Traveling With Presence

Seeing the world through our eyes

It’s not often that I see the tops of people’s heads…I am only 4”10 after all.  But that reality seems to be changing for me (not the reality of being short 😉 )

I am a city girl.  I live downtown in the heart of the action because I love the vibe, the energy, and the sense of community.  However, when those characteristics are missing, it devalues the reason I moved to the city in the first place.

As I sat in my favourite park just outside of my home this morning, that’s when it struck me, that all I really seem to see anymore, are the tops of people’s heads.  I could give you a detailed account of the ratio of blondes, to brunettes, to red-heads, and a breakdown of short vs. long, straight vs. curly – that’s how many head tops I’ve observed; but, I’ll spare you the details and get right to the point.

People are on their cellphones. 










One of my favourite aspects to living in the city, is parking my car and walking.  I walk almost every day, especially in beautiful weather like right now.  However, as I venture out on my walks, I am finding that my presence is being compromised due to others’ lack of presence.

It is not uncommon for me to have to make a quick remark like “look up,” to someone who is walking towards me with their face buried in their phone.  If I didn’t make such remarks, I would be knocked over simply because someone else was not practising presence.

I am not asking that you walk around in a permanent meditative state; I just ask that you pay attention.  In the words of leading mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat Zinn, “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment,” is precisely what mindfulness means.

If that text is urgent, step aside and pause for a moment, or recognize that the text may be something that can wait.  You may be surprised by what you observe when you’re looking up at the world through clear lenses and not through the screen of a phone.  You may notice new sounds, new scents, new sights, and beauty that you could not have noticed when you were otherwise occupied.

When we take our focus away from the distractions that call to us in any given moment of a day, we see the world in a different light.

How in a city as busy as Toronto, can I have days where I feel completely alone?

I feel alone when I don’t get to connect with others.  When my eyes meet the tops of heads instead of another set of eyes.  Or, when someone will do anything to avoid having a personal exchange with someone they don’t necessarily know.

Alternately, when two people pass each other on a sidewalk and exchange a glance, a smile, or a hello, it has a powerful affect on the human condition.

It seems sad, when you question someone’s motives when they just give you a friendly hello, how’s your day going?  As someone who will talk to anyone, I know this sad fact to be true. I love talking to new people and I think it only seems natural that humans would exchange acknowledgements as they pass on a street.   Many Torontonians unfortunately, do not share that same sentiment.

The other day however, I lit up when a man was offering hellos and well-wishes to everyone who passed him by.  He wasn’t looking for money, he wasn’t making advances, he was simply being human.  I appreciated that brief connection more than I can express.

Aside from the innate wish for people to connect more, and to be more present, I also worry for people’s safety.  As I drove to an appointment the other day, I was met with a bike at a busy intersection, where the rider was not wearing a helmet, had two buds stuck in his ears, and was texting while riding.  I was terrified on his behalf.  I’ve seen people walk right into poles, fall into a fountain, and walk into oncoming traffic.

These statistics are terrifying and I am in complete support of the countries who are introducing fines to inattentive travelers.

Add to that, the newest fad of Pokemon Go.   While I am not well versed in the latest trends of gaming, I have become aware of this newest marketing phenomenon.  Pokemon has marketed their newest game as a means of “encouraging” people to get out, to walk more and to open themselves to new places and experiences.  What I see however, are just more people on their phones, having an experience with their phone, and not the world around them.

Why do we need an app to get us out seeing and experiencing the world?

Why can’t we just get out and do it?

As I write this blog today, I sense a bit more edge in my voice than what’s typical, but it’s because I feel passionate about people’s safety and about people’s wellness.  I feel passionate about connection in our world.

Next time you go out for a walk, a drive, a bike ride, or a rollerblade, please put away your phone and travel with presence.  Say hello to the person who passes you on the street, and enjoy the sights, sounds and wonders all around you.

I hope that the next time we connect, I’ll be sharing my stats of eye colour, not hair – last time I checked, it was the eyes that are the passage to the soul.

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