September 25, 2017

Being Present

I was going along okay, or so I thought, when a cold slammed into me and suddenly I was stopped short. A client of mine told me his lower lip erupted in a cold sore exactly three hours before he had to give a huge speech to 500 people and that his face (with the offending blister) was going to be projected onto a giant screen. My friend, Gillian, has been recently plagued with headaches and even broke into a rash the day before Easter. What is going on?

We weren’t paying attention and our bodies resorted to desperate measures to get our attention.

All of the above symptoms are easily Google-able as stress-related. We can’t quit engaging with life and its demands but we certainly can learn to be more present from day to day, breathing and focusing on the moment in which we are living. Waiting until you have a really inconvenient wake-up call in the form of a physical ailment is not a good plan.

So is being present just a way to avoid colds and headaches? No. Being present is a life choice that enhances our experience of life and our relationships. Being present is something we do for ourselves and also those we love and the people we interact with. It affects our relationships with everyone, the world, and ourselves.

Have you ever seen a couple at a restaurant or on the bus, or coworkers waiting for a meeting to start… and they are on their phones? Distracting themselves with a game or a Facebook post rather than being present in the moment—and with one another. How many people do you know who almost sound like they’re bragging when they talk about how hectic their lives are? Being so busy that you don’t notice the dusting of golden pollen on your girlfriend’s shiny, freshly washed hair is not a sign that you are “successful and important…,” it is a symptom that you are not paying attention to what is in front of you.

When you are not present:

*  You miss a lot of information. All the messages that are available to us all the time from our intuition, the environment, and other people don’t get through when we are too fixated on what comes next or the things that bog us down like when the cable bill is due.  

*  You miss the miracles. The small things that give life texture, joy, fullness: the first robin, the crocus behind the dumpster, the gold flecks in the bank teller’s brown eyes.

*  You miss a chance to deepen a relationship. Being actively engaged in how you and your partner feel in the moment benefits you both, plus the relationship. What is the connection between you? Are you growing together or co-existing?

How does being present benefit your love relationship?

√  When you are conscious of yourself and awake to the current moment, you know what you want and need from the other person. You can communicate it and know when you are getting it.

√  You are paying attention to what is happening, which lends potency to your connection. If you are thinking about all the things you need to get done later every time you are with your partner, you are not present and the foundation weakens.

√  Being present leads to a closer connection and a more meaningful relationship.

√  You will experience more pleasurable intimacy when you are present. There is no better aphrodisiac than full focus on the now.

What keeps you away from the now?

⇒  Life can be hard, but when you find you have slipped from “living life” to being 100% drained and exhausted, you cannot be present in your life. You can only crawl from one necessity to the next.

⇒  Distraction. Our lives are cluttered with smart devices, cable news, gimmicks and gadgets. But we can choose to turn them off or on, pay attention to them, or not.

⇒  Over-scheduling. We teach our children at a young age that we have to keep busy all the time. Two travel teams a season, piano lessons, and the math tutor ensure that little Sally doesn’t have time to get bored, but she also learns not to live in the present. We do it to ourselves too. Sometimes my iPhone calendar looks like a big green blob of overlapping commitments.

How can you avoid the drain and learn how to be here now?

♥  Check in with yourself. What is happening with your breath? Just noticing that is often enough to take you out of your head. Slow down your breathing and start noticing things.

♥  Listen to your body—it knows what’s up. Don’t wait till you’re sick or have hives or chronic ulcers. If we bother to listen, we’ll find out that our bodies can tell us just how we feel.

♥  Check in with every part of yourself. Are your eyes tired and strained? Are your shoulders tight and drawn up to your ears? Is your back spasming? Why?

♥  Meditate or otherwise release your control over your thoughts—or, better yet, release your thoughts entirely.

♥  Notice what comes unbidden. For instance, if you wake up in the middle of the night, do you notice the peacefulness of your partner’s breathing or do you immediately think about all the things you must do at work the next day? If the latter, pull your focus back to what is happening right now where you are. Open your eyes to the darkness and your ears to the sounds around you. Find sleep again through the practice of being present.

As Leo Tolstoy said: “There is only one time that is important—now. It is the only time when we have any power.” You can choose what you do now in this moment. What has happened already is done. What is going to happen is still a mystery. So why not relax into the present and exercise your power over the beauty of now.


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