I meet my niece for the very first time. I hold her, caress her soft cheeks and inhale the baby scent of newborn ness. I am filled with love for this little bundle of joy ... and instinctively pull for my phone to snap a picture.

I enter a museum with my children. They are excited, enthralled by all the colors and sounds. I find myself immersed in the experience ... and instinctively pull for my phone to snap a picture.

I also justify it. How else will I, or my children, remember all these experiences with no photograph as a keepsake? Looking at photos also makes for a memorable experience.

Does taking pictures take away, or enhance, whatever we are presently doing? Can you take pictures if you are fully immersed? Can you be fully immersed if you are taking a picture?

It depends how present we actually are in the present. Is it about that perfect family photo (which I somehow can never pull off), a distraction the entire time, or a conscious decision to stop and be present in taking a picture?

Being present is a challenging skill. I find that doing so in a coaching session is reflection of being able to be present in life. The key to being present is to be. To forget about self enough to just flow with the present reality. Without needing to escape the pain, boredom or the challenge. Without needing to get to “the next thing.”

There is a story told about the students of the fifth Chabad Rebbe, the Rebbe Rashab. They were eagerly awaiting to hear a Chassidic discourse from their dear Rebbe, and they sang the preparatory niggun to the Chassidic discourse somewhat hurriedly and impatiently.

The Rebbe Rashab stopped them and remarked, “Whatever one does, one must do truthfully ... as long as one is involved in a matter, one must be totally involved.”

While they were singing the melody, he expected them to be fully singing the melody—not just as a “prep” for the next step, but as a fully immersive experience. A person who lives in such an involved, present manner is known as a pnimi (which means “innerness”) for involving himself in a real way, rather than in a superficial one.

For those of us who are easily distractible, sometimes we need to take conscious action in order to be present. (Hello, airplane mode.) Or even better, putting the phone out of sight (is that even possible?). Sometimes, clearing our mind in a “brain dump” manner can assist us in focusing on the task, event or conversation we are having. Looking directly at someone speaking to us goes a long way—whatever it takes to give others the feeling that we are really “there.”

And about the pictures? It’s not so black and white, but sometimes, I challenge myself to experience a situation or activity without taking a picture just to prove it.

Self-Reflection: Do my clients/children/students get the feeling that I am fully immersed in my relationship with them?

Source: Sefer Hasichos, Pinchas 5751