By Nicola Albini, J.D., M.A. -This article originally appeared on August 31, 2017 on huffingtonpost.com
Can you remember the last time you were truly present? When you weren’t splitting your attention between the task at hand and your phone, the media, or thoughts unrelated to the moment?
Your full presence is a generous gift to the world.
Think about how your life would be enhanced if you gave each moment your full presence.
To converse with someone and really hear what they’re saying before you formulate your reply creates spaciousness and room for authentic intimacy.
To attend a meeting and bring yourself 100% into the room with no thoughts of to-do lists or the stack of emails waiting for you opens the door to fresh thought and inspiration and helps others be present as well.
To enjoy every bite of a meal without multitasking while you eat honors the elements, farmers, and the chef who all worked hard to nourish your body. (It also helps your body to digest and assimilate nutrition.)
To spend time with a friend, for the sake of pure enjoyment, without needing or wanting anything from them but the pleasure of their company, is a gift of true love.
Yet, as much as your full presence benefits the world, it benefits you even more. Presence opens the door to your intuition, heart knowledge, and essence. Here are some examples of how:
- Presence is Magnetic -- You are never more attractive than when you are fully present. People want to be near you because it just feels good. Money and opportunity flow in your direction because, by being in the moment, you’re not entertaining fearful and limiting thoughts of the future or past that might block it.
- Presence Increases Happiness -- Being fully present requires mindfulness, which is a well-documented antidote for anxiety, worry, fear, and sadness. Paying attention to the present moment without drifting into the future or past keeps you current with your actual experience, not what you fear might happen or wish had happened differently.
- Presence is Great for Performance -- When athletes talk about being in “the zone” they are actually talking about being fully present. Presence demands focus. Where your focus flows, so the energy goes. You energize what you want to experience by… being in your experience. When you feel restless and impatient, it’s a sign that it’s time to get back to the present moment.
- Presence Expands Productivity -- It’s paradoxical: when we are most rushed for time is when we are least inclined to be present. Yet full presence is exactly what’s required to meet the demands of a deadline. When you allow yourself to take a breath and focus on one thing at a time, you are less inclined to make mistakes. If you are present with the moment, you will be more inclined to get something done quickly and perfectly so you will be free to move onto the next thing.
Staying Present In A Manic Society
Of course, there are many obstacles to being present in our world. Stress and anxiety are two big feelings that can steer us away from the moment, and our essence.
One of my mentors, Dr. Robert Holden, calls ours a “manic society,” which is incapable of stopping, is obsessed with multitasking and is convinced that the faster we go, the closer we come to “winning” at life.
Indeed, most of the struggles I’ve seen in my clients are struggles of the “manic society” mindset. They get too far into the future and lose touch with their essence (which is only available in the present moment). The outcomes they reach in life are often accompanied by anticipation of the future without celebration and acknowledgment what they have accomplished so far.
I’ve noticed the same habit in my own life. After a particularly strong year in business, for example, rather than enjoying my success, I have felt anxiety about meeting or exceeding the same numbers the following year.
The antidote for all of this is, of course, to become present. Presence is a reset for the mind, and it gives space to create the future from the present rather than dragging the past (whether it’s good or bad) into the future with us.
Love is the Only Way to be Present
What has been taught over the ages by the saints and mystics of all religions has now finally widely recognized by our western world: you are either in fear, or you’re in love. These are the two conditions of our existence. And to be in love requires presence... so how do we get there? How do we disrupt patterns of fear and shift into love?
These are some of the practices I use and recommend to my clients:
- Practice mindfulness. – Despite the many books and workshops on this topic, there’s no greater trick to mindfulness than to simply pay attention. When we are mindful, we are snapped out of the trance of autopilot and into the ever-present Now.
- Catch yourself when you find that you are drifting into the past or future. When this happens, come back to your breath, the sounds around you, the quality of light in the room, the sensations in your body.
- Pay attention to your breath. – Breath connects your body with your essence. By focusing your attention on your breath, you are opening the path to your essence.
- Distract yourself less. – Getting bad news, sitting in traffic, waiting in line when you’re already late, and feeling discomfort in the body are some of the un-pleasantries of life that cause us to seek distraction. See if next time something uncomfortable arises, you can be with it… without reaching for your phone! Breathe into the discomfort with your full presence and notice what happens.
- Embrace the feelings. – Every moment has the potential to bring up emotions and feelings, and sometimes we might impulsively want to run away from them because of the thought “They are too much, and I can’t handle this.” What if instead you allow yourself to feel them all the way to completion? What if the moment requires you to actually embrace them and being fully present with them?
- Start the day with breathing and meditation. – Take at least five minutes before the demands of the world come rushing in, to close your eyes to still your mind and breathe. This habit creates a momentum of presence for the rest of your day, month, life.
- Set an intention for the day to be present and return to that intention throughout the day. An affirmation I like to use for this is: “My mind, my body, and my heart are right here.”
The power of full presence to change your life is within your grasp. What practices will you implement to bring your focus back to the moment at hand? What steps will you take to take to ensure you’re enjoying your experiences to the fullest?