Most of us sit on the fence; one leg dangling shamefully in hindsight, the other swinging longingly towards a future that may redeem itself. Both parts of our disjointed selves miss what’s right in front of us, inside us and between us. We miss the space of infinite opportunities, the place of forgiveness and spontaneity, the time of joyful, delightful, delicious peace. That place is Here. The time is Now.
The incessant chitter-chatter of our rational, thinking mind reels images of our past experiences for us to consider—what we should have said in one situation, what we could have done in another, how we can right our wrongs. The some 50,000 thoughts that enter our minds each and every day contain both negative and positive judgments concerning the world that we perceive, the world that exists for each of us as a result of our very own, entirely unique conditioning. The way that we perceive ourselves, each other, and the world is largely due to where we were born, and what family, culture, race, or religion we were born into. What we experienced as children, both as hand-me-down beliefs and personal experiences, make up the content of our thoughts, along with the persistent and insatiable desire to plan our future.
Fear dictates much of our forward thinking. The fear of the unknown can be so excitingly terrifying that preparing for it could make up half or more of our thoughts per day. Arcane questions like, “What will become of me?”, “What will become of my loved ones?”, “How can I prepare for this?”, “What’s the best decision to make?” and “What if I fail?” all give us ample subject matter to hopelessly obsess over. As these questions, projections and imaginary circumstances pass through our minds, often crippling us with anxiety, guilt, and fear, we miss living in the present moment.
We spend each moment running ahead of ourselves, believing that there is a destination to arrive at which will be saturated in endless happiness, acknowledgment, ease, and luxury. We are continually running away from something and towards something, and because everyone is doing it, we accept this approach and the subsequent behaviour it initiates as being normal. We mentally leapfrog over the eternal present moment in everything that we do. We ignore the flow of life. — The Presence Process (Brown)
Moment after moment, we can choose to experience life or not. Right now, we have the opportunity to “tune in” and listen. To experience the moment with presence and connect with our higher self. This inner voice can only be heard when we direct our awareness towards the present moment and away from the endless chitchat of the mind. By locating the mind’s pause button we can come to know the voice that resides deep within us. This voice is the ultimate guide. It’s our intuition, timeless wisdom, and the voice of our heart. It always knows what’s best for us because it’s our greatest supporter, most attentive lover and dearest friend. What it has to tell us is more important than anything we could ever learn from the outside world. Fundamentally, it wants for us to know that “everything’s OK and exactly as it should be.” We’re attuned to the moment when we get the sensation of total well being, when we feel complete gratitude for being here, right now.
The moment we decide to be present in our bodies, we have the opportunity to just be, exactly as we are. No expectations, no obligations. The body always exists in the present moment, so when we’re attuned to the body’s functioning, we’re immediately brought into the moment. The easiest and most accessible way to connect with our bodies, and thus the current moment, is through the breath. Most meditation, yoga and mindfulness practices use the breath to guide us into internal awareness and free the mind from distracting thoughts. It’s a handy tool that connects our outer and inner environment. Paying attention to the physical sensation of breathing brings our focus inside the body, which then opens up our awareness to deeper sensations, feelings and emotions within ourselves. When connecting to our breath, images and thoughts will likely still tug at our consciousness, but we can allow them to come and go in our minds as gently as clouds drift through the sky. When fully present in our body, thoughts of the past and future are of no consequence. At that moment they do not serve us.
Practicing present moment awareness offers many rewards. When we are able to be fully present with ourselves, our self-image is transformed. Our body becomes our most precious instrument for discovering the wondrous beauty of our lives. We will honour our bodies because they are our most basic connection to the world. The complex problems of the world can be seen as a vicious clash of conditionings. Deep and serious traumas must release their grip on our thoughts and feelings, for at that moment they aren’t present. When we are caught up in negative thought patterns it seems as though we are disconnected entities having our own isolated, separate experiences. But if we view our lives through the lens of the present moment, we realize that separation is an illusion; every being on this earth experiences this moment together, as one, and is therefore deeply and essentially connected. The feeling of well-being, a direct result of present moment awareness, becomes known at the deepest level of our true Selves. It feels like coming home—the place we’ve been desperately scrounging to get to with all our external endeavours. There’s no need to search anywhere else. We can rest in the knowledge that the peace we have been searching for has been present within us all along. When experiencing the moment there’s nothing to do or say, but let out a big, sweet, gratifying sigh.
Joy, abundance, and health are automatic by-products of present moment awareness. Like our Inner Presence, they are already within us. It is our attention that is elsewhere. — The Presence Process (Brown)
Every moment, if we practice very hard, can be a mindful one. We can feel aligned with our deepest and truest nature, trusting that whatever enters our path is exactly as it must be. The greatest part about practicing present moment awareness is that if we screw up and get distracted by outer drama, there’s always another moment to practice! By simply and gently connecting to your breath, you awaken your awareness of the present moment. Just this breath in, just this breath out. This breath is all there is.
Mindfulness Technique: “HERE” test
With someone you trust, sit face to face in a comfortable seated position. Centre yourselves by matching breathing rhythms. Softly focus on the eyes of your partner. Don’t look away, even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable. Feel the solid ground beneath you, supporting you, and the energy of the person before you. Tune in to the feelings inside your body such as the air coming in and out of your lungs and the feel of your heart beating within your chest. Release any tensions you’re holding in the body. When you feel yourself enter a moment of present moment awareness, simply say “here.” Your partner will do the same. Try not to focus on whether your partner is experiencing presence. Just enjoy being present yourself in the presence of another.
Set a time limit for this experience. Afterwards, discuss what went on for you during that exercise. What did total awareness feel like emotionally? Physically? What did you not feel? What was it like sharing the experience with someone else? What did you learn?
Mindfulness Technique: Solid Ground
Begin by explaining to yourself that you have nowhere else to be but here and nothing else to do but this. For now, you are in the exact right place, at the exact right time. Then begin to walk, slowly and with awareness. Let the air come in and out of your lungs gently and without effort. Notice the feeling of the air outside of you on your hands and face. Now, focus on your feet. Feel your heel contact and connect with the ground, then your sole. Feel your heel rise off the ground and then your sole. Each time, try to feel the energy of and connection with the solid ground that remains present in you. Walk as though each step is on purpose, but do not force the steps. With each step allow the feeling of solidity and grounding to enter every inch of your body, starting at your feet and moving upwards. If you are drawn to stop somewhere, do so and gaze out gently, at nothing in particular, still paying attention to your feet firmly planted on the ground. Do not let outside circumstances distract you, if you feel that encountering other people during this process is distracting, veer away from populated places and walk yourself to a more isolated space. If your mind wanders, take your attention to the feeling of the solid ground beneath you.
What was this experience like? How does it differ from the way you normally walk around? What did it feel like to pay this much attention? What did you notice about your internal and external environment?
(”HERE” test exercise from Ansara Judith’s Transformational Coaches Training at Hollyhock Centre – www.hollyhock.ca)