Being Present

The greatest defense against passivity, mediocrity, and ambivalence might be presencing. The guru on being present, Peter Senge, in Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Society, and Organizations, states “Too often, we remain stuck in old patterns of seeing and acting. By encouraging deeper levels of learning, we create an awareness of the larger whole, leading to actions that can help to shape its evolution and our future.”

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But it takes muscle and determination to break our evolutionary responses of fight or flight – neither of which live, well, in the moment. As we simply react rather than rest in and reflect on the circumstances, we reinforce habitual behavior (hear certainty) that stifles or worse strangles curiosity and learning.

While most of the time we aren’t in the kind of danger that requires the amygdala response I, frankly, suck at being present. My tendency is to live through time rather than in it. I am looking towards the next moment, the next appointment, the next thing. My attention drifts because I practice distraction instead of attention. Most people I encounter, from 7-year-old grandchildren to 30 something postmoderns are seeking the next stimulus and then the next. We bypass opportunities in favor of a new fix. Technology and social media have been built to serve this pathology through a nasty co-dependent relationship. I, like so many, spend far too much time seeking the next thing; a like, a friend, a thumbs up, an emoji. According to a post on Networlding says ” We’re obsessed with our phones, a new study has found. The heaviest smartphone users click, tap or swipe on their phone 5,427 times a day, according to researcher Dscout. That’s the top 10 percent of phone users, so one would expect it to be excessive. However, the rest of us still touch the addictive things 2,617 times a day on average. No small number.”
Fight or flight becomes swipe or click with the same consequence; we are missing the moments and the world is spinning past us. Can I intentionally become be more present?
I have written before about the importance of breathing and awareness of breath as an important factor in preparing to live in the now. Recognizing that you involuntarily sustain life through the inhalation and expiration of air should be a dotted line to understanding the miracle of your life. When you ‘marine breathe’ – inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds and remain empty for four seconds, your awareness of each tick as it passes is heightened and is a primer to focus.
I use a couple of exercises to help me stay in the moment. I narrow my view. From the cacophony that is our world, I find stillness and silence. There is a place just behind our attitude, feelings, and prejudices where peace precedes the noise and business of the world. It is in your head and in your heart and regardless of your surroundings, it can be discovered. In the moments leading into a new engagement, a personal discussion, or when I am aware that I need to be prepared, I close my eyes and become aware of the sensation of my own physical presence, my body’s weight,(where am I tense in my sit muscles? am I grounded and sitting erect?). I return to my breath and feel it on the inside of my nostrils. Where does it go when I breathe in? Is there a particular part of my body that is uncomfortable or fidgety? I imagine my breath flowing out to the distractions and calming the sea. If I can envelop myself in an internal silence and stillness for as little as two minutes before a difficult meeting, I can use the energy to stay focused for almost an hour.

After a scheduled discussion or difficult coaching session, I leave a five-minute window to recuperate. I turn my intention back on me. I try to pay attention to what m mind is contemplating. Am I blathering? feeling joy? am I exhausted? I try not to get involved in creating a solution, just observe my own mind in action. If I can give myself permission to take these few minutes for my personal well-being, I am a better coach, consultant, husband, father, and grandfather. If I deny myself the break, I will present a much less interested, compassionate and attentive person because I will be in the room but living someplace else.

Make Today Remarkable, by pracicing presencing,
B

Again this is an easy to say and harder to do practice but I guarantee that if you honestly try it for a week, you will make it a constsnt habit.

Don’t Be Afraid

Are you afraid? Is fear lurking at the edge of your bed ready to latch on when your feet hit the floor? Does it ride on your back all day until you finally fall exhausted into a fitful sleep? It doesn’t need to be the burden we allow it to be. In its best incarnation fear is a gift.

For regular readers you are already anticipating that my first step suggestion for overcoming fear and anxiety is breathing. Before you roll out of bed, after the startle response of the alarm clams, stop and appreciate the stillness of your body. These few moments are a gift in the present and a seed for the future. After you are settled breathe in deeply through your nose and blow out deeply through your mouth. If you are like most people, you have probably just spent 6-10 hours in a shallow breathing state and this first breath begins a cleansing.

Take another slow inhalation and at the top of the breath hold it for just 2 seconds and then release it fully through your mouth. Gauge your mood and mindset and if you are ready slowly roll out of bed and to your feet. Allow yourself the pleasure of finding stability for today by grounding yourself through your feet. Slowly stretch upwards and on another inhale lengthen your spine by lifting your head as if on a string. Breathe in deeply for the count of 7, hold for 4, exhale for 7. Don’t rush, enjoy the inspiration and the slight tension of holding the top of the breath. Repeat 7 times and then slowly step into your day. Remember to breathe deeply throughout the day and when you feel fear crawling up your back, give him a shake and inhale again.

Fear will try to creep in. Or at least what we now call fear. Real fear is the gift that has kept our species alive for millennia. The intuition that something is wrong or something is about to happen that most often we suppress because we are socialized to ignore it. That fear, the immediate recognition that the person on the elevator when the doors open poses a potential threat. Let that gift guide you and let the doors close without excuse and catch the next car. If we learn to trust that gift of fear it will help suppress the other unhealthy kind.

If I am facing a situation that is causing some dread, I take some time (and yes breathe) and visualize the event happening in a positive way with a positive outcome. It doesn’t always happen the way I imagined (but it has) but I don’t go into the moment a bundle of anxiousness. It after all is your imagination that is creating a less pleasant outcome and causing the uneasiness to grow. Turn your thoughts to a better future and you can help create it for yourself.

The practice of shunning unhealthy fear is relentless and incremental. We need to do it every day and as we become more accomplished we can accomplish even more.

B

The Wasted Enterprise of Worry

In the grand scheme of things, I/we tend to worry about stuff that is way outside the span of our control or has already happened and we can’t change history. We do reinvent the past through our faulty memories or a desperate need to reconcile our actions and thoughts but we don’t rewrite it. Worrying is a wasted enterprise in most circumstances yet we can become masters of it. I wonder if worrying begets worrying. If we begin fretting about one thing does it make us more likely to fret about another and a another? Is it possible that we open a floodgate of concern?
I admit that I can be a worry wart if I let my mind go there. Even knowing that the outcome has been decided or I have no influence over the result doesn’t curb the anxiety. If I begin thinking about finances and have concerns about a purchase that I made last week and winder whether it was wise, I am soon wondering about my health or my kids or the state of the world. Full blown, out of control worry ensues and a gale of unnecessary anxiousness begins swirling through my head and I am soon swooning.

I can’t seem to hold the nagging nettles at bay through logic. It doesn’t help to say ” Stop worrying. There isn’t anything you can do about it. Whatever will be, will be.” Rational thought and reasoning doesn’t seem to work. I have tried to blow up the worry with hyperbole. ” What is the absolute worst thing that could happen if …?” ” I blew that chance and I will never get another” ” This headache means I have a tumor”. Intentional exaggeration creates exasperation and rather than showing the ridiculousness of the effort to change the unchangeable it opens a cavern to fall into. I can feel my heart rate rise and my palms get sweaty when I try to trick the worry away.

I have found that breathing through the anxiousness and becoming still and focused on something else lifts the scales and I begin to see reality. I perceive the same circumstances without the edge of concern and fear. I don’t ignore the situation but breathing and meditation brings a softness to the knife edge and the physical and emotional scars don’t get as deep.

My meditation practice is sketchy. When I do it, it is unstable. I fall into a delicious rhythm and then find myself down a rabbit hole of thoughts and need to pull myself out. Breathing in through my nose 1,2,3,4 hold 1,2,3,4, exhale 1,2,3,4 repeat I quell the demon. Listening to the air, feeling it in your nostrils, acknowledging it flow through you arrests the cycle of concern and allows me to catch up and be present, not regretting the past or plotting the future.

Worrying takes my breath away and breathing takes away the worry. I like the symmetry of it.

Make Today Remarkable, by breathing,
B

A Path to Finding Peace

Being the best you can be requires that you listen to critics, hear what they are saying and don’t take it personally. Easy to say much harder to do. I have been accused of taking everything personally? Do you hear that refrain from family, friends, colleagues, strangers, or adversaries?

Assuming a neutral position in the face of negative (or positive) feedback requires significant commitment and ongoing practice. The chaos inside all our heads takes sides very quickly and either rushes to confirm the input or jump into a defensive posture. Ego is involved either that clouds the moment can evaporate. way. You are puffed up by praise (well deserved I am sure) or pounded down by criticism ( undeserved I am sure). But if you can breathe in the assessment without ownership, just recognition that is there then the drama can be held in abeyance. Holding the feedback lightly flushes the crap and opens a place for honest reflection. But again easy to say harder to do.
I am reading a book by Pedram Shojai “The Urban Monk” that is beginning to clear up some of the muck and helping me connect with the inner me that lives in the outside world. I love the idea that I don’t need to go into a hermitage or off to a mountain top to begin to find peace in all situations. I will keep you posted as I learn, struggle, and practice.
For today why don’t we both just continue to be aware of our breath and our stress and see if we can breathe into the gap.

Make Today Remarkable,

B

I’ve Seen Sunshine and I’ve Seen Rain

Summer sunshine and summer storms each bring a freshness to the landscape and a sense of awe to my heart. After days of clouds and rain, we had an amazing thunderstorm last night that left a sheen on everything that is green as the sun rose this morning. There is humidity that we aren’t used feeling here and as the sun reaches its zenith there is a mugginess bit after just a few days of grey, we are all appreciating the light. Being grateful and expressing gratitude for this small pleasure is heartfelt and heartfilling. I try to be agnostic about the weather but I confess that I feel so much better when the sky is clear and the light casts deep shadows through the trees. There is a peace that sinks in and I can feel it resonating in my head and heart. Thank you for the sunshine that I get to bask in this afternoon.

I try to run, bike or walk regardless of the weather and I have been out during the past wet spell doing all three (I did retreat to a treadmill one time in the past week). But today, I get to ride along the river to my appointments and feel a breeze on my right cheek and sunshine on my left (at least when I am heading east). I am grateful that I have access to such beauty and am able to get out and enjoy it in so many different seasons.

I was able to add a walk in the park this morning, holding hands with my beloved, not so much exercise as reflection and exploration. A second crop of ducklings seem to have hatched (i didn’t know they could have two batches) and the fledglings from the starling, blackbird and flicker nests are winging and feeding and singing their little hearts out. There was evidence of a couple of deer bedding down in the park but this is the first year that we haven’t spotted them feeding and enjoying the sanctuary of the urban park. Maybe they have moved down river to a less populated area. I am thankful that when I meander with my eyes open that I am rewarded with sights and sounds that are unexpected and inspiring. Having an oasis on our doorstep is a blessing that we get to share with grandkids – another thing to be thankful for.

Just thinking about what I am grateful for and acknowledging it here makes me feel better, breathe easier and studies suggest live longer.

Be gregariously grateful today,
B

Past, Present, Future

The past might suck and the future is unknown but we can modify the present simply by being present. We have today and can make the best of each moment.

 

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Henrik Edberg wrote in the Positivity Blog in 2008 ” 7 Awesome Reasons to Be Present, and How to Do It” that greater appreciation and social skills arise from being in the moment (in the conversation).Our creativity and health also improve.

He offers 3 simple steps to practice.

Focus on your breath.

By now, you should be getting really comfortable with breathing exercises and have learned a technique and rhythm that works for you.

Focus on what’s right in front of you.

Or around you. Or on you. Use your senses. Just look at what’s right in front of you right now. Listen to the sounds around you. Feel the fabric of your clothes and focus on how they feel. You can for instance use the summer sun or rain and how it feels on your skin to connect with the present.

Pick up the vibe from present people.

If you know someone that is more present than most people then you can pick his/her vibe of presence (just like you can pick up positivity or enthusiasm from people). If you don’t know someone like that I recommend listening to/watching cds/dvds by Eckhart Tolle like Stillness Speaks or The Flowering of Consciousness. His books work too. But cds/dvds are better than books for picking up someone’s vibe since the biggest part of communication is voice tonality and body language.

Make Today Remarkable, by being present,

B

 

First Step

The first step in any change, any adventure, any relationship is often the hardest to take (not the hardest to do). The second step isn’t much  easier but by the time you get to 3,4,5 you will have created some momentum and even the most difficult steps get easier.

The first step and the hardest in moving from Mired, Mediocre and Miserable to BBM or SSS is to simultaneously believe in yourself and surrender to a higher power. The paradox is achieved by beginning to breathe again. Breath is the restorer, the calmer, the life giver. Breathing clears your mind, opens your heart and creates a glimmer of possibility. Breathing makes everything else possible and yet because it is usually involuntary we give it no consideration.

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Today’s first step and the first step you should take first thing every day is breathing. Greg Richardson (The Spiritual Monk) says “We breathe in, and fresh air fills our lungs. We pause to receive. We acquire the oxygen we need for our hearts, minds, and bodies to continue working. Our sense of smell connects the world around us with the world within us. We breathe out, providing nutrients to the plants around us. We release tensions and toxins, letting go of what is not healthy for us to hold in ourselves. Our breathing reflects the steps we take inward and back out into the world on our spiritual journeys each day.”

Have you forgotten how to breathe? The simplest practice is known as ‘equal breathing’. You should strive to carve 10 minutes out of your day to practice but today begin with 2 minutes. Stand tall or sit up straight. Imagine a string from the top of your head being lifted slightly. Close your eyes or short focus. Breathe in through your nose to the count of 4. 1,2,3,4 and exhale through your nose to 4. Repeat. After 15 times in and 15 times out you should feel calmer and some of the stress in your life will melt. That’s it for today.

Small step that is hard to take. As you progress to a longer cycle and longer intervals you will find a match to your rhythm that will be your daily breathing practice.

 

Make Today Remarkable, by breathing,

B

 

 

 

Bitter and Sweet

There is a young girl, 9 years old, who often asks me ” So, what was your bitter and your sweet yesterday? Last week? Last month?” She offers me a great reminder and one that I need to hear – take some time to reflect. Pause, breathe, appreciate and measure. I wear a talisman that says Breathe and even with it touching my wrist and always being present, I can find myself running to or away all day. So when I am not asked the bitter and sweet question, I need to remind myself.

Bitter -Monday, it was raining here in Oceanside, California all morning. I come to southern California for sunshine so it was disappointing to have clouds hang around until early afternoon. This are is still suffering from a drought so of course my bitter is someone else’s sweet and I did get to see a spectacular lightening show over the ocean and have a remarkable March day full of afternoon sunshine and happy hour on the patio.

Sweet – We picked up my 87 year old mother at the airport. She is still able to travel (with some assistance) and still loves to fly, tour and see and learn new things. Watching her eyes sparkle as she laughs at something silly or talks about our trip to Culver City this week to see a taping of Jeopardy is sweet. Before we left for the airport we saw a lost seal lion pup get rescued (50 this spring just in this area) and headed for the safety and rehabilitation of Sea World. He was terrified and relieved ( my anthropomorphic interpretation) and will survive but alone without his mother. Side note the suspicion is that this coastal region has exceeded carrying capacity for the population and mothers are searching for food deeper and farther from their babies.

What is your bitter and your sweet? Keep a journal for a week and I suspect you will see some of them flow together.

Make Today Remarkable, by pausing, breathing, appreciating and measuring,

B