Practicing Presence

Recently, my mom asked me about meditation.  She said, “I just don’t understand how to do it.  How do you turn your mind off, how do you clear it?”  For a long time, I had no idea.  It was an elusive concept that seemed extremely easy to say, but much harder to put into practice.  How do you live in the moment? Do you let the moment guide you and your decisions? Live based off of your impulses?

Well, I’ve been exploring this concept and concentrating on applying it in my life.  Here are some practical tips I’ve practiced that have made this slippery concept more tangible:

  1. Focus on what is happening right now.  Who are you around?  Where are you?  What are the different stimuli your senses are taking in (what do you see, hear, feel, smell, or even taste?).
  2. Do not focus on what is not.  Let go of your hopes, expectations, or anything else your mind has created for wherever you are right now and get back to what is actually happening.  Accept that.  If you have a thought that creeps in, “Well I was hoping this potluck was going to have more vegetarian options,” tell yourself OH WELL!  Check out actuality instead and make your next move based on that.
  3. Catch yourself when you start drifting away from the moment.  Our thoughts and emotions are often developing so automatically, that this can be the most difficult step.  Recognize when you stopped taking in the outside world and when thoughts, often judgement, creep in (“I can’t believe she did that!”), or when emotion is building (stomach in knots).  When you recognize them, say hello, and then consciously focus back on the moment.  You may find yourself floating back to your thoughts and feelings, and that’s OKAY!  It takes practice.
  4. Be kind to yourself.  Practicing presence is like getting to know yourself all over again – you are re-wiring yourself to experience life differently.  It takes time and practice, be patient.

Overall, being present does not suggest abandonment of oneself.  It suggests staying in tune with the moment, in tune and in check with yourself, and taking it all one step at a time.  Yes, “Carpe Diem!,” seize the day, live (and love) now because tomorrow is not promised.  But don’t worry! You will not become a vagabond running rampant.  When letting go of your thoughts, judgments, expectations, fears, worries, doubts, etc, you are not letting go of you.  In fact, presence will likely bring you closer to your true self, while alloying you to shed all of the created conceptions of your identity.   You become the “I am,” and lose the, “I think I am,” “I should be,” and “I want to be.”

“Watch your thoughts, they become words.  Watch your words, they become actions.  Watch your actions, they become habits.  Watch your habits, they become your character.  Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”  –Lao Tzu


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