It is a beautiful day. My companion and I stroll through the woods, picking shamrocks and blackberries. We touch the thick trunks of towering trees, admire the hawthorn, and sniff purple lupine and yellow furze.
We stand for several minutes, gazing out at a stunning view of the Mourne mountains, the sun on the water, and the unexpected sight of a large round moon in the cornflower sky.
I break the silence and ask, “How present are you?”
He pauses then says: “There are a few ways I can be right now. I could be all about the other person – you. I could be totally present within myself. Or I could be present to myself and to another human being simultaneously. Thank you for reminding me of that.”
Later, we discuss the topic further. My friend recalls a Byron Katie quote:
“The end of suffering is to not project a future even one nanosecond away from now, whether you’re experiencing a terrorist attack or just doing the dishes.”
He adds: “We’re always thinking: ‘What’s next? What’s next?’ And when we’re doing that, what happens to this moment?”
“We’re not there for it,” I respond.
I realise that, even while speaking about presence, I’m catapulting myself out of the present by planning and daydreaming, hoping and worrying, fantasising and catastrophising. I’m stepping ten minutes into the future, leaping into next week and somersaulting over decades.
When I’m doing that, what happens to this moment?
I take a breath deep into my centre, look into his eyes and smile.