Chapter 5, Part 4. Why is being present so important (continued even further)?

Let’s not stuff around any further, let’s answer this now.

When you are present you are not thinking about your past or future, nor living in the emotions that belong to anything else except for the present moment . And unless you are in immediate danger you are also not connected to your worries, doubts or fears. Mostly you just exist! And in many ways you are simply connected to the world around you.

So let’s imagine that you are safe and sitting down in a quiet park. There is nothing pressing occurring in your life that you need to worry about therefore you don’t need to think about anything at all. So, instead you just sit there appreciating your surroundings. There is nothing to make you upset, feel depressed, or a reason to hate existence. And Voila! That’s it! You did it! Kinda…

If you were to do the above (and you were in a perfect world) there should be little emotions or thoughts running through you. Your senses would be adaptive to your surroundings and there would be no heightened emotions either positive or negative.

Before we move forward please note that the above is not meditation. This being said the definition of meditation (as defined in the dictionary) is so interpretive that you can also reference it to a roller coaster ride. Yet it is important to note that we are simply talking about presence here. Meditation is a means to get to presence, it is not the only way to achieve it.

For fun, let’s use an animal example. Most animals are simply connected to the world around them, living off instinct and thinking moment to moment. That’s why you don’t see many lion’s smoking cigarettes or looking upset whilst waiting in the doll que nowadays.

An animal will eat when it feels like eating, it will void when it feels like voiding, it will mate when it feels like mating and it will sleep when it gets tired. A deer doesn’t stay up late, eliminating sleep to stay up watching Broad Church (although how awesome is it! Don’t tell me anything, I just started season 2) it goes to sleep when it needs to. And although some animals are traumatized due to circumstances when they are young (which can lead to anxiety when they get older) they still don’t reflect on their past and remember when and where it all went wrong. They instead move with their emotions in the present moment and don’t wallow on what could have been.

Being a human and having our beautiful juicy intellect is as amazing as it is a pain in the ass. The same capacity to philosophize ‘I think therefore I am’ (which is a discussion within itself by the way) is the same device that makes us over think and worry all the time. Hence the tightrope we need to walk in this life.

Now I am not saying that the animals have it right, nor am I saying that we should go back to being primitives with simple intellects, especially when part of the issue is society driven (I will go through this in a later chapter). But what I am suggesting is that our ability to think at the capacity that we do creates a world (within our own mind) that is more complicated than what is before our very eyes. Furthermore, this crazy, hectic, fast paced civilization doesn’t give us the time that our mind needs to catch up, analyse and reflect on what is most important.

Let me give you another example. Let’s replace your life with that of a Kangaroo. The Kangaroo does not wake up and worry about the death images on the news or which serials might be poisoned by activists. Instead it gets up, notices the weather and becomes attuned to its surroundings regardless of rain or shine. It does not get upset by the weather because it is not in control of the weather. If the Kangaroo accidentally jumped into the river in front of the other kangaroos yesterday it does not hold resentment to those that saw it, nor does it feel ashamed or angry. The river incident occurred yesterday and that has nothing to do with today. I mean sure, the kangaroo learned its lesson though now that it has done and dusted it has moved on and that’s the end of it. Life is not doom or gloom to a kangaroo. It’s just… life…

Being present will of course not make you happy. Buddhists state that it’s about contentment which of course is an enjoyable and peaceful mindset.  Some Buddhists dedicate their entire lives to being content and being present whilst meditating in a temple for large periods of time, yet, this is not necessary for most of us. Maybe one day if you choose to try and obtain enlightenment this may be your path, though until then these blogs are about keeping it simple and living within the 9 to 5 world. So let’s start with that then.

Animals Jamie Lee Woodman a.k.a The Lonely Spaceman.jpg

Chapter 5, Part 3. Why is being present so important anyway? (continued)

Now if you want to be a pain in the ass you can argue that we are always present and that thinking about the future and past doesn’t change this. If these are your thoughts then good on you, give yourself a clap, now bugger off.

Let me be self-indulgent for a moment. After personally suffering from depression for over 22 years my mind used to take me to various dark places each day. Without knowing what I was doing or how it was occurring my focus would always lead me to the negative. Furthermore, a part of me was addicted to this focus and would chase down the pain. Over many years I tried resolving this issue consciously by asking positive questions and delving into my own psychology. At times this was successful as certain elements would last with me for (on rare occasions) years, though it would never last. This was because I never worked on the bigger picture nor did I know what the bigger picture was. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, no, I am not alluding that there is one simple answer here.

It took a smack across the face of presence to begin the real change in my life. It allowed me to appreciate simple moments, basic concepts and what appeared to be meaningless chores. It was a form of acceptance regarding who I was. Although I was aware that many of the greatest speakers and psychologists had been writing about the importance of mindfulness for some time, I always saw it as a fad or something not for me. Yet no one could explain it to me in a way that I needed it conveyed. It was only after an awakening that I realised that I heard what people were saying yet in the end I missed the point completely.

So before I finish this blog and get right into exactly what presence is, I thought I would give you a quick example of it.

There is a reason why the greatest artists and minds of our time come up with their best ideas on the toilet. It’s hard not to be present whilst releasing baggage from your inner colon. And it is in that split second of complete presence that the mind resets. The funny thing is this. Because the pattern has been interrupted it’s now not as easy to get back to exactly where you were originally before you lost some weight. It’s like when someone interrupts your rant whilst you are in an intense conversation. The emotion and passion you had originally can be hard to re-obtain once again even though the topic of discussion meant EVERYTHING to you a few seconds earlier. This is a great example of presence. This is an example of looking from the outside in (like a third person perspective) and distancing yourself from your emotion which is tied to your ego. A better way of explaining it is this. You’re no longer directly controlled by the path you were on, but instead,  you’re now at witness to it.

So the next time you sit on the toilet please think of ‘The Lonel….’ Actually no, focus on something else. Yea, think of something else…

(I will continue this discussion in the next blog)

Mindful Jamie Lee Woodman a.k.a The Lonely Spaceman.jpg

Chapter 5, Part 2. Why is being present so darn important anyway?

Four years ago if someone told me that my life would be better if I was just present and mindful I would have kicked them in the nuts. Of cause this speaks loudly to where I was at that period of time…

Although in previous chapters it was vital to write about the past and the future it has all been one big lead up to this important topic, presence. But why is it so important?

If you are a natural sceptic I completely understand your reluctance to jump into this new age fad. Yet as much as the western world has steered towards it recently, this simple principle has been a familiar message since before even budda was born in the 6th century B.C. In fact, the first writings about meditation (which is a basis of being present and mindful) were found in India during 1500BC. And although the message of being present appears simple, when you break down the layers of how and why practicing it is so important, the complexity behind doing this becomes apparent whilst the benefits towards your psychology is revealed.

Meditation is about stabilizing the mind. Psychologists have found that just 5 to 10 minutes of meditation calms down a part of your brain called the amygdala. Part of the amygdala works with emotions and when this area of your brain is in overload it is hard to concentrate, see past your own situation/trauma’s/depression, or be able to function well in the 9 to 5 world. For this reason calming this area of your brain and possibly training it to be consistently calm, although hard, can be an important thing to do. Some will say that you are ‘bringing yourself back to center’ but really you’re just slowing down the engine so you have more stability behind the wheel.

So yes, meditation is said to be important though it’s the end result of mediation that we are actually seeking. This is mostly referenced as mindfulness. This comes through acceptance of who and where you are now whilst masting the ability to calm the mind to a point where thoughts don’t trigger emotions. Fondly enough you can get similar benefits from a massage, a warm shower or what our age likes to do best, over eating. The key is to bring yourself back into the present moment and out of your thoughts of the past and future. This is to be done not through distraction (like watching TV) but through being aware of oneself without/despite distractions. I do have to agree that meditation is an easy way to do it, though if crossing your legs and sitting in front of a candle isn’t right for you there are other options available. I personally believe there is a form of mindfulness that suits each one of us, even if it is unconventional. And yes, I will be going through these in later blogs and podcasts.

(I will continue this discussion in the next blog)


the present jamie lee woodman a.k.a the lonely spaceman

Chapter 5, Part 1. The Present – Acknowledgement of how hard this can be

I will firstly begin to apologise for words that I have and probably will say in the future which may make things sound easy. When writing a blog, doing a podcast or video it’s hard to explain topics from everybody’s personal perceptions. And as much as I try to remain neutral and open minded to see things from others points of view it is quite impossible to speak to 7 billion people’s opinions, not that they all read this blog haha.

I am writing this blog and acknowledging people’s struggles because of the new age marketing which has businessman and egocentric entrepreneurs saying ‘you just need to be mindful’, ‘you just need to be present’, ’if your depressed watch this now’ and ‘if you do this you have mastered life’. Well, as you and I probably know (and I am assuming you do if you read blogs such as this) things are not that simple. And before I go off and try to explain some of these complex ideas whilst attempting to break the information down to its smallest and simplest form, I had to give some of the readers out there the acknowledgement they deserve.

About 4 years ago I had an awakening yet before I had this experience I would have told people recommended mindfulness to go F#$k themselves. And that’s putting it politely. The complexity is that you can’t tell someone with monkey brain who may have anxiety, depression, frustration or be suffering loss to simply be mindful. There is a ‘gap’ between these two states that most people often forget about, or possibly, the teachers out there have never been through it themselves. So what is the gap then?

The gap is the leap between A and B. It’s when you’re so submerged within your own pain, emotions and ego (this just means a reflection of your own state) that the idea of being present (or mindful) is a ludicrous suggestion. And due to saturated marketing from new age hippies doing 3 month yoga courses from Rishikesh or Mumbai in India, the actual positive aspects of being present are being mixed in with the lies that Coca Cola is good for you. Yet I digress.

Although it may sound like wisdom to advise people that are struggling to be mindful and present it really is of no use to someone who is not ready to hear it. In fact, it can be dangerous. Telling people it is simple and that results can follow straight away (although I know people are trying to help) can make the students feel like failures if they can’t achieve what others are saying is simple. This makes the student (who is already feeling bad or depressed) feel even worse. Therefore, my task during this chapter on ‘the present’ is to try to explain this topic scientifically, rationally and spiritually so that when and if people are ready they can understand this belief system from a perception best suited to them.

Before I get to that though, the reason of this blog is to say that I understand that none of this stuff is easy and sometimes we are just not ready for it. That is not to say that we will never be ready for it as you may be ready tomorrow, though it’s arrogant of me or anyone else for that matter to ram it down your throat if it’s not invited. I know about this because I’ve personally seen it from this point of view. Since then, I have tried my hardest to remember how lost I was in the past and to never say to people ‘if you just do this your life will be better’. Facebook is unfortunately swarming with motivational NLPer’s that make you and I, the reader, feel bad for not believing in their simple once off techniques. Even after all my own studies and beliefs I still get guilt tripped by some of these Guru’s at times. It’s what I get for being a massive introvert. Yet, I have found that ignorance and what can appear to be arrogance from the Facebook warriors is often nothing more than a lack of understanding. They have not been through what you are going through, no one has, we all walk our own personal journey. So I hear your frustration!

So, I’, hear to cut through all the s#$t. It’s also a personal challenge for myself to see how much I retained through my own studies. As always, progress takes time and patience which within itself can be difficult, but if you are doing this right now I applaud you and respect the steps you are taking in self-development and knowledge. It takes time though I believe that there are answers out there for all of us.

Therefore, if you permit me, let’s get right into it by asking the question, why is being present so darn important anyway?

mind the gap jamie lee woodman a.k.a the lonely spaceman