Present or Not?
Being Somewhere other than where you are
So, you’re out for a walk.
The sun is set against a blue sky.
You can feel a gentle breeze as it rustles the leaves on the trees. A nearby stream splashes and runs over some rocks…you can hear the water dancing.
But where are you?
Or, put another way, where is your mind?
Is it bathing in the sensory experiences of the moment or is it elsewhere planning the next meeting, worrying about the next bill or even revisiting a memory of yesterday?
As human beings, we can be physically in one place and mentally dancing around other times, places and emotions.
Not that this is a bad thing, just that it can be an inconvenient thing.
Like many of you, I might go for a walk to clear my head, reflect, and plan.
As I write this I am sitting in the sun in some nearby woods.
But, and here’s the thing.
I am not present in the woods.
I am present with the words I am allowing to tumble onto this page.
The point I am making is one about attention and the ability to make it an intention to place my attention on what I am choosing to do - now - moment to moment.
Life is a sequence of moments.
When we reflect on our lives, our minds create a narrative which strings these moments together, like pearls on a necklace.
We have no power over the moments that have passed or those yet to be.
We only have the now, the present, fleeting, passing moment.
“Everyone knows what attention is. It is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seems several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought.” WIlliam James
Why spoil a good walk by thinking?
If my intention is to give attention to a walk in the woods, then surely the rambling thoughts that tumble and fall like the nearby stream should be allowed to flow without my becoming attached to them.
If my intention is to give attention to being in the woods, then surely I’ve no need to label or comment on what I sense. I simply need to acknowledge and let the experience flow through me.
“The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind: the witnessing presence.”
― Eckhart Tolle
Being Now is important for your mental health
"Neuroscience is showing that our minds wander 46.7 percent of the time," - Allan Goldstein, University of California, San Diego Center for Mindfulness
We are at the mercy of our own evolution here. Being aware of what “may” be lurking in the grass could be a simple distraction 99 times out of 100, but that one time, it may save your life.
The fact is that “not being now” or not being able to manage our distractions is linked to increased levels of stress and anxiety.
"My opinion is we're training ourselves to live in this state of continuous partial attention. We're constantly moving from one focus to another, as a result of our technology these days. We're constantly on the lookout for the vibration of our cellphones or the notification of a new email." - Allan Goldstein
Learn to give intention to your attention.
What are you choosing to focus on?
What distractions are you willing to tolerate and why?
Learn to stop for a moment and simply BE NOW.
Focus on your breathing and your breath, allowing all your thoughts, labelling, predictions, expectations, and memories to simply flow; to pass by without any comment or judgement.
Pay attention to what you can see, hear, and feel without needing to categorise, judge or have an opinion.
Of course, this takes practice, but so does anything worthwhile. Any skill you have honed has taken time and effort to reach any level of proficiency.
Since this skill can literally change your life, isn’t it worth the effort?
People believe themselves to be dependent on what happens for their happiness; they don't realize that what happens is the most unstable thing in the universe. It changes constantly....
They look upon the present moment as either marred by something that has happened and shouldn't have or as deficient because of something that has not happened but should have. Accept the present moment and find the perfection that is untouched by time. - Eckhart Tolle
Thanks for reading
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