How to be Present?
It has been a common message in New Age thinking: be present, stop only thinking about the past or the future. Be present.
This made sense to me in light of my own experiences. While I was developing my methodology and testing them with my clients around the world, my mind was 100% occupied thinking about the future (thinking of ways to improve the methodology for the clients) or the past (diagnosing what went wrong and why).
My sons used to complain to me that I was not with them. I used to get upset. How can that be? I had flown from all over the world to be with them. But they were right. My body was there but not my presence, my mind, my spirit.
When my children start reminiscing about something that happened between us and ask me if I remember it, I go blank. It is not that I am struggling Alzheimer’s disease. It is that I was not there. My mind was with a client or with a theory problem I was struggling with. I was where my mind was and my mind was not there.
Not being present has repercussions. Without the present, there is only the past and the future. Because the past does not exist anymore and future has not happened yet, when you are not living in the present, you are not actually living. Instead, your life is what you imagine has happened or will happen, but your life is not happening.
When you are not present, your life flies by very fast. When the Christmas carols start playing in piped-in music, I stop and wonder, “Hey, hey, how did a year already pass? Where was I this year?” It is all blurred because I was not there. My mind was everywhere else.
So yes, we need to be present more to enjoy life because living in the past or in the future is living in your head and not really experiencing life.
But how can one be present?
I struggled with it.
People told me to meditate. That is how you become present.
I tried probably half a dozen meditations: sitting meditations, walking meditations, you name it. Meditating stopped my brain from terrorizing me, but it did not make me present.
Recently I think I found the answer: feel.
If you want to be present, stop thinking and just feel. Feel what is going on. Ask yourself, “How do I feel? How does whatever is happening at this moment make me feel?”
The more you feel, the more present you are. Feel what is happening here and now.
I tried to practice it. Close to my home in Carpinteria are the Carpinteria Bluffs. The bluffs are a piece of land along the coast that the local community bought and donated to the city, to be kept in perpetuity natural and free of development.
So, I go there for a walk. In the past, my brain would be working overtime. I would think about work, about books, family issues, you name it. For me, if I did not think I did not exist. My mind must be active all waking hours (and probably while dreaming, too).
But thinking, as I’ve said, takes me away from the present and into the past or future. So, I tried out my new insight. Feel. Stop thinking and feel where you are.
I stopped and looked at a tree. I tried to feel how the tree felt and how I felt about it. And it was very interesting. It is as if the tree spoke to me. Each branch had something to say: that they are struggling to get to the sunshine, how they depend on the roots to feed them, how the birds find respite among their leaves.
Then I looked at the clouds. How does it feel to be a cloud?
And for a moment I identified with the cloud. How wonderful it is to be floating effortlessly far away from details and obstructions on earth, carrying the wetness that will turn into rain and feed the earth with life-giving water.
I looked at the ants rushing in a line to get somewhere.
By directing myself to feel what I see rather than to think about what it is I see, I became present. I was not in the future nor in the past, I was there and then. In the present.
The more I feel and the less I think, the longer I have lived.
Just sharing my thoughts,
Ichak Kalderon Adizes