What does it mean to be Present?
To be present, you should be completely in this moment in this place and time. If you are here, if you are in the moment, you will notice the sounds around you, you will smell the aromas, you will sense the energy, you will hear the words coming at you or swirling around in the air in your space. What takes us away from the moment is often a myriad of things. The regrets of yesterday or even the last year. The fear of tomorrow or even next year. You’re wishing you had worn a different pair or shoes or worried about what you will have for dinner.
Now, I know we can not always be in the moment. We must spend time considering plans for the future and reflecting on our past actions to either repeat them, as they brought us positive outcomes, or adjust them as they did not pan out so well. There is a time and a place and purpose for this all. Ultimately, it comes down to a healthy balance.
Simplified, to be present means to be here in this moment, aware of what is happening, and aware of our own actions. With the over abundance of stimuli in the present day via a multitude of platforms, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the present moment, let alone be in it.
Check your presence
When I find my mind spinning out of control, polluted with excessive worry and debilitating regret, I start with a deep breathe to slow everything down. Now, the way I tune in, the thing that brings me back, is I find myself picking my cuticles. This is my nervous habit. Many of us have one. If you know what yours is, if you have one, start to track that. Increase your awareness of when you begin this habit whether its biting your nails or tapping your foot or scratching. Make a concious effort to tune in when you find yourself in the act.
When I began to take note of the habit, I found that I began to whenever my mind started spinning. So I would stop. In that moment when you realize what you are doing, and you choose to stop, you become present. After you stop the action, whatever it may be, take note of some other senses. Notice the sounds, the smells, the sights, all while breathing deeply. This will sow your heart rate and the awareness of the senses will leave no room in your headspace for anxious or troubling thoughts.
Be Gentle With Yourself
Okay. This all sounds very cut and clear and simple, right? I am not asking you to run a marathon or compete in the CrossFit games. Actually, what I am asking you to do can be much more challenging. Changing thought patterns can take years and if you allow it to be, can be utterly discouraging. Do you know why? There is no switch. There is no recipe. These patterns have been ingrained in us year after year. They are deeply rooted and will not change over night.
Most often, it does not even feel as if we are in control of our thoughts. They just, happen, right? They pop up as if out of nowhere and then they quickly affect us physically and emotionally. Do not be fooled. You have way more power and control than you realize. It will take time and some serious rewiring, but it is very possible. All I insist, is that you Be Gentle with Yourself. Do not beat yourself up. Do not degrade yourself. The great Buddha said…
“Until your compassion includes itself, it is incomplete”
Set One Tangible Goal – Sensory Checks
As a society, we are a fan of tangible goals, something we can measure and say Yes, I did that and I rule for it! So, let’s try to come up with something tangible in regards to a practice in presence. Let’s say… 3 times a day, perhaps before every meal, or maybe when you wake up, when you get home from work, and before bed… whatever works best for you, you reflect on or even write down all five senses you are experiencing right now. So here is what this might look like.
- Sound – birds, fan, dogs snoring
- Sight – sun creeping through the blinds
- Touch – the soft sheets, the carpet between my toes, the wind from the fan
- Taste – delicious, strong, black coffee
- Smell – my dogs breath (which I may or may not secretly love)
And so on and so forth throughout the day. Shoot for all three, but if you only get one, that is still a victory. It is also progress and awareness. It will bring awareness to the fact that you may be further from presence than you’d like to be. Just becoming aware of this is beneficial as it allows you now to take necessary steps to remedy it.
After you complete each Sensory Check, which is what we will call this for the sake of reference, take note of how it felt. Did you feel good? Did you feel peaceful? Did you experience gratitude? Make a note of these feelings. Later on, say you get caught up with work, as this is way too often the case, and you miss your Sensory Check, how do you feel now? Do one now. Does anything change? Do you feel better or worse now? Better…? Interesting.
This is only one of many ways to enhance our presence. There will be more posts on other techniques and practices, designed to bring us back to the here and now. I am certain we will find one that works for you. Do not give up.