“Presence allows us to lead our lives from a place of love, not be driven by the bait of fear. Truly embodied presence is a quality most humans are drawn toward.” —Cory Muscara, author of Stop Missing Your Life
A frequent refrain expressed as wisdom to heed for a more content and happy life is ‘be present’. In fact, I have written the exact phrase here on the blog more than a few times, and while it isn’t bad advice, it is simply too simple and needs a deeper understanding in order to experience the most awesome life-changing benefits, being present can usher into our everyday lives. And actually, the idea, the actual word, needs to shift from ‘being present’ to being Presence. In other words, it is an entire fully conscious approach to how we live every single day of our lives.
Best-selling author Cory Muscara’s book Stop Missing Your Life acknowledges that in a culture seeking self-help endlessly, often the guidance we gravitate toward is a quickie (so to speak), and knowing how to embody presence is not a skill you can pick up and apply in a day. It takes time. Why? Because there are many components.
My own journey of understanding how to be presence in my everyday life has taken time, and I am still a work in progress, but I have witnessed significant quality of life improvements due to holding myself and my mind as we will talk about today which assure me my effort to improve and strengthen this muscle is worth the focus and investment.
What are the benefits to our everyday lives when we exercise the tools that incorporate fully being presence?
- Deeper connections full of honesty, authenticity and love
- Reduction of stress
- Elimination of anxiety
- The ability to be fully human
- Improved sleep
- At peace and being comfortable with being open
- More creativity and discovery
- A healthy and loving relationship with yourself
- Mastering the mind
- Calm and peaceful days
- Strong self and core trust
- Be able to set appropriate boundaries
- Strengthened ability to navigate unknowns and unwanted moments healthily and constructively
- Flow with life instead of needing to control life
- True contentment
Embodying the idea of Presence requires an intention to break through the ‘Pain Box’ as Muscara calls it in order to be open to what we, most humans, want – love, freedom, connection, authenticity (Chapter 2). However, the fear of being vulnerable, the thought of instability, shame and rejection keep us in the Pain Box and we never give ourselves the opportunity to live the amazing life that is absolutely beyond those four limiting walls we think are the be-all-end-all. They are not.
Muscara explains “in most circumstances it’s the potential pain we associate with what we want, consciously and subconsciously, that keeps us in the same place, with the same people, the same longings, and the same frustrations, even though we most desperately want something else.”
So we stay in the Pain Box and we engage in activities that keep us living (dare I say, existing) on the surface so we don’t have to explore what will actually set us free, enable us to find deep love and connect. What do we need to explore that we are afraid to in order to move beyond the Pain Box? Muscara suggests asking yourself the following five questions:
- What do you wish you could express about yourself?
- What conversation do you wish you could have?
- Is there a part of you that you wish you could share with others?
- What do you wish you could accept about your life?
- The final follow-up question is: What would I need to feel or experience to move toward this?
Each of us will have our own ‘walls’ to break through, but in order to fully embody Presence, we must first do the hard work of going within, being honest with ourselves and doing the tough work of acknowledging our yearnings that we have suppressed.
However, many of us if we still remain in the Pain Box don’t feel we have a safe place to move toward or look to, but an eye-opening gift Muscara reveals, is the safety we may think we lack actually already resides within us. We just need to strengthen the muscles of our inner resources.
Admittedly, if you have external resources such as the environment you live or work, relationships, community, culture, access to a counselor, you will be able to break through the Pain Box; equally powerful and supportive is the internal safety you can give yourself. In fact, having both external AND internal safety resources is worth investing time and energy in.
“Internal safety is developed by building the psychological, emotional, and spiritual resources that enable us to meet, hold and stay present to the fullness of our life—including the worst parts of it—and still know that we are okay.”
From cultivating self and core trust, exercising self-compassion, knowing and strengthening ways to help yourself out, and practicing regular self-care, grounding yourself in your internal safety will bolster your courage to break free of the Pain Walls.
Once you have begun to live beyond the walls of pain you had previously lived behind/within, exercising the mind through meditation enables your ability to “simultaneously build and grow our capacity to hold more parts of ourselves and our experience, so that we can live the full depth and beauty of our life, and thus experience greater fulfillment.” Meditation is a tool to strengthen your ability to be mindful in your everydays, to enable you to be Presence in how you engage, how you think, how you present yourself in any situation without expectation, only curiosity.
Once you have begun establishing a regular meditation routine (he details multiple ideas to help readers find one that works for them), your ability to be entirely in the moment and open to all of the possibilities is open to you through a helpful acronym Muscara created:
When I think of how I tried to ‘be present’ prior to understanding a deeper embodiment of Presence, Focus is what came to mind. When we exercise Focus there are many concrete actions we can take to help ourselves stay in the present: customize your use of your tech devices – turn off notifications, remove or streamline the apps you use so they aren’t as accessible, and limit when and how often you check them (this includes email).
I recently turned my gray-scale on on my iPad, so I would only use it for work and listening to music. Doing so forces me to only watch shows on my television, but also to not be enticed to check my Instagram, FB or other social media apps as there is no color and thus the ‘draw’ to why we use such platforms is minimized.
Another aspect of Focus is to edit our lives so we can fully give our attention to those we are standing in the room with. In other words, reduce the stimuli in your life to help yourself Focus. The truth is with so much stimuli, we are actually only living on the surface, we are actually not as productive and we are actually far from being as happy as we say we supposedly want to be by welcoming all the distractions and ‘helpful’ apps into our lives.
I was heartened l to see the inclusion of ‘allowing’ in this book as well as David Richo writes in-depth about the need to allow others to be who they fully as one of the five A’s of a healthy adult relationship. While Stop Missing Your Life doesn’t talk solely about how being present improves our intimate relationship, the reality that Muscara points out is that if we want real, deep, lasting intimacy that grows and strengthens over time, we must allow the moment to be what it is and thereby, let people to be who they are AND we need to be our true selves – the real self. When we do so, with those people we desire to connect more deeply with, we gradually begin to build more trust, but it does take time.
Outside of our relationships, by allowing the moment to be what it will be, we open the door to magical possibilities. No, they won’t all be magnificent, but even the bad or unwanted moments can lead to truly beyond-our-wildest-hopes occurrences.
I especially loved the inclusion of practicing being curious. Simply put, when we choose to be curious we are counteracting any fears we may have. Why? “Fear is the impulse to turn away and curiosity is the impulse to turn toward.” In other words, fear closes down life and opportunities to connect, grow and discover; curiosity expands our life and enables us to live more deeply and be delighted by the magic of life.
When we combine Curiosity with Experience, for example, we engage in a new activity, meet new people, etc., our wisdom of life, of the world of all that is possible, expands.
How can we become more curious every day? Muscara shares three simple, easy to put into practice immediately ideas: ‘listen to understand, not to respond; find the extraordinary in the ordinary’; train your mind to appreciate the goodness’. In other words, live simply luxuriously. Savor the everyday seemingly mundane moments that actually quite awesome because all is well, cultivate daily rituals that hold you still and let you savor what you are doing in the moment, make gratitude a daily exercise as you look for what is working, both expressing it to others and yourself.
With so much of our worlds – work, home, communication, etc. – being online, we are being flooded with information and our minds are in constant thinking, processing, analyzing mode. Even if we are not online, we are at a desk, sitting, thinking, in our heads and our bodies are largely immobile. However, if we only live in our heads and don’t pay attention to our entire body, we are making decisions that eventually will be destructive or at the very least, inaccurate or unhelpful or unfruitful to attain what we desire. Being disconnected from our bodies is a recipe we don’t want to make.
Our bodies are a savvy decoder about what is going on, what we need and how to best take care of ourselves, others and the world, but first, we must know how to take care of ourselves and our body. Enter Emotional Intelligence, something we have talked about in-depth here on the blog/podcast. To act from a place of ignorance is just as potentially harmful as only living in our heads, so similar to learning how and eventually breaking through your Pain Wall, come to know what you feel, why you feel it and also that feelings are evanescent.
Part of emotional intelligence is knowing why you are making the decisions you are making. Muscara reminds readers of the acronym HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. If you are making any decision – the food you eat, the text you are about to send, etc. because any one of these feelings is dancing through your body and mind, stop. Then tend to what you need for self-care to walk through those/that feeling in a constructive manner.
Recently, I had a stressful morning after receiving a handful of emails that needed my attention. Knowing I would not be of clear-mind to respond as I knew I should, I took the morning and went to the mountain for a quick mid-week ski to massage my mind before returning late morning to get back to work. It worked immediately. My communication was clear and the choice to think through rather than react helped ensure a more productive day. This is where we must do the hard-work of knowing ourselves, knowing what we need and bringing self-care into our lives so we have those tools to aid us when we are not at our best. When we do take care of ourselves, we are being present, we are paying attention to what is and responding rather than reacting.
Upon reading the book you will find detailed, specific examples and tools for exercising and thus strengthening your ability to be fully present. I do recommend picking up this book if you are seeking deeper connections and a more vivacious life that helps you eliminate what is hindering your ability to live with true contentment.
The act of being deeply present is a daily practice of letting go, of being open to what will be, participating in a manner that is authentic to who we each our and being amazed by the strength we gain to handle the unwanted moments so that then we can more swiftly move on and savor the awesome moments.
Wishing you a wonderful start to a brand new week.
Learn more about the book Stop Missing Your Life: How to be Deeply Present in an Un-Present World by Cory Muscara
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