On Presence

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Well, I must say this has always been a rather difficult one for me….this whole “being present” thing. Along with my curiosities in yoga, happiness, and overall general well-being, the topic of presence always seems to arrive somewhere in the midst of these discussions. I am reminded everywhere from people like Eckhart Tolle and the  Buddha to facebook postings (thanks Laura!) that the power of the present moment is HUGE….. oh! and it makes you a happier person too. Who would have thought that the simple idea of being present could have such an impact on your life?

But sometimes its hard to be fully present, especially if you are not too familiar with what this feels like. Just the other day I had to acknowledge how truly difficult it can be when things got a little rough in my neck of the woods. But, I tried to stand back and observe (for the most part) and  learned about my actions and reactions, and thus more about myself. These times can make you stronger if you approach them in the present way. You know there will be times when things aren’t going exactly the way you want them too, people upset you, life seems out of your control, emotions are stirred….and for me, this is when it is truly difficult to be present and not get carried away with your emotions. Presence to me means dealing with emotions that come up (positive or not), recognizing and simply noticing them, and learning not to cover them up by the endless habits we are accustomed to. (I’m so guilty of hitting the chocolate chips!) And the more I practice this, the more I become aware of myself, and the more I grow. It is an unbelievable feeling to be an active participant in your personal growth, and to watch yourself evolve right in front of your own eyes. Magical, I say! It’s actually really empowering. So, where do I start? Get me there now you say? Well, here are some tips and tricks for  returning yourself home, to the present:

Focus on your breath: Your breath is always there. (Hopefully!) Just noticing the inhales and the exhales is an excellent idea to bring you to the here and now. It is especially helpful when you are in situations that are difficult. Approach your breath with curiosity… Wow, I am breathing faster and shallower! Maybe it’s because there is a man robbing a bank three feet away! You can learn so much by just watching your breath. Anywho, here are some useful breath techniques.

Get out into nature: I am a true believer that is is so beneficial to connect to the earth. Some surf, bike, garden, fish; whatever you enjoy outdoors…. do more of it! Returning to nature can create more peace and calm in your life, so you can thus enjoy the present ever so much more.

Use your senses: Do yoga and learn to feel your body and to listen in return. Buy fresh flowers that smell amazing. Look at beautiful artwork. Listen to music that you love. Engage your whole being in the world.

Mantras: It might sound weird or foreign, but just because its a little different don’t run away from something that might actually help you. When my mind is perturbed by something that is doing me no benefit, I try to recite a mantra. Or sing a kirtan verse or song line. This is a great way to be present because you can also notice your breath as you do it. Here is one of my favorite mantras: “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts and actions of my own life contribute to that happiness in some way.”

Meditate: I guess I couldn’t leave this one out! There are countless ways to meditate. You can learn ways via the internet, books, or even podcasts. You can also turn activities into a meditative practice. Washing dishes, cooking, cleaning the house can all be meditative practice. Just simply focus your attention on what you are doing, on how it feels in your body. It’s that easy…. or is it??

Sometimes when I am present in a hard situation, I try to remember I am learning, I am progressing, and that it will all be worth it. It might be hard in the moment but stick with your practice, and I promise… the results will be so very amazing. It is just something you have to experience for yourself..

What do you do to arrive in the present moment?


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