“Presence is power.”
What if I told you that the solution to your quandaries about life, love, work, finding calm, anything of value and importance already resided within you?
While initially this may seem impossible, in actuality, when we dig down deep to the core of our motivations, our hopes and even our fears, the answers rest in being able to hold ourselves in the Present moment consciously on a regular and consistent basis. Now this may seem elementary, even a simpleton answer, but today, I want to share with you why indeed it is true. And how exciting to know that what we have been seeking (and not finding) outside of ourselves has been within our power all along.
The first thing we have to do if we want to welcome the power of Presence into our lives is consciously change our minds – how we think: the unhelpful and destructive defaults they fall into, and that is where most people balk, turn away and settle back in to what they have become accustomed to because this part of the journey takes time, direct and intentional effort and prioritization. But . . .
When we choose to invest in being able to hold our mind in the present moment which is the primary concept of mindfulness, while it may take time to create this new default, with practice, it makes all the difference.
Today, I look forward to sharing with you three components about why choosing to be actively Present in your everyday life is a pursuit worthy of your time and investment: (1) how to strengthen and deepen our ability to be present, (2) the benefits, and (3) what being present looks like in our lives.
First, what is Presence?
Paradoxically, being present is to free ourselves from our mind. As Eckhart Tolle teaches in his internationally acclaimed first book on the subject, The Power of Now, “The good news is that you can free yourself from your mind. This is the only true liberation.” But again, back to the question: What is Presence?
Presence is to be free of thought as explained by Tolle (94). “You are still, yet highly alert. The instant your conscious attention sinks below a certain level, thought rushes in. The mental noise returns; the stillness is lost.”
How then can we hold ourselves free of thought if we have to go about our days using our minds, you may be wondering? Well, it begins, as Tolle again teaches, with being deeply rooted within yourself. Being deeply rooted is something that you don’t have to search for. It has always been within you, you simply need to return to it.
“We might think that we are stuck with the mind we have. That it’s not capable of change, but habits can be unlearned. The mind can let go and our lives can be transformed.” —Andy Puddicombe
How then do we change our mind? How do we discover what resides within us already but has been obscured?
Begin to welcome new habits into your daily life, little, simple, but regular habits each day:
- Meditate. Whether guided (which for me is much easier and offers a motivation to sit down with a voice and simple guidance, I use Headspace), or on your own. Explore this detailed post of ideas for meditation. Each day, beginning with 1 minute sessions and gradually work up as you feel ready. Currently, I am meditating 10 minutes each day but it has taken me nearly 15 years to be able to do this as it took time for me to find teachings and guidance that help me make sense of what I was doing, how to do it (quite simple really, I was overthinking it – à la, a habit of the constant ‘thinking’ that once I realized what that meant, made it easier for me to become an observer of my thoughts, not ‘stop’ them as often is misunderstood about meditating).
- Become aware of wanting more – anything outside of yourself – more love, more ‘toys’, more clothing, more money, seeking more to feel more ‘fulfilled’. Once you become aware of this habit that has been taught to us by a culture swarming with advertisements and competition due to comparison, we can then catch ourselves and step back from these wants. In the moment we catch ourselves, we are present. We are practicing what is will consistent awareness bring us the fulfillment we errantly thought acquiring these outside ‘things’ would bring us.
- Let go of judgment – anytime we are casting an opinion about someone else’s choice, behavior, an event, we are not accepting it as it is. Instead of judging, become an observer. Deepen your critical thinking skills as you ask more questions to better understand an instance in which, in the past, you may have immediately jumped to judgment.
- Let go of negativity – similarly to casting judgment, when we are negative about any situation, even ourselves, we are not accepting the moment, the situation, the person, as it/they/we are. Letting go of negativity doesn’t mean there is only one other option – ubiquitous optimism, no, no. What letting go of negativity does is enable you to practice awareness so that you don’t step back into that bad habit, and provides you space to hold yourself in the observer’s seat. Negativity is a form of judgment, so again, instead of jumping, explore. Choose to understand rather than castigate or blame, which brings me to . . .
- Refrain from blaming – Deepak Chopra shared in his recent book Abundance that one of the bad habits we may have welcomed into our lives if we are not living in abundance which is to say we are not living in simple awareness is to blame. When we blame we again are not accepting what is, we are not problem-solving, and we are not constructively exploring to find the lesson so we can move forward well. Whether we are blaming others or ourselves, blaming is a bad habit to let go for good.
- Accept the now. Accept what is. This doesn’t mean you cannot change it, but the first step toward changing it is understanding how you were unconsciously contributing to it, and we gain consciousness by stepping and living each day by being fully present.
- Acknowledge you have a relationship with your pain-body and choose to let go of it. Eckhart Tolle’s term ‘pain body’ is tied to our unconscious reliance on letting the ego run the show in our lives. The ego dislikes the unknown, but that is exactly how we let the pain-body go. The pain-body is addicted to just that, pain – feeling it, causing it, creating it. “The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.” Tolle goes on to say that “the pain that you create now is always some form of non-acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is . . . the more you are able to honor and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering —and free of the egoic mind.”
- “Attend to the practical aspects of life” and then just live in the present moment, open to what might happen, not forcing, not expecting, and bringing your full and true self to the moment each time.
I wanted to conclude with the last item on the list, because as over-simplistic as it may sound, it really is that simple. We make life and living well far too complicated. On this last point, Tolle writes, “Say ‘yes’ to life—and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.” Saying yes to life is to be in the only place you can be every single minute, in the present moment, in the Now and not bringing to this moment the past or the future two places you will never be.
~The above list is an overview of practices and approaches that will enable you to live fully in the Present moment. To explore the concepts shared more deeply, I recommend reading any of the books linked above along with The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle as well, the fourth book in his five book series on the topic of Presence. Now let’s take a look at the benefits you will experience in your daily life.
The Benefits of living fully in the Present moment:
“An Empty sort of mind is valuable for finding pearls and tails and things because it can see what’s in front of it. An Overstuffed mind is unable to.” —The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff
One of the most light-hearted, but deeply instructive books on being Present and its many gifts is The Tao of Pooh. A handful of years ago upon being introduced to this gem of a book (originally published in 1982), I was inspired to share a podcast episode on the 7 Life Lessons that spoke to me at that time as learned from the book (I’ve linked the episode below). And while I was still navigating the first steps of understanding why being Present was so powerful and how to become more Present, this book helped nudge me along my way.
What I hope to do today is ease your mind that unlike so many new skills, learning and embodying the daily practice of being Present takes time and while we can find ourselves engrossed in the Present moment while engaged in certain activities and pastimes we love, every moment of our lives is not spent doing these enjoyable tasks. Life, the have-tos, the routines, the work to pay the bills happens too. However! We may at first think we cannot make these unwanted tasks joyful and hold ourselves in the Present moment (as our mind wants to wander quickly to the weekend or to our plans that evening), but this is why learning how to be Present takes time because I have good news for you, you can be fully Present in all moments of your life, and it is in doing so, that you gain one of the most awesome benefits.
7 Life Lessons from The Tao of Pooh, episode #237
- You see all all that is around you, experiencing it fully and discover beauty everywhere and in nearly everything which elevates the quality of your everydays.
- Anxiety dissipates because anxiety can only be felt when we are not in the present moment. We are either living in the past or the future.
- Your self-awareness and self-knowledge becomes stronger and you are more quickly able to ascertain what you are feeling and accurately pinpoint why.
- You begin to live healthier because you are living mindfully, mindful of what you eat because you savor and slow down, mindful of how you feel when you exercise and when you don’t, so that caring for your body well becomes a priority.
- Your senses, each one becomes more attuned and accurate and thus you are more aware of your physical environment, making better decisions, observing others and their intentions more clearly.
- You begin to discern who are people you want to spend time with as you become more clear about why you are drawn to certain people, and refrain from repeated unhealthy choices.
- You enjoy your own company because you begin to heal yourself as you begin to return to what is true, your true self and share yourself with the world while respecting yourself, setting boundaries and creating a life that nurtures your well-being. (This recent IG post from Alex Elle, author of How We Heal shares succinctly the many gifts we give ourselves when we begin to heal, and through being Present, through meditation to strengthen the mind, the healing begins.)
- You begin to cultivate a life that brings calm which reduces your stress and deepens your true contentment in your everyday life. Read more about the power of calm in our daily lives in this Monday Motivational post.
In many ways the benefits I shared above reflect what living in the Present moment looks like in our daily lives, but I wanted to tether out even more specifically what living in the Present is as we move through our days and encounter regular and constant unknowns and events out of our control.
I want to begin by saying, beginning the journey of choosing to practice the skill of Presence in our daily lives is more difficult initially. I share this from experience as I mentioned above earlier in this post, and especially if you are the only one in your life who is exploring how to welcome Presence into your daily practice, it can be hard to continue forward when others don’t live in such a way.
With that said, that is why TSLL Community is a great place to visit when you need a community that does value this life quality. In each month’s A Cuppa Moments with TOP Tier Members I pose at least one question for our monthly conversation that encourages each of us to explore our own lives and share a response. Sometimes it is sharing what we have learned and how we have incorporated a particular way of living that nurtures contentment into our lives and other times it is sharing ahas discovered through mistakes. Whatever is shared, it is with a community of people who value honoring our true selves, being vulnerable and brave as we each discover and savor our own unique journeys whilst celebrating others’ journeys as well.
So what does being Present look like?
While each of our lives will be unique, below are daily activities and/or approaches in awareness that you may incorporate:
- A dedicated meditation practice that is tailored to what holds you in the Present moment. Some may only practice once a day when they have a quiet moment while others may bookend their days.
- Taking a pause when presented with new information, reading an unwanted email, text or receiving a phone call or message that disrupts the day, to gather your breath, taking intentional deep breaths so that you choose to respond when you are ready rather than react. (Learn more about the difference between responding vs. reacting here.)
- Practicing simple awareness as defined by Deepak Chopra, the space/gaps between your thoughts. Consciously let yourself just be in the moment without having a thought about what you are witnessing. Just be present and open.
- Embracing and accepting what is: uncertainty of what will happen tomorrow, or anytime in the future, in ten minutes for example.
- No longer are you comparing yourself and your life to anything or anyone else. This is to rest your Presence in awareness and acceptance. Knowing you and where you are is enough. You gather inspiration rather than be lead to jealousy or envy, anger or frustration.
- Becoming aware of your breathing and how you breathe. By simply focusing on your breath, you are in the Present moment. Begin to breathe more deeply, especially during moments of heightened stress as physiologically, due to the effect deep breathing has on the Vagus nerve, you will become more calm, simply by breathing more intentionally and deeply. Read #7 on this post/episode – How to Live a Life that Nourishes Your Brain, episode #336
- Choose to consciously savor everyday events: your morning rituals, your food, your time at work doing what gives you purpose even if it is exhausting and difficult, time outside – see, hear, feel it all – the sounds, the seasonal beauty, etc., sitting down and doing one thing at a time.
I know over the past couple of years, I have given much attention to cultivating contentment directly through mindfulness practices, but I share what I have discovered with you because I have seen the positive transformation in my own life, changes and improvements I never thought would be possible. And part of the reason I initially never thought such peace of mind, such grounded contentment in my everydays would be attained was because what I was errantly being taught through concrete methods of trying to control everything from scripting what I might say, and do certain things when was counter-intuitive to the reality of life. We can no more control anything beyond ourselves than we can control the weather, and to think we can is a fool’s pursuit and to waste the precious time we have in our one and only life.
The beautiful paradox of contentment, as I shared in episode #339, is that through letting go, we actually gain what we have been seeking all along. It is when we are Present and consciously, or as meditation instructor Andy Puddicombe describes it, “Plugged into the Present moment . . . that everything is observed with more clarity. The foggy mist dissipates and everything each of our senses encounters becomes clear.” And when our minds are clear, we gain clarity and begin making the best decisions for the life that honors our true selves. And when we begin to honor ourselves through our decisions, our courage and our awareness, we begin to cultivate a life that nourishes our well-being daily. The stress becomes less and any stress that does arise, we now have the tools to combat it effectively without causing more or extended stress and/or any pain to ourselves or others. We see unwanted moments as gifts to teach us something we need to learn, and this is also how we strengthen our mindfulness practice. We no longer are resisting, but accepting and by responding rather than reacting, we are able to navigate constructively through and past these moments. And it all begins by choosing to strengthen the skill of Presence, thus a very powerful skill indeed.
I will leave you with one last thought from a recent meditation session:
“It’s [in] only really getting comfortable being in this space, this place right now that we can really discover a genuine sense of contentment.” —Andy Puddicombe
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
~Brown Butter Portobello Tortellini and Sage
Download the episode
2 thoughts on “350: The Skill of Presence and Why It is at the Core of True Contentment”
Shannon, late to listening to this podcast but it was exactly what I needed. Challenging myself with the new partime job brought back all my self doubts. Your words while hiking with Scout brought things into perspective. During the height of the pandemic, December 2020, I had all is within tattooed on my wrist, my first tattoo at 65. 😀. But it was a reminder to myself, I have got this, I can do this, be alone but be strong, dig deep and find the answers. But that being said, I still need reminders and help along the way. Thank you once again for pushing me in the right direction.
As someone who doesn’t have any tattoos, your phrase would be one I could see myself having. What a beautiful and powerful reminder. And so true! It’s an ongoing journey, and because we dare to live fully, we have new opportunities to grow which is why having the foundation you have within is crucial to return to as we gain our balance anew. You will and are finding your footing in a new arena. Grateful you have time to journey outdoors with Scout to clear the mind, gain your footing and return to the conscience awareness of how powerful and liberating (i.e. stress reducing) being Present can be. Wishing you a wonderful week and thank you for your comment. 😌💛💛