Editor's note: "The Spoken Word" is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly <a href="https://mormontabernaclechoir.org/" target="blank">Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast._
Not long ago, a middle-aged father took a vacation with his family. They toured historic sites and visited stunning natural wonders. Anxious to capture every moment of the trip, the father designated himself as the family photographer. Throughout the vacation he was consumed with taking photos. Later, as he looked at the photos and talked with his family, he was surprised to discover that he had actually missed many important moments of the trip. He had taken pictures of everything, but he had taken part in much less. Somehow his preoccupation with recording every moment prevented him from enjoying those moments — they had passed by him as he focused his lens elsewhere.
Now, of course, there's nothing wrong with taking photos to remember special events. Photos are often the best and most precious record of those moments. But we may find that the moments stay in our hearts a little longer if we're less concerned with how they'll look on camera — or on a social media post. We may miss the essence of an experience if we are more worried about recording it than being engaged in it.
Psychologists call this mindfulness — the conscious effort of engaging in the present moments of our lives: relishing a conversation, savoring a meal, devouring a book, or concentrating on a task. These moments pass so quickly, and some of them may never come again. We can't relive them later — no matter how good the photograph we take. But we can free ourselves of distractions, focusing our mind and heart on each meaningful moment as it happens. As we do, we will find ourselves better prepared for the next precious moment that deserves our full attention.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "A Psalm of Life" (in "Voices of the Night," 1843) captures well the power of the present:
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, — act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!