile phones, ipods and the internet, make getting distracting all too easy. Staying focused on a task can be a battle. But it is ultimately very worthwhile, as your point about the correlation between happiness and focus shows. Some might argue for the value of multi-tasking but a lot of the time I think it comes down to just getting distracted by something which really isn’t too important.
Your point about social networking leading to us spending more time worry about our image is also very valid. I think part of true manliness is having a healthy disregard for what others may think of us. And it wouldn’t include spending a lot of time tweeting and updating statuses.
Thanks for the article.

56 andrew wilson November 23, 2010 at 3:59 am

I couldn’t agree more to that little snippet. “To me the payoff-the documentation of a moment in time-is not worth the interruption of the moment itself.” I want to vacation in Italy, and every time I mention this people always ask me if I’ll be taking pictures. For me there are two reasons why I don’t agree with pictures:

1) If it’s important/special enough to take a picture, it’s important/special enough to remember. Think about it; with the exception of special cases (alzheimers,etc) anything you’ve forgotten wasn’t worth remembering.

2) A large reason why many people take pictures is to share them with someone later. Whenever I think about this I think about the Sistine chapel. When I see it I want to be there, I want to smell the plaster, feel the dust, hear the clamor outside on the Italian streets I want to BE there, present. Now if I was to take a picture and show my mom she’d say “oh,cool” and that’s it; She’ll have no desire to go and experience it so when people ask me take a picture for me I tell them no go experience it yourself. That’s what it is really an experience and a large part of that is lost when you see it in a picture.

57 Edgar A. Uy November 23, 2010 at 7:57 am

“Social Media…Instead of revealing ourselves to others in real time, we can very selectively pick and choose the version of ourselves we wish to show the world.”

A major reason why corporations have flocked to establish a presence…

Great article as always!

58 Jason A. November 23, 2010 at 10:26 am

The subject of this post definitely sounds a lot like “mindfulness”

Mindfulness is very manly.

For those of you who may be interested, I highly recommend meditation. It is not just for monks; it is useful to anyone who wants to be more focused, aware, and for that matter, more “alive.”

59 Roeland November 23, 2010 at 11:39 am

Good article, the funny thing is, this is knowledge that is known to us for thousands of years.
This is the fundament of bhuddism, hinduism, christianity, kabbalism and so on. But as with most buildings, people pay no attention to the fundaments. (altough they are perhaps the most important)
Live fully and surrender, live and breath in the present moment.
Is all not one (and now….?)

60 Bob K November 23, 2010 at 11:44 am

I think that it is helpful to remember that distractability is the dark side of a gift – the gift of being observant.

We are made to observe all phenomena around us, but we have to regulate that process. Just because we observe a million stimuli doesn’t mean we have to engage a lot of what we detect. So … notice things around you, but don’t get drawn away by it unless it really matters.

61 kafkaBro November 23, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Fantastic post, I agree with you that being present is essential. Being present is synonymous with being alive. Being alive isn’t a binary, it is a continuum and can easily be attenuated into nothingness if we are abstracted from our senses and the moment.

62 Kenneth November 23, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Although I fear a backlash for writing this, as I view this as a quite conservative website, I’m going to add it anyways. Drugs were mentioned as numbing down the senses. However this is quite contrary with most illegal drugs. Alcohol numbs you, cigarettes numb you but Things like pot serve to enhance sensory perception. I understand their illegality but I shall continue…”Hard” drugs like LSD and ecstasy are feared because people fear what they do not know. LSD was founded in science before the counter culture of the 60′s latched onto something that at the time they did not understand. Stories of people tearing their skin off as if they were an orange are simply not true. Maybe there is that one horror story about someone who jumped off a building on the drug, but that one person doesn’t compare to countless drunk driving victims.(my point, its the person not the alcohol/drug) I believe in high risk high reward and that is what those sort of drugs offer. High risk is jail, high reward is being for the first time fully aware of everything surrounding you. The sun shining through the trees blending yellow, orange, green together, a blade of grass, the light of a fire, shadows in the trees, the lush taste of a fresh picked strawberry, the smell of fresh winter breeze; yourself as a human being. All of the things we take for granted are brought to full light and are more profound than ever before. With technology and flat panel HD 3d tv’s looming around everyday life I feel as if we get sucked into that reality. Now, you don’t need a drug to live or experience the world. But for some it could serve as a new birth in a world that has distanced us from nature, and sucked us into our tv’s and computers. LSD is the most profound experience one can have. Contrary to what you all think about that drug, It served as an awakening so-to-speak of being fully present as a man. This website has served as an awakening as well.(Hello safety razor! best damn thing I have ever used) *I don’t condone consistent use of any drug cause then you get sucked into that world. Like a great man once said, once you get the message, hang up! If you have time watch the documentary: “Hofmann’s Potion: The Early Years of LSD”

63 James November 23, 2010 at 4:07 pm

One of the very best posts I’ve read in a long time on AoM. I think the reason why I enjoyed it so much is that ‘being present’ is something you can practice is nearly any situation, and it has the potential to improve most every aspect of one’s life. It’s all too common to go through the motions without considering what’s really going on, and it’s hard to be truly happy with your life unless you’ve decided to take control of it.

64 Brian November 23, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Kenneth,

I can understand why you might have that viewpoint. However, the problem with using drugs (illegal or not) to increase your awareness is that you must KEEP using them to stay at the same level. That, and your body develops a tolerance of them, and you must use more and more. After a while, it becomes unhealthy for your body. You might argue that you must constantly meditate (if that’s what you’re in to) to increase awareness, but meditation gets easier and takes less time when done right, as opposed to drugs which takes up MORE energy and time as the person continues to use.

The better solution is to be present without the drugs, because you can do that anytime and as much as you want with so side effects whatsoever (besides feeling better, of course). Plus, it’s free!

65 Brian November 23, 2010 at 7:22 pm

*no side effects

66 Kyle November 23, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I’ve always been considerate of those I’m with, ignoring the casual call or text in favor of honoring their presence. I’ve recently begun a management consulting job that requires quick access to email. My company loaded up my blackberry with data service, and since then, I feel like I’m regularly being bombarded by emails. For those business professionals out there, how do you balance your personal life (mostly regarding the phone) while being faithful to an intense work obligation? Any advice?

67 Bryan November 23, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Kyle,

Regarding email bombardment, I have occasionally had a similar problem with text messeges. The solution is: if the messege warrants an immediate reply, then answer with a phone call. If it does not warrant an immediate reply, leave it for later when you can sit down and respond to a day’s worth of non-time-sensitive inqueries.

If the phone call method doesn’t work, or is too subtle for your style. What I generally do is to point out to those emailing that the amount of communication that gets accomplished in a day of back-and-forth email can generally be accomplished in a phone call of less than five minutes.

68 Tim November 24, 2010 at 2:10 am

Well put. It’s nice to hear thoughts I’ve had before coming from someone else. It does seem ironic to have an online discussion forum just after the debasement of online communication, but things are things – it’s how we use them that determines their value.

Cheers.

69 Marc_with_a_C November 24, 2010 at 4:30 am

I certainly agree with this post. I do have to say though that I wish I had more pictures of the last 15 years especially after losing my sister, there is a balance and photos can be a great way to examine a well lived life.

I have done a great many things to embrace what is talked about above. Some suggestions.

1) read along time ago to examine any new hobby or undertaking with the simple question of “Am I willing to commit three years of my life to this”. This helped me really get extras off my plate and concentrate on the tasks that really shaped my life. Less things to juggle makes it easier to be present and give your all to he thinned down list.

2)Try to always mix online time with something that will enhance real life. Meetup.com changed my life for the good. People using the internet to find other people with similar interests and “gasp” get together in the real world! crazy talk. Also checking out new concerts, self improvement sites like this, etc.

3) read and learn all you can, then go out and use it. – It’s easy to get caught up in learning and reading, such things can get truly addicting. My pile of masonic, metaphysical, and historical books are always beckoning. I work hard to bring new things into my life but always push my self to go out and use it. Sometimes getting caught up in this cycle can detach you. Can’t be a man sitting in your room by yourself all the time.

70 Hugo Stiglitz November 24, 2010 at 10:04 am

A man does not need drugs to enhance his life. To me, an “artist” using LSD or pot to “be more creative” is no different than an athlete using steroids — it is cheating and only shows that the person does NOT have the true genius streak or talent he wants others to believe. Don’t give me any “unlocking the mind” BS.

71 Sergey Zabarin November 24, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Excellent post! You hit the nail dead on. I have been studying the art of living for a long time now and have come to the same conclusions and then some. I would love to see a AOM series on appreciating the moment or how to use emotion and thought instead of being a victim of it.

72 Austin November 24, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Amazing post! I couldn’t agree more with 99% of the content here. My hand his glued to my BB and I take work calls at all hours of the night and weekend. Not at all being present in life.

Regarding the drugs and alcohol section, although I agree with the ethos of your point, it is written in “too preachy” a manner and actually undermines the rest of the article. Not everyone chooses to completely abstain from these substances (some of which, you could argue, are immaterially different from caffeine or 5 hour energy) and I don’t think it’s a big deal when handled in moderation. Moderation is the key.

73 Saeed November 24, 2010 at 7:08 pm

my three WERE
1 not randomly pausing while im studying so i can check fb, youtube, AoM or watch a netflix movie… and actually get some work done. (i’ve been doing that way too much the last few days)
2 make a decision about my thanksgiving plans and not look back (either go home to NJ, or stay in cleveland area)
3 not oversleep tomorrow past 8 a.m. , class is later on tuesday/ thursday, i keep sleeping in those days

i didn’t succeed at either of them. and im paying the consequences which are
1) working on my paper over thnxgiving break
2) i am still going home to nj, but because i was going back and forth about it, im leaving tomorrow instead of today
3) i did sleep in, and did awful on my phone interview that afternoon

i’ve become a mess the last 2 weeks. i hope going home for a few days will help

74 Derek November 24, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Brilliant. The concepts of Zen have been utterly destroyed in our modern tech age, but they are – at least, to me – are undeniably manly.

75 Paul November 25, 2010 at 9:15 am

Well, I’m off to another family gathering where we will all (under 50 YO) bury our faces in our smart phones and wait patienly for it all to be over. Sounds even more pathetic when I write it out, but its true. This year I plan to leave mine in the car and engage my kin thanks to the encouragement of this article. At least for a little while, until I can no longer stand not checking my ebay account, and the score, and the weather, and breaking news, and email, and I gotta to be able to text my wife about my lame sister-in-law, and… Who am I kidding? This year I am bringing two chargers and an extension cord just in case.

76 Evan November 25, 2010 at 2:26 pm

This is the thing in my life right now I am most concerned with capturing. Living in the moment. I am currently 27, and as recently as 22 I used to live completely in the moment (While having solid direction). For example, if I was fishing, I was completely absorbed in that activity. Hanging out with friends, just enjoying the moment and not worried about where my life was going and what-not.

I believe that around 23 or 24, for a man, life becomes more difficult because that is when you are expected to graduate college, settle into a career, and find a spouse to spend the rest of your life with. When some of those goals aren’t reached it can make you feel like a failure. Even now I can’t seem to enjoy the activities I used to, because I will be thinking about the future or certain regrets ALL THE TIME. The funny thing is though, when I just stop and live in the moment again (Usually a subconscious thing), I feel far less stressed and more optimistic about life. I think I need to stop thinking about what might have been and just live again.

77 Diarry November 25, 2010 at 7:57 pm

For example, if I was fishing, I was completely absorbed in that activity. Hanging out with friends, just enjoying the moment and not worried about where my life was going and what-not.

Read more: http://artofmanliness.com/2010/11/22/being-fully-present-as-a-man/#ixzz16LVHiLPG

78 Paul November 25, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Great post.
I feel sometimes I need to remind myself to live and focus on whats going on, not consumed on my cellphone but actually communicating with the people around me, focusing on the task at hand etc. I recommend anyone interested in this article to read ” The Peaceful Warrior,” the entire book helps you understand the importance of living your life here and now.

79 Gary Williams November 26, 2010 at 12:58 am

Very well written and thoughtful article.
Thank you.
Gary

80 Jeffro November 26, 2010 at 1:49 am

Thank you. I just deleted the fb app on my Iphone.

My three are;
1. Only check email/fb/YouTube once a day for no more than 10 mins.
2. Read something each and everyday and be grateful to be able to.
3. Never watch more then 30 mins of tv, unless it’s a basketball game.

81 Kenneth November 26, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Brian,
My point may have come off wrong.
Simply stated it was a one time thing, and that one time thing was sort of like a spiritual awakening per-say.

82 Brian F. November 26, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Friend shared this with me and I greatly enjoyed it. This is something to share with my 16 year old son. You highlight the multidimensional, non-gender framing personality that every man should strive for. As others have noted. the picture taking example is intriguing. It is also highly subjective, as you frame by noting who the photographer is in the moment for his world view. For me it has always boiled down the simple act of your handshake and your word being enough. If we are honest with ourselves in the same manner we can be the man our wives and children need and deserve.

83 Euthorian November 27, 2010 at 8:09 pm

I’d like to give a bit of practical advice regarding photography. I travel a lot, and the most heavily touristed places in the world are heavily strewn with people, mostly from the States, Japan, and South Korea, lugging huge cameras and spending half of their time just figuring out how to use the damn things.

What I’d recommend is this. First, realize that your camera is a tool. Learn to use it efficiently, and learn to use it well. Second, realize that photography is a discipline. At it’s weakest, it’s merely a way of bragging to your friends about your vacation, or of trying desperately to make a rare and passing experience permanent.

Instead of that, focus on training yourself. Check out some books on photojournalism, basic photography, and even of things like linguistics and archaeology. *Good* photography trains the eye, and can actually make you much more present in the moment, because you’ll constantly be looking for the little details that will lend your own story impact.

You can also use it to train your mind, through “recording” visual questions you might have. A couple of years ago, I was exploring some old Roman ruins in the deserts of northern Syria, and came across a script I didn’t recognize on some old tombs set in the hillside. I took as many photos as I could, and looked into them when I got back to the States. It turned out they were in Palmyric, a now-extinct Semitic alphabet local to the region. The photos turned out to be useful in that they allowed me to find out more about my trip than I would have been able to had I been sans camera. The same goes for architectural features, murals, farming techniques, and almost anything else you can think of.

If you use your camera like a tourist, you’ll waste your time. If, however, you use your camera as a tool to help you see (and preserve) stories, and to capture things for further research, and for (dare I say it) art, you’ll find it’s a useful addition to your kit.

84 Dana Y. November 29, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Charles Emerson Winchester III from the television series ” Mash” said it best. “I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, then, I move on.”
I have 3 twenty something age sons and I remind them when I am in their presence that it is very rude to be fooling with their cell phone when in the company of someone they consdier important. It is very demeaning to that person and makes them appear less important at that moment; especially a significant other.

85 Steven November 29, 2010 at 7:54 pm

The other day I was writing something, and I couldn’t focus. I turn on the radio and it’s an interview about how technology is affecting our ability to focus.

They talked about an Internet Sabbath. The modem is unplugged for the weekend. (And I presume the cell phones are turned off too.)

Check it out: http://www.kcrw.com/news/programs/tp/tp101126the_internet_and_the

86 Bill Canaday, 2010 November 30, 2010 at 11:54 am

When i went to Ireland I took somewhat north of 800 shots. The airport in Philadelphia, the coast lines of the US, Canada and Ireland, the freighters and storms far below (from 7 miles up, a major storm looks like an interesting whorl of clouds). I took photos of the Shannon at high tide and at low. I took pictures of school kids in uniforms enjoying a Coke and a smoke in a city square. I took PICTURES. They weren’t all worthy of sharing or even of keeping but, because I took so many of the varied things that interested me, in my mind I can visit Ireland any time I want, although my body may never make the trip again. Taking photos, so many photos, meant that I WAS fully present and fully focused on the moment. I was LOOKING for details to remember … and I saw plenty, from the Latin on a public watering trough to the fact that the bi-lingual road signs had Gaelic topmost. My wife held the camera while I helped push a disabled car out of traffic. Yeah, I was present … and I can PROVE it.

87 Justin November 30, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Is it bad that I just tweeted this?

But in all seriousness (I actually did tweet it though) I agree 100% with the article. A long time ago I realized the destructiveness of being ill-present (before twitter & facebook even). I saw this with cellphones, texting, and digital cameras. I noticed people were so difficult to get in touch with IN PERSON. Like you’re always interested in something that’s not present. Like a little name on your phone you keep sending messages to. If you want to socialize, I’m right here, in the flesh. That’s how it should be. Digital cameras — people are always taking pictures of things and I used to be that way too. They became so cheap that LITERALLY everyone and their mother had them, and they ALL wanted the same picture (how about one person take one picture then share it with the group? It’s almost selfish the way everyone needs an individual picture of the same thing on their own device).

Facebook, I believe, is the worst form of social interaction. It provides SO MUCH content about a person except one very important part — the actual person. But you “interact” and feel as though that’s enough. No, when I see you, I want YOU to tell me you had a baby and show me the pictures. I want YOU to tell me about your drunken shenanigans and how you stole a telephone pole while in your poop stained underwear (that shouldn’t be on facebook anyway). Also, I’ve long since stopped accepting friend requests (however I keep an active account because it does serve as a decent way to lightly keep in touch with distant relatives, but I’m *rarely* on) because I don’t want to know your “favorite quote” or “favorite movies” or your autobiographed “About Me” or your whimsical thought of the moment. I want to learn about you from interacting with you, not reading from an LCD (or AMOLED ;) screen. My point is that people need to keep some element of mystery about themselves which is part of the fun in meeting/knowing people and being a human. Showing it all to the world just isolates us in a not immediately obvious paradoxical way.

And for crissakes when I’m talking to you get off the f*ing blackberry. And when you’re driving. Gosh, humanity really is becoming terrible.

88 John December 3, 2010 at 8:57 am

This is an EXCELLENT article and by far one of the best I have read on this site. Thank you to the author for opening my eyes to the things I have been blind to for so long, and for providing me with the tools and insight to better myself in my relationships with others. Especially with my wife and children, as I am guilty of MANY of the distractions described in this article…

89 Remo December 5, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Excellent article thanks for posting.

90 TimRC December 6, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Thank you. This was a great read! I really enjoyed it!

91 Chris Kavanaugh December 6, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Simmons claims to have had sex with 4600 women and yet he is hostile to addictions? OY VEY! such a meshugennah shmuck to be quoted on AOM.

92 Stan December 7, 2010 at 2:31 am

The photography paragraph struck a chord with me. I’ve caught myself in the past using a camera to shield myself from the discomfort of a gathering of friends or family in which, for esoteric reasons, I find myself unable to viscerally participate in the good cheer which I observe others sharing. Now I make it a point to put away the camera whenever I enter a potentially awkward social environment, and let others snap some photos to share with me later. On a slight tangent, I think most camera users could benefit from some basic lessons on composition, camera controls, and lighting. To take a poor photo totally wastes the moment.

It hasn’t been easy for me to forgo the camera for candid shots, which I believe capture an authenticity that escapes the far more common “say cheese” pictures, but I look for compromises. For example, when watching my daughter at her soccer matches I only bring the camera along if my wife is also there, and we take turns. While one of us keeps the SLR on and ready to capture our girl’s awesome ball play, the other stands free to cheer and enjoy the action. I’m quite fortunate that my wife is as good a photographer as I am.

93 Bruce December 9, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Great article. I could’t agree more.

Thanks

94 Steph December 13, 2010 at 10:59 pm

I really loved this article especially as I struggle with a man who isn’t really present at all and I don’t think has ever been challenged to at almost 35 years old. My only question would be for the men out there how can we encourage you, our partners to be more ever present in their personal lives and relationships when they are so closed off and trained to be that way? By no means is it easy or do we want to change the men we fell in love with but being present can make relationships change for the better in a more open and accepting environment for both people.

95 Buradi Marusu December 14, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Very good article but there was one thing bugging me – the treating of alcohol. It is true that alcohol is often used to numb senses and this way causes people to be less present in a situation but it can be used for the exact opposite. Alcohol can give us the ability to be more present by allowing us to be ourselves more openly and genuinely. Feeling numb and bland while sober is a quite common thing to some people. Drinking a suitable amount of alcohol can help to build up some emotion and real presence.

96 Rohit Ramachandran March 23, 2013 at 7:12 pm

So true! Great words of advice from you all.

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