It’s modern times, enlightened times. What once was a secret and later “alternative” is now main stream. Mindfulness for example. And the universal advise: “Forget the past. Live in the present moment. Don’t worry about the future.”
It’s so very true. And it’s easier said than done, though, don’t you find?
We’ve all had these sweet sweet moments where we could do it. Or special days, just going with the flow. But for the rest of the time… We’re everything but present.
We are the thinking kind…
Some of us think mostly about the very near future. I do that from time to time: micro-planning in my head and then eventually doing something else than what I planned…
Some think about the distant future. Worrying, or maybe day-dreaming.
Some think and struggle with the shadows of the past, or linger in the lost paradise…
We can’t help going back and forth in time
So… since we know it’s all about living in the present… yet find it so difficult if not impossible to do it in any consistent way… What can we do instead?
If there’s one thing that life has taught me then it is this:
There’s only so much I can control.
Strangely, even if I can control certain things outside me, I cannot control what’s going on inside me.
I can control the look of my apartment, or the clothes I wear, or the travel plans I make. And yet, as I react to the look of my apartment, the clothes I wear, or the travel plans I make, I cannot, as such, control my feelings or my thoughts, or my physical sensations for that matter. I cannot, and I also don’t really want to.
I don’t want to because I don’t like to be controlled (not even by myself! :-)). Plus, it doesn’t work. But in any case:
What I can do – and this is a bit of a paradox but it works – is this
I can be present no matter where my thoughts go
I can be fairly present while I sit here and write to you.
But I can also be fairly present when my thoughts go forth and wonder when or how I’m going to send this message to you. Or when my thoughts go to a place 10 years from now (as if it existed).
I can be present with that. And I can also be present when my thoughts and feelings go back to how I reacted (or not reacted) to something yesterday. Or when I was 7 years old (that terrible way that journey felt back then). I can be present with that too. So can you.
It might not be the perfect, the fully enlightened presence that some of dream of. Yet presence it is. And guess what:
Like with most other things in life,
In other words, you will not always be perfectly present, with your entire being, your body and soul. And that’s fine! Because we’re human – and more than that:
We are extremely complex beings. We are worlds within worlds within worlds.Aligning that entire complexity in full presence is a very ambitious goal to set for yourself (and this is an understatement). So don’t worry about perfection.
If and when you experience perfect presence… you will not think of it as perfect presence! Just enjoy the bliss of it while it lasts.
But don’t try to hold on to it. It’s not possible. You cannot hold on to presence, or yourself, or light. There’s a good reason for that. It’s not a mistake. Meanwhile, here’s what you can do:
You can be imperfectly present.
Plus, the ability to be present is like any other muscle or skill. The more you use it, the more intimately you get to know that part of you, the better it gets. As you exercise it, it gets easier.
Here’s how to exercise imperfect presence
- Meditate every day. There are different ways of doing it – and I’m working on a set of meditations designed especially for you as well as on a tool that will bring your ability to be present to the next level. Until then, I assume that you already have some familiarity with meditation. If not, let me know!
- Throughout your day, notice when you haven’t been present. It would be wonderful if you could notice it without judging it or trying to change it. Just notice it. Also, consider the possibility that you’re not present for a reason. That you’re going back for a reason. That you’re going forth for a reason. You’re not doing anything wrong. So just notice it when it happens and when you can. And then take a deep breath.
- Engage in creative activity regularly. I know, I’m saying it all the time. But here’s the thing: Creativity is one of the most engaging and transformative states we can attain and entertain, ever. It brings all that complexity of ours together. It draws on past and future and then expresses it in the present. It’s both sensual, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It’s intense. It’s often pleasant — and it’s present. And again, don’t worry about it being perfect art. There’s no such thing and it’s not about that. It is about you expressing yourself creatively, in the present moment (even as it draws inspiration from your past and future as well).
Let me say it again, because I think it is really, really important and it may change your relationship with presence altogether:
Presence is a state of being. Even if it can only happen here and now, it is, as I see it, an energetical openness and intensity, which, just like creativity, brings everything together. The worlds within worlds within worlds that we are. The past and the future and the now that we are . The here and the there that we are.
In other words – and please, if there’s anything at all you’re willing to pay attention to right now then let it be this:
Presence is not about excluding any of your experiences, any of your thoughts, any of your feelings.
Presence is being with whatever it is, however it is, wherever it goes.
I’ll explain much more about it in that new resource I’m working on. Well, it is both old and new. It’s old in that I have been sharing it with coaching clients and groups previously. It’s new in that I’m adjusting it, making it easier to absorb. Plus, because times are changing, I think it will be Okay to share it outside a regular coaching context.
Until then –
Please share your thoughts and this inspiration with friends, in the communities you’re part of, on social media and in comments. Someone out there will be glad you did! Thank you!