We could get real deep with this month’s theme and define it as “being one with the universe: perfect, complete, and whole” or “pure effortless awareness where you are able to place your attention literally moment by moment”. But most of us probably won’t reach that level of awareness and presence in our lifetime, so lets keep it simple:
Presence is being here, now - being here, now in your work project. Being here, now in the conversation you’re having with your mother. Being here, now when you’re playing with your children… or arguing with them. Being here, now in each and every squat, kettlebell swing, and step. Presence is isn’t the lack of distraction (because, that’s not real!), rather, presence is coming back to what IS here, now, over, and over, and over again allowing us to become more deeply aware, and… you got it. Present.
Before you get down on yourself for not being present all the time, know this: we are psychologically hardwired to not be fully present. Our systems are always on the lookout for danger so that we won’t be attacked by a tiger, or your passive aggressive father in law, or your own self-talk about how you aren’t worthy to be here but (somehow) everyone else is. So we worry, we keep an eye open, our emergency contact on speed dial, and our heart safe from each other so that it won’t become broken. This is how we learn and evolve as humans…
Let’s be real… presence feels scary. So why should we practice being present? Because thinking too much about the past or the future is often a great cause of stress in our lives. People who are capable of being more present are generally happier - there are studies after studies that show this. Here’s one from 2010 summarized in the Harvard Gazette: “People spend 46.9 percent of [our] waking hours thinking about something other than what [we’re] doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes [us] unhappy… ‘A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,’ Killingsworth and Gilbert write. ‘The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.’”
I recently started to place more importance on being present with the people in my life. For me, that means putting my phone away while I’m visiting with friends, or truly listening to someone when they are talking to me. More drastically, I recently deleted all social media apps from my phone. Gasp!!
What actually sparked this change in me was becoming a mother. I caught myself feeling the need to get things done or be on my phone when I should have been giving Sophia all of my attention. I want to be fully present when playing with her. How else will she learn about details of the world around her unless I point them out to her? I have to be present so I can show her the sounds, colors, and feelings of her new experiences. If I am distracted by my phone or daily tasks she misses out and I don’t get to enjoy our time together.
I’ve noticed that in order to stay present with my friends and family I desperately need alone time or “me time”. A few moments to scroll through the gram, to watch my favorite show, go for a run, or to just have my coffee in silence. When I get “me time” I have more energy to be present with my friends and family.
We are all capable of becoming more present. We just have to be open to some simple changes in our lives. For example:
· Eliminate multitasking
· Be with the people you are with
· Limit time on electronics
I encourage you to think about an area in your life that would benefit from more presence and in what ways can you achieve it. When you open yourself up to these changes, notice the subtle shifts of contentment, ease and happiness that may come your way!