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.”

involved

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.

Messing with Mindfulness

Living in the moment is all the rage. Being present without thought of past or future but only embracing what is in front of you now is a mantra I have heard often. I know that I live through time too much. I rarely stop and seek the aroma along the journey. I have mixed feelings about being totally present. Mindfulness can lead to obsessive self interest – the selfies culture that records the nuance and minutiae springs from being hyper aware of ‘now’ in what I see as unhealthy behaviour. But being mindful in a difficult conversation removes the edges of anxiety and emotion. I can see the discussion unfolding in front of me like a hockey game – I get to be part of the broadcast crew (neutral but interested).

I tend to try presencing when I am alone on a journey. Driving across the prairies can be monotonous so I meditate on what I am encountering. How is the scenery changing. the geology?the topgraphy? the surface of the road? How many cars come towards me in 2 minutes? Where are they going? I have seen some amazing stuff when I turn my attention to the moment rather on the past, the future or some fantasy. Fifteen pronghorn antelope crossed the highway in front of me, at a full gallop, and without breaking stride dipped under the bottom strand of a 3 wire fence. I have witnessed red tailed hawks hunting in pairs, sunlight glistening on a canola field and for a stretch of 32 km, not another car in sight.

The journey is interesting and when I live in the current situation, the destination magically gets closer faster. It is like when I tell my grandkids that if “they go to sleep, I will take a shortcut” magic. Time’s elastic nature slows in the moment a speeds in the aggregate. I don’t gaze down the highway or wonder about what is in the rear view mirror. I am sure that my focus is sharpened when I don’t try hold too much time simultaneously. When I walk a familiar path, after the first 10 minutes, I find I can fall into the rhythm that I am hearing in the here and now.

I don’t practice mindfulness all the time. I find forcing it exhausting, when around more than one other person. I can’t manage it when I feel there is deadline or I am brushed with rush. I haven’t figured out where it fits in my creative or athletic processes and if I have limited control over the situation I find it impossible.

The mind and time shifting properties of meditating on this moment are overblown and under appreciated depending on the messenger. Like everything I encounter, it is easy to say and harder to do but today as I journey across the city on foot, I am open to what those minutes will offer.

Make Today Mindfully Remarkable,
B

Present

Progress isn’t solely defined by the ending. It is also about each step in the journey. Each day means another 24 hours have passed and if I miss the experience because I am waiting for some arbitrary period to pass – 168 hours, a month, a year, a decade I never get it back. If I choose to celebrate the moments or at least be aware that they are with me and that in each one there could be some magic then my life will be truly lived. Each second is fleeting and I can’t desperately strive to recognize the importance of each but I can set my heart to a different setting that is sensitive to my surroundings and my interactions. Rather than living through time towards the net appointment, the next vacation, the next birthday I can choose to live in time; to be globally present with myself, the world around me and the people beside me. I know people who are very good at being present and I always feel that they respect me. Does that mean that if I am living for the next minute that they feel I am disrespecting them. My beloved sees things when we walk together that I totally miss because I am focused on getting where we are going. She always gets there too but enjoys the surroundings and the pace much more than me.

How do I begin being more present? It would seem that by choosing to be here, now and then choosing again and again would be a start. If I set out today with a talisman; a reminder on my wrist, to be present now and every time I feel it or touch it that I focus on that intention I might have a chance of holding myself still enough to embrace the here and now.

 

Make Today Remarkable  by making each moment remarkable,

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.

 

present

 

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

 

The Road Less Gravelled

roadI was writing to congratulate a friend about a momentous change they just made in their career and was encouraging him to be excited by the journey. (A lesson I am constantly trying to learn and incorporate). Both of us, like many I know, are destination oriented. As I was typing (pecking really) I misspelled traveled (or spell check did) and it became gravelled. When I reread the sentence it sound more appropriate.

For the true urbanites, the Free Dictionary defines gravelled as; To apply a surface of rock fragments or pebbles or stones to a road. Gravel gives you traction on the road, especially in dangerous or difficult conditions. It allows you to think about something other than the road you are travelling because it keeps you between the  ditches and on the straight and narrow.

Maybe a little less gravel and a little more attention would help us focus on the present; the journey and appreciate how we are getting there rather than just on arriving.

I have a 3000 km drive next week and when I get back to Calgary a headlong rush to complete 4 projects before the end of April.  Maybe the lesson applies to both.