The moment that you catch yourself not focusing on the present is the moment that you are present. But, the moment you realise you are present you are suddenly not because you thought about it.
I kind of want to leave that first sentence and not add anything else but I guess I should explain the purpose of it. I have been waffling on for some time now about presence yet I haven’t really nailed it for you. I hope to do it during this blog. If you are reading this then get ready for what often eludes writers such as myself. The point! This (and the following blogs) will be the more important ones within this chapter if you really want to understand why presence is, what people say, key for those who are unhappy or lost in life.
Okay, so let’s backtrack for a second. I discussed earlier that if you meditate it calms down the mind yet it does much more than that. It also lowers your heart beat, slows the blood that is moving around your body, plus, it eases tension within your muscles. The side-affect from such a dramatic change to the body is that it also calms intensive emotions and therefore makes you think clearly and rationally. It’s as simple as that. This is why people meditate and this is why it helps you be present, yet what if you are not a meditator?
The other option I gave was to stop and do 3 large breaths. The simple process consists of letting the air out slowly, allowing your shoulders to drop and then clearing your mind all within these breaths. If done properly, this can also ease the mind. It won’t do it to the full extent of meditation (mainly because it only lasts 30 seconds) though at least it’s better than nothing.
Meditation and slowing your breaths help achieve presence via limiting your access to thoughts about the past and/or future. When these thoughts stop for long enough the emotions that are tied to them should also fade, leaving you no longer at the whim of your fears and traumas.
This is where you might say SHUT UP ABOUT MEDITATION! You promised to just talk about presence!
Okay, okay, easy cowboy.
The unfortunate conflict with being present is that you can’t try to be present, it either is or isn’t. As Yoda said ‘do or do not, there is no try’. Being present is simply a state of being. So how does one achieve this state if we are not allowed to try to be in this state? That’s a good question.
We see things before us all the time yet never really look at them deeply and appreciate them. Many people talk about trees as being a great way of appreciating something simple, yet it can also be done with food, a chair, art or a dry wall. It doesn’t matter what it is that you stare at as it works best on something that you personally appreciate. When you do find something you appreciate it’s not about the object itself but instead seeing beyond it by respecting the significance of the fact that it exists. You may have heard of this being done with a candle and flame. The idea is that you stare at the flame and eventually you see beyond it and admire the significance of the fact that it exists. This is because you also realise that the flame is something you can’t physically hold. We went over this with the question ‘if a tree falls in the woods would it make a sound?’ The point is not to just see the world but to realise the amazing fact that it exists in the first place. Yet seeing it might be a confusing way of explaining this sensation… Let’s try something else.
Your five senses can help you appreciate a single moment. It can be the feeling of water over your body, the touch of velvet, the smell of lavender, the taste of chocolate or a coffee, the sound of a symphony or even a car engine. It doesn’t have to be ‘beautiful’ it just has to be what you appreciate, as well as something that takes you away from memories or feelings of past and future. Your appreciation doesn’t have to last long either as one second is enough to bring you to the present moment.
Once you find out your main anchors (like the ones listed above) that bring you to the present moment it is then important to acknowledge them when they occur, and to try to bring that presence into your life as often as possible. You become aware that this is going well when you start appreciating these moments of presence naturally and it makes you smile. This is because the moment you start appreciating presence this means that other thoughts and emotions have left you for the time being. Eventually, when you do this enough, your mind gets addicted to this sensation and eventually your subconscious brings you to this state without effort. At least that’s the theory.
If presence is a new thing for you and you do want to explore this path I recommend finding out multiple anchors and sitting within them for a few extra seconds each day. So yea, stare at a tree for a while, sit by a stream, stare out the window, focus on the sensation of eating and don’t just throw that coffee down your throat each morning, instead, stop and appreciate each sip you take, or at least the first one! I know your rushing but you can at least do this for 2 seconds can’t you?
Just focusing on one sip of your coffee each day can bring that sensation of presence to you repetitively over time. The texture, the warmth and that sensation that may come over you when you first have it is something that brings you to centre. And if you repeat this focus day after day, over and over again, eventually your mind, as stated above, will bring you there repetitively.
Of course, like most things, the above is just one step to presence. There is a lot more to it than this which I will continue to try to tackle through the following blogs.