Presence is defined as the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present.
Being present is being in the now, not in the past nor the future.
If there is one thing I could give credit for being responsible for how I exist in the world, my awareness and general sense of peace; it is presence.
When I am present I feel in tune with myself and my surroundings. I feel that I am experiencing life as it is unfolds.
Presence feels calm, clear and balanced.
I no longer feel rattled by much and that’s because I am present.
Don’t get me wrong, I slip up and get caught in streams of thought, but being present means I’m aware and able to catch myself.
I believe ruminating thoughts (a kind of overthinking) e.g. ‘maybe I should’ve done x’ or ‘I wish I didn’t say x’ live in the past. And fears e.g. ‘what if x happens?’ or ‘I don’t think I can cope if…’ statements live in the future.
When you are present you are not holding on to the past and troubling yourself with what cannot be changed, nor are you preparing for a future that you’re yet to experience.
However, we do this all of the time.
I think about the moments missed when we are not present and engaged in life as it stands. Even when doing something such as eating or speaking to a friend we may not actually be there, our mind can often be elsewhere. We are distracted and unable to appreciate the subtleties of life.
As we age we have more responsibility and it’s easy for us to switch on autopilot and become robotic. This means we are just existing and getting on with day to day life, but not actually being present to it. I believe children are experts at being present because their number one priority is to play and have fun, that’s the means by which they explore the world.
If you know any small children just take a moment to observe their behaviour, if they are not fully involved in whatever they are playing with, they may be using their senses to learn about their environment (looking around, tasting and feeling objects, exploring the texture of their food etc.) Kids are present and learning so much. And we all could take a leaf out of their book.
Our environment is forever changing or should I say our perception of it is. Because even if you’ve lived in the same place for decades, I guarantee if you take some time, be intentional and observe what’s going around you, you will notice something different.
I hope this post has inspired you to think about how you can become more present. I owe it a lot and it’s helped with my wellbeing massively. It would be great if presence could do the same for you too. I believe we can make the most out of our day no matter how ordinary it may seem and we achieve that by being present to it.
Here are some ways you can go about maximising the ordinary:
- Breathe (in for 4, hold for 4 out for 6-8 counts)
- Play and have fun
- Have time without your phone
- Grounding techniques (5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell & 1 thing you can taste)
- Eat without distraction
- Have a word to remind yourself to be present (sometimes I say pause in my head when I find myself running away with what is outside of my control).
- Get comfortable with how you feel
- Notice physical sensations that come up for you e.g. when stressed and holding tension in shoulders
- Pay attention to your default (are you someone who continuously thinks about something until it’s done, are you someone who likes to plan for all eventualities)
- Awe walks (Dacher Keltner)*
* The idea of an awe walk is something new to me and I love the philosophy behind it. Dacher Keltner explains that awe is a feeling of presence that transcends our understanding of the world, it feels blissful and promotes wellbeing. He describes the awe walk as an intentional stroll focused on your outer experience. And one of the things he encourages people to do, is to look up at the sky and pay attention to what you notice.
So if there is anything that you take away from this post and if it’s available to you, pause and look at the sky at your next opportunity.