Simple, right? Not really.
Most of us spend our time in the past or the future. We find it challenging to be in the present.
That’s why people practice mindfulness. It’s their attempt to stop the mind from dwelling on the past or considering the future. The practice of mindfulness meditation helps them experience the “now.”
The Past and Present Don’t Exist
Here’s the thing:
The past and present don’t exist…except in your mind. You can’t touch them or feel them. You can’t even see them, except in memories and visualizations. The only thing that is real is this very moment.
And in a blink of your eye, it’s gone. It becomes the past, and you have moved into the future.
Some other things you might consider:
You can’t change the past.
So continually thinking about it and wishing you could have a do-over, wondering what would have happened “if only,” or mentally replaying events does nothing for you…at least nothing good. And these activities keep you firmly entrenched (mentally) in things that have already happened.
And you can’t know the future.
You can plan for, worry about, or dream about it. While doing so can help you create the future you desire, spending all your mental time in the future doesn’t allow you to experience life.
Now is all there is.
Again…the past and future do not exist except in your memory and imagination. And when you are present, you experience life and everything in it to the fullest extent possible.
That’s why presence is a gift you give yourself.
Eleanor Roosevelt had it right: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”
Stuck in the Past
If you are stuck in the past, you will find yourself:
- Constantly mulling over old situations, events, or experiences.
- Thinking about how you wish things had been.
- Feeling regret or guilt.
- Reliving things that happened previously.
None of this helps you experience life in the moment. Nor does it help you create a future you desire.
Stuck in the Future
If you are stuck in the future, you find yourself:
- Daydreaming about what you desire continually.
- Worrying about what might happen.
- Believing that the future will be a repeat of the past.
- Wishing for what you don’t have.
Again, none of this helps you become present and experience life fully now. And it may make you feel anxious, fearful, and hopeless.
That said, daydreaming is a helpful way to create the future you desire. But if you spend your days with your thoughts always on the future, the present will pass you by.
The Gift of Presence
When you are in the moment, you experience life with more clarity, joy, and enthusiasm. Your senses are heightened, and you see, feel, hear, smell, and taste things as if for the first time. Everything is more vibrant.
Additionally, presence—your presence—is a gift you give to others. When you are present with them, they feel seen, heard, and understood. On the other hand, when you aren’t present, people feel unimportant. They assume you don’t care about them.
Think about what it’s like to speak with someone who is looking at his phone or gazing across the room. It’s not pleasant, right?
What about when you have a conversation with someone who looks you in the eye, asks you questions, and repeats back to you what you said or tells you they understand what you have said? Really nice, right?
Consider that the next time you have a conversation. Give the person standing in front of you the present of your presence.
Lack of Presence Hurts
I remember how I hated how I felt when my husband would keep watching television—looking at the screen—when I would ask him a question. He wasn’t present with me…at all! And I felt small, unimportant, and dismissed. More than that, I felt hurt.
If you are the one who isn’t present, keep that in mind. You probably don’t intend to make anyone feel that way, but you do. You can change their experience in an instant, though. Simply become present.
Take a Moment
I used to be that person, too. I don’t want to make anyone feel that way again! Now, when someone wants my attention and I’m busy, I ask them to give me just a moment.
I take that moment to complete what I’m doing to the extent that I can focus on them. I take a moment and become present.
For example, I used to keep typing when my husband would come into my office to talk to me. (That’s no better than him continuing to watch television while I speak to him.) Now, I ask him to wait until I get to a stopping point. Then I take my hands off the keyboard, look him in the eye, and ask him what he’d like to discuss. I do not look at my phone or the computer screen. I remain present for the conversation.
Staying present during a conversation can seem challenging. I admit, my mind wants to focus on the future, like what I will say in response or do when my husband leaves my office. Or it wants to dwell on the past, like interpreting what he just said or recalling the annoying thing he did a few hours previously.
As soon as that happens, I’m no longer present. So, I take a breath and refocus.
Notice how your mind wanders at any given time. You are trying to work but find yourself thinking about your child’s health issue. You are in the middle of making love and begin thinking about whether or not you are still in love with your partner. Or you are making dinner, and your mind wanders to how your friend made you angry.
These things happen to the best of us… And they take us out of the moment and prevent us from having a full experience of whatever we are doing.
How to Give the Gift of Presence
Are you present for yourself and others? If not, or if you are some of the time but would like to increase your level of presence, here are a few tips to help you get present…fast!
- Take a breath. It’s incredible how a few deep breaths can bring you back into the moment.
- Pay attention to your senses. If you focus on what you smell, feel, touch, hear, and see, you bring yourself back to the now.
- Control your thoughts. When you find yourself thinking about the past or future, choose to focus your mind on what is right in front of you—a person, the computer screen, a book, or the carrot you are chopping. As Ram Dass taught, remind yourself you are here now.
- Move your body. Exercise has a fantastic ability to bring you back to the moment. Focus on the physical activity itself, the muscles firing, the correct form, or your breath.
- Do something difficult. Challenging activities require focus and, therefore, presence.
If you put these tips to use, you’ll find yourself present for yourself and others more consistently. You’ll feel more vibrant and live life more fully. Plus, the people you encounter will appreciate the gift of your presence too.
Do you struggle to remain present or have a great tip for becoming present? If so, please leave me a comment below—and share this post with someone you know.
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