Learning to Be Present

by Nazia Hossain

CVA student facilitator at YMCA Newcomer Youth Centre & Homework Help Club

As our society gets busier and the pressure to be more efficient with our time increases, the days seem to blur into one another and when we finally get a chance to stop and take a breath, we’re left with a feeling of astonishment at exactly how much time has flown by without us even noticing. This sense of “losing time” may partly be a consequence of our constant concern for the future. I know that I personally spend a lot of my days preoccupied with crossing items off of a mental to-do list, always trying to stay one step ahead of my schedule. With this mindset, it’s easy to take the present for granted.

At our Open Circle student leader training meetings this year, we explored practices to help us become more aware of our present experiences and surroundings. I’ve since noticed that by taking just a few moments every day to stop and fully appreciate where I am, what I’m doing, and who I’m with, I now place more value on my present and am less stressed about my future and my past. Being more mindful has also helped me become a better volunteer and facilitator for my group at YMCA’s Homework Help Club. I now make more of an effort to be fully present for the youth at the agency by giving them my full attention while interacting with them, rather than concerning myself with what the other volunteers are doing or keeping my eye on the clock to make sure that we start reflection on time. I’ve found that the youth can sense when volunteers are truly providing their undivided attention and they respond positively to this simple change in attitude.

Being mindful has also helped me get more value out of our weekly reflection periods after every volunteer session. Instead of making sure we wrap up on time so that we can catch the right bus back to campus, I find myself paying more attention to the experiences and emotions that the other volunteers are sharing. As a result, I can respond better to the thoughts and concerns they are voicing, which I hope has helped them feel more appreciated for the time and effort they are putting in every week. By learning to both plan for the future and appreciate the present, I think that we can become more effective in all aspects of our lives while regaining a sense of control over our precious time.