The Power of Being Present

Posted by Sooz on Sunday, November 27, 2011 | 4 Comments

We live in an age of seemingly endless possibility. The Internet and social media have opened up global conversations and allow us to participate in a much more expansive and detailed life experience than man has ever known.  The options we now encounter are staggering. It is estimated that in a single day, the average American adult makes about 35,000 conscious decisions.  Multi-tasking has become the new standard of living. We eat a meal, talk on the phone, and drive a vehicle at high speeds –all at the same time.

This new world has brought increased knowledge, greater understanding, and multiplied opportunities. At the same time, more people feel fractured, disoriented, hopeless, and depressed.  At any one point in time we can be participating in several different activities simultaneously. Unfortunately, we are often not “present” for any of them.

Do you feel scattered? Ever feel like you are being stretched so thin and pulled in so many directions that the rubber band your life has become will surely break? Do you feel distracted and unable to focus? Do you find yourself just wanting to escape – to run and hide? Many of us do, and we have no idea what to do about it. In desperation we turn the volume down in our hearts. We numb our souls so that the ache is tolerable. Many times we are so distracted that we don’t even realize this is what we have done. But what else are we to do? We are trying as hard as we can and going faster than we really should.

Here we are at this amazing time in history when the world is at our finger tips, and we are not enjoying our lives. There is so much around us that is beautiful to behold and astonishing to see, and nobody is happy. It seems with all the choices and opportunities we have, we should be blissful, but instead we have become completely overwhelmed. We have lost our ability to just enjoy the moment we are in – this moment right now.

I don’t know about you, but many times a day I can find myself stuck in the past, fearful of something in the future, or ruminating about something that I have no ability to change. I am thinking about what has to be done, or how I should have done something differently,
even wishing I was somewhere different all together.  Seldom am I allowing myself to be present and just enjoy the moment I am in, that is until recently.

Not long ago, some of our dearest friends were sharing a technique they learned in counseling. They talked about the importance of being present and keeping your heart and soul engaged in the moment. Before they shared this concept I would have said that I was very present because I am an attentive listener. After they talked, I did some soul searching and realized that, while I listen well, I rarely allow my full self to be in the moment. I don’t enjoy my life moment by moment.

I decided to actively attempt to become more aware of my life “at this very moment.”  I am
writing this post because I am amazed at the difference it is making and how much better I feel as a result. I am finding that, as I discipline myself to be in the moment, I am much more peaceful. The plaguing thoughts are quiet as I focus my attention on now. The past and future are sidelined so that the present is in view. My striving gives way to a freedom to thrive in this moment. I am requiring all of me to be present in the “now” and that fractured thin self is being restored. It seems my ability to enjoy life is heightened because I am taking notice of the details, things I would have totally missed before.

It appears that to be truly successful at living in the present takes a great deal of practice. It is simple to do, but not always easy to remember to do it. I think, like any muscle, the more you exercise this skill, the more natural a posture it becomes. Being in the present somehow allows you to become enamored with what is right in front of you – like being a kid again! The sky is bluer, you see the clouds, you smell, taste, and experience things differently. I urge you to try it. It is my experience that the positive results increase over time.

Here are some things I recommend to help you begin. Try them and see what is helpful for you. It may seem strange at first, but you have absolutely nothing to lose (except, possibly, some major stress and anxiety)

  • When you find that you are stressed or frustrated, take a deep breath and focus on what is right, what is good and comforting to you in the moment. What things can you be thankful for right this minute?
  • Moving focus to the moment means that the past and the future have to be quiet. If you are battling your history or anxious about the future then tell them to be quiet so that you can enjoy this moment.
  • Become aware of what your body is telling you. Are you tense in your shoulders or feeling pain anywhere? Often we are so busy that we don’t even hear what our body is trying to tell us. If you ignore this voice it is similar to ignoring a child. It will get louder and louder or find a sure and certain way to get your attention. Be kind to yourself and listen. Showing yourself respect is a deep and necessary Goodness.
  • Pay attention to the small joys in life. Stop and think about the food you are eating. How does it taste; is it beautiful in color or form? Taste your coffee, smell your food, enjoy and celebrate this important moment of Goodness.
  • Take simple chores and find the beauty in them. How do the warm clothes from the dryer feel? How do they smell? Are they soft? Watch your body move as you sweep the floor. Are you dancing with the broom? No? Then turn this moment into a smile and dance with your partner.
  • See how much pleasure you can find in the routine of your life. Look for beauty as you drive to work. Notice the Goodness in the people around you. Stop and listen to them in a kind way. Let them enjoy you as you enjoy this moment.

Over time I think you will begin to notice a significant shift in your life. There is power in being present, but you have to focus on the Goodness of this very moment to find it!

A “Good” Idea:

Try just one of these suggestions this week and see if it doesn’t make a difference in how you feel. Your family and friends will see the difference over time and appreciate having you near, not a million miles away.

P.S. Do you remember the picture at the beginning of this post?  Go back and take in the full beauty of it if you didn’t the first time. Start to notice all the beauty and wonder that is around you. It will help you to begin to be present.




4 Responses

  1. Angela Sadler says:

    Oh to acquire this skill!! Thanks guys for the much needed reminder and wake-up call.. I like what you said about treating it like a muscle that has to be exercised and strengthened. I long to be more present in the moment!!

  2. Melanie says:

    Oh how we miss “the moment” because we don’t stop and take time to celebrate life and absorb each and everything. Thank you for helping us to be more “present” everyday and in everything we do. JUST BREATHE!!

  3. Thomas Auzinger says:

    Thanks for this refresher, I needed it. Over 20 years ago a therapist taught me that neurosis (is that still a word?) only lives in the future and the past, but is absent in the present. I also found some of these ideas in “Zen and the Art of Archery”. I also had to learn that every decision is the right decision, since we can’t see around the corner. One of my teachers talked about “Bounded Rationality” and how no matter how much information you gather it will always be insufficient to make a perfect decision, but sufficient for one that is “good enough”. This more than anything allows me to be to be at peace with a decision about the future and move back into the present.
    The past can be a great source for learning, but it sure can’t be changed. Obsessing about how things could have gone differently one way or the other is unproductive, but unless we let it go, we can’t allow ourselves to live in the present.
    I don’t think living in the present exclusively at all times is realistic for a productive adult, but it is certainly something we need to allow ourselves to do at any given moment. It should be the default mode though, similar to the steering wheel staying straight when we let go, unless we need to make a turn to the left or the right, or in this case the past or the present.

  4. Nathan Haney says:

    I was first introduced to this concept when I read T.S Eliot’s “The Four Quartets,” and, thankfully, I’ve not been able to let go of it since. It is an ever present concern of mine–being present. It has served as a central inspiration for much of my thoughts on and work in life and creative writing over the past few years. If you’ve never read “The Four Quartets”, I recommend them highly. As a writer, there’s nothing like poetry to bring a big concept like “being present” into perspective.

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