Presence Is About Being, Here, Now.
Presence is a state of being.
There is presence of mind, presence of body, and presence of spirit.
Presence is about being here and now, as opposed to being there and then as in some daydream, worry, past memory.
When you are truly present people respond differently to you. They sense that you are really there with them fully and completely.
You cannot be fully present and anxious at the same time. They are contradictions of each other. Like oil and water. You cannot be here and there at the same time. Anxiety is there, in the future somewhere. Anxiety and worry are an imagining of one possible future. It doesn’t actually exist yet. It potentially could, but the actual reality is that it does not exist yet.
When you think about the future, your attention, your energy, your focus, are all projected into the future. You lose presence. You cannot be here and there at the same time. Where attention goes energy flows.
When you think about the past, your attention, your energy, your focus, are all projected into the past. You lose presence. You cannot be here and there at the same time. Where attention goes energy flows.
You cannot be present if your mind is drifting forwards or backwards. Being in the here and now means that the mind is not off wandering by itself on autopilot either reliving the past or fantasising about the future.You are either here and now or you are there and then. You simply can’t be in two places at once.
All happiness is directly related to presence. Happiness is a state of being. You can feel happy or sad when you visualise the future or recall the past, but the happiness happens now, in the present moment.
Active listening requires Presence
Have you ever had the experience where you are speaking with someone and they didn’t hear what you said? They might say something like “sorry my mind was somewhere else”. This is a sign that they have lost presence. Their mind literally went somewhere else. They are right in front of you but they didn’t hear what you said!
I know this happens because It’s happened to me many times over. I could be listening to someone intently, really listening, when suddenly they might say something that triggers a reaction in me or they say something I didn’t fully understand or comprehend. At this point the mental chatter begins… “What did they mean by that?”… “Did they mean what I think they meant?”… Before I know it I’ve lost presence. I’ve stopped listening and started a process of analysing or preparing a response. My focus is elsewhere. Energy flows where attention goes.
Did you ever have a great idea while someone is speaking with you and you don’t want to interrupt them so you hold the thought in mind to make sure that you don’t forget it? The reality is that the more energy you use holding onto that thought the more you disconnect from the other person. You lose presence.
With practice and attention you will literally feel the resistance in your mind when you attempt to hold onto a thought while at the same time you try to take in new information. It’s like trying to look in 2 directions at the same time.
To listen properly requires presence. When you are really listening to someone it is like you become an empty space. In that vast emptiness you can now fully absorb the meaning of their message, free from judgement. As soon as your mind starts chattering though, and it will, you disconnect and lose presence, so you must be on your guard. If there is one thing you can expect in life it is that the mind will continually get involved every which way it can. The sole purpose of the mind is to survive.
So how does one become more present?
Don’t waste time imagining futures where you are suffering or someone you know is suffering. Almost all fear is completely irrational. Even if the future you are worrying about is highly probable, there is nothing to gain by continually revisiting it in your mind. Most anxiety people have about the future is repetitive. They worry about the same things over and over again. If you must project into the future, imagine a future where things are going your way. It is simply a matter of choice. Even if the worst happens, you can still choose how to deal with it if and when it occurs.
When you are listening to someone, really listen to them fully, and hold judgement until they finish speaking, if at all. If you have an idea while they are speaking, quickly say to yourself “I’ll remember that” and return to actively listening. If you don’t remember it then it wasn’t that important in the first place. If it was important it will come back to you.
Also when people are speaking to you give them your full attention. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the world around you. Being distracted sends a message to the other person that you care more about the distraction that you do about them. Being present for people is the best gift you can give them.
Don’t linger in past miseries. Instead, ask yourself “what was good about that experience?” or “What did I learn about myself from that experience?”. If you are still alive then things are going your way. The past can become like a ball and chain if you give it priority over the present. Accept that whatever happened is in the past now and let go of any attraction you feel to reliving various past experiences.
It will be helpful to know that we have all had the experience where someone hurt us and we felt powerless at the time. The memory comes up again and again of the suffering we experienced. We basically suffer again every time we think about it, and often we imagine what we could have done differently, or what we might do if it happens again. Double negative here reliving the past and then projecting into the future all over one event. Learn to accept things, let go, and move on.
When we forgive others for the things they have done we release ourselves from the thoughts and feelings that keep coming back to haunt us. The forgiveness really benifits the forgiver most of all. They don’t even need to know about it. To not forgive will only create a build up of resentment which is why the painful memories keep coming up again and again. Forgive you past. You did the best you could. If you could have done anything better or differently you would have. Accept that about yourself, and accept it about others also. See that everyone is doing the best they can in the moment, even those who are creating suffering.
When you are doing something, just focus on that one thing, and nothing else. If you are washing the dishes, don’t be thinking about the next thing you are going to do. Don’t be planning your tax returns. Do one thing at a time and really focus on it 100%. When you are doing your tax returns don’t be thinking about what you are going to eat for lunch tomorrow. When you are doing yoga don’t be thinking about what you are going to have for dinner. Be fully present with whatever you are doing now.
When you focus on the past your energy goes there. You relive a memory in your mind, of course never exactly like it was before, often foggy but nevertheless it is mesmerising. When you visit the past in your mind you revisit the emotions of that time. When you recall an embarrassing moment you feel embarrassed again, when you revisit a fearful time you feel fear again, maybe not as intense as before, but still real. The past is gone, and the event is over. It exists only in your consciousness, and only by your calling it forth, yet the emotion is real. The emotion happens now. That is the only place emotion can happen. Now.
Become aware of the aliveness of the body. Sit for a moment and just notice the breath coming in and out of the body. Don’t try to control the breath, just observe it going in and out, in, and out. Let it be however it wan’t to be. Remember, you have been breathing since the day you were born, so don’t think that you need to take over the process all of a sudden. Just observe. If you observe the breath coming in and going out you will become present. You cannot focus on 2 things at the same time. By observing the breath you observe that which is happening Now. And Now is where you want to be. Be here and be now.
Meditation is a wonderful way to become present and by far the most powerful and transformative. In the beginning it can be challenging but with consistency, results are all but guaranteed. The reason meditation helps you become present is that it helps you to become aware of just how incessant thoughts are, and at the same time it reveals the reality of the silence and the stillness within. If you remove all thought, all feeling, all ideas, all dreams, all analysing, all conceptualisation, there is still presence. There is still awareness. You still exist. This means that the silence and the stillness are as much a part of you as anything else. In reality you are more silence and stillness than anything else.
When you meditate for some time you will notice that there is no end to the thoughts. By sitting and observing the content of the mind we become present. Presence becomes the perspective from where the thoughts can be seen. We become the stillness and silence that enables the observation of it all. If it were not for the stillness and silence within we would not be able to hear ourselves think. This is the beauty of meditation. It allows you to take a step back from all the noise and see what is going on.
Through meditation we become aware of how one thought attracts another like it and another yet again, and we begin to notice recurring thought patterns. Unchecked thoughts take on a life of their own and can become like a train, as in the expression “train of thought”. You can have multiple trains running at the same time. The mind becomes like a train station run by monkeys, with trains going in every direction and in no organised pattern or system in place.
In the beginning we might only be able to become present when we sit in meditation. Then when we get up and walk around the state deteriorates and the mental chatter starts up again unbeknown to us. With more regular practice the state of presence last longer and longer after the meditation. Eventually we reach a point where the presence becomes the dominant state and internally we become more silent than noisy. At this stage each thought becomes like a pebble dropped into still water. We see the ripples spread across the surface of the water and afterwards the water becomes still again. From there we can decide to be present or not.