Mindfulness: What Does It Mean to Be Present in Our Daily Lives?
Are We Present In Our Daily Lives?
I recall a vivid memory of strolling along one of the streets of Paris caught up in the novelty of being somewhere I had never been before, hearing people talk and not understanding them and then there was a moment of presence. I thought, ‘here I am, this is me. I’m in Paris, France!’ I’m sure these kind of moments have happened to you as well. We are often more present in new locations and experiences.
In everyday life we become so accustomed to doing whatever we are doing, that we forget to tune in and BE present in the moment. We can look around in our everyday world and see this often. We see the effects of people living without really BEing mindful and aware. Some, sadly, will go a lifetime without having been truly present in their own lives.
There are countless accidents, mistakes, missed opportunities, broken lives, senseless, sometimes catastrophic events that take place everyday in our world as a result of not being present and mindful of our surroundings. Now, even more so, people are 'tuning in' with wireless devices, carrying around gadgets to keep in touch with others, texting as they walk, drive, work, go to the bathroom, on and on, anywhere and everywhere they go. Are people really present in their environments? This article is about learning to be present, how to become more aware, mindful, connected to our own lives.
What Is Presence?
What is it? Presence is not a religious experience, although it may be for some who practice religion. Presence is simply being aware of your own being, your body, your breath, your thoughts, your surroundings. We are not our thoughts. Our thoughts are only part of our mind. We are a whole human being. Where are you now? What are you doing? Look at your hands, your arms, your legs, turn your head and look around. Touch your arm. Breathe deeply and feel it released on your hand. This is part of you. What is your conscious thought? Do you know what your next thought will be?
Presence is being intensely conscious of our surroundings, and what we are doing in this present moment. When our being becomes conscious of itself, we are present. The moment we realize we’re not present, we’re present! Being present is our natural state. It is unnatural to be disconnected from who we are. Presence becomes a gift to ourselves.
Come, Take A Walk With Me
Often the easiest way to illustrate a concept is to share an experience of how this concept works. I’ll take you along on some of my daily walks. Yesterday I was walking along the side of the house to get the garbage can to set out for today’s pick up. I glanced at the hole where the turtle lives and noticed movement. I usually don't see it. I looked a little closer, as there was a nice, shiny black racer trying to enter the hole. I stood there and watched for a minute and observed how the turtle protected its territory.
The snake looked ready to strike, but retreated and laid still beside the house, as now, it sensed my presence. I stood and watched it and noticed its beautiful sleek body lying still, alert, present, and then it slithered away towards the pool pump. I walked away with a smile feeling a part of this experience with the natural world. I would have missed it had I not been observant of my surroundings.
I take my dog for a daily walk. Have you ever noticed how dogs thoroughly enjoy their walks? They sniff their way around the neighborhood streets. Eyes are alert, constantly looking around, excited when a possible encounter with another animal, bird or duck (we live near ponds) arises. They are alive with energy. All of their senses are in high gear.
While walking this morning, I noticed the flowering scent of jasmine in the breeze, the sound of the breeze as it whispered through the leaves. I felt the breeze as it blew my hair (and my hat), and could feel its warmth on my skin. I noticed the intricate beauty of the evergreen branches as Yogi marked his presence underneath the tree. I touched their delicate, soft texture. I looked up at the sound of the birds as they fly gracefully over the water. Their long elegant bodies fluid against the blue of the sky.
I don’t think of anything other than what I am experiencing. I’m not thinking about the rest of the day or tomorrow. The walk is what is my life at that time. Being present is forgetting about our life situation for a while, and paying attention to our life. Our life situations are something that exist in time. Our life is always now.
What Is Essential?
I hope you enjoyed the walk. Once it’s over, I engage myself in whatever comes next. Something that helps me to be more present in my own life is a simple question that I repeat to myself throughout the day. It can work in every life situation and is so simple, we often overlook the obvious. What is essential? What is essential right now? What is my task, my purpose, my responsibility at this moment? Am I wasting my time doing some mindless whatever? Am I working on the project that is top priority? Am I procrastinating because I don’t want to perform a certain obligation or duty?
If you’re a visual person and need to see something to remind you, make yourself a few notes to post around the house or on your desk at work. These three words can help us to remain present or get back on track. What is essential? Sometimes I find what is essential is given to me as soon as I ask. Presence.
Meditation and Silence
Meditation can be a manner of being present. It doesn’t have to be sitting lotus-style surrounded by incense and chanting mantras (although it can be), nor does it have to be done in a certain place. Meditation can be taking a conscious deep breath, bringing us back to the present moment. It can be listening to a beautiful song or sitting in a church or hearing the chirping of birds while sitting outside. It can be done while working out on the treadmill or swimming laps or sitting at your desk. Listening to rain or the sounds of nature, wind chimes can be meditation. Meditation connects us with our inner self.
There’s even a way to listen to the silence while in a room full of noise. It takes practice, but it can be done. I had to learn this while working in classrooms full of 20 preschoolers. We live in a world of noise. We have to learn to live with it, to accept it or to move into the country where there are different noises! Noise is sound. When we accept the noise, the sounds around us, we can move into a deeper awareness or familiarity. The sounds are there, but not all encompassing. We can still be aware of our own presence. Whatever we place our focus on becomes what we concentrate on. I can block out the noise by focusing on whatever it is that is my focus at a given time.
Sometimes it’s hard. I like to read on my patio and yet I can only concentrate if my mind isn’t being distracted. If I allow the sound of the air conditioner compressor to distract me, it does (and it does at times!). If my neighbor decides to beat the heat and mow, and edge his lawn and then finish with the blower, it can be very distracting on a quiet morning. How do I find presence in those moments when it’s noisy, but I want to concentrate? Well, I can either move to a quieter place or I can accept the sounds and get back to reading or writing or whatever I’m doing. It requires practice like any other skill we are trying to learn, but it can be done. It’s being in tune with the silence ‘underneath’ the sounds. Another way to express this is focus. We ‘become’ where we place our focus.
"I watched a pair of hen-hawks circling high in the sky, alternately soaring and descending, approaching and leaving one another, as if they were the embodiment of my thoughts."
"Every little pine needle expanded and swelled with sympathy and befriended me. I was so distinctly made aware of the presence of something kindred to me..."
"I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes. If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made to fit?"
"All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather, something to be."
Henry David Thoreau
We Can Learn to be Present in All Situations
Presence helps us perform and live with an inner and outer awareness. It helps us to do and perform at our best. Our work will be better, our personal lives can be richer and more rewarding when we are fully present in our relationships. Our own lives become more exciting and alive when we are living in the moment, whatever that moment may be. We can learn to be present in the most difficult of moments and move through them. It is when we focus on the past or the future that we complicate our lives and lose precious quality of life in the present. Life is now. Keys to help stay present and in the moment are:
- Be observant of our surroundings
- Senses are in high gear
- Put the gadgets away (you'll be fine)
- Ask, ‘what is essential?’
- Meditate wherever you are
- Learn to accept the sounds
- Focus on now
- Practice, practice, practice
Learn to 'see a song' and 'hear color'... enliven your senses, be present. I will close with something I wrote one beautiful, glorious day out on my patio feeling very present with Life itself on a late Sunday afternoon. Enjoy.
What kind of beauty spreads herself across the sky
The blue of an eye for as wide and high as I can see~
The gentle breeze whispering her content
Of such a glorious breath of now upon now~
The peaceful greens rise to meet the blue
Happily displaying vibrancy of life~
Serenity of being
This celebrated stillness of each new moment being born.— rebekahELLE
- Eckhart Tolle | Official Site - Spiritual Teachings and Tools For Personal Growth and Happiness
Official site for the author of The Power of Now and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose
- Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862): A Guide to Resources on Henry David Thoreau and Transcendentalism
Henry David Thoreau links: a concise, simple directory to resources on Henry David Thoreau, American author, poet and philosopher. More links to Thoreau's works including Civil Disobedience, Walden, Slavery in Massachusetts.