Sometimes the world around us can feel jarring. Full of busyness, and obstacles. We are bombarded with messages urging us to strive, maneuver, and push ceaselessly forward on our way to … something.
I say something, because we are rarely presented with a clear picture of what we’re supposed to be striving for. The something is usually packaged in very generic terms like ‘success’, ‘respect’, ‘wealth’, ‘having it all’.
I believe we are all trying to find some sense of meaning in our lives, to make some sense of all this. That we are good people trying to have a good life. Which is a really difficult task given the distractions all around us.
A Different Story
It’s a really unwelcome environment that we have collectively built for ourselves. But there is something within us that whispers a different story. Some part of us that knows we are welcome, that we are connected to something larger, that the possibilities for our lives are boundless.
Learning to become more present is the best way I know to get in touch with that different story. The one that’s being whispered to you underneath all the noise.
When I say become more present I mean something like mindful, but I prefer the word presence. Sometimes, the word mindful comes across as a little clinical and detached. The term presence seems to invite more of us into awareness than just our minds: our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts, even our surroundings.
I actually think all of those things are supposed to be included in the idea of mindfulness, but something got lost in translation.
Working with presence can:
- Encourage you to access your own inner wisdom.
- Create a sense of spaciousness around the issue you are working on.
- Help you disentangle from other peopleʼs, or your own, misplaced expectations.
- Make it easier to recognize your own habitual responses.
- Make new and more skilful responses possible.
- Give you a sense of belonging.
What excites me most about presence is that once you get a taste of being with yourself in this way, it creates curiosity, and a desire to be even more present to your life. Thatʼs what makes this such a beautiful practice.
A Simple Presence Practice
Your hands are highly sensitive. They are a great tool in helping you to be present. A simple starting point when you wish to be more present is to place one hand over the center of your chest and direct your attention there.
Through that simple act you can feel so many things: bone, skin, your breath moving through you, the warmth of your chest, you might even get a sense of your emotional state.
By giving your attention to your hand as it makes contact with the center of your chest, you drop into a state of deeper presence.
You might only stay there for a moment before you drift away again, but this experience of presence is always available. You can access it whenever you choose.
I do this practice countless times each day. It’s my small ritual for coming back to myself when all the distractions of daily life have dragged me away.
It’s a simple and easy way to welcome yourself back home. And it’s kind of addictive. The more you do it, the more you want to do it. Each time you do it, your experience is a little different. You might have a feeling of being soothed, you might feel more energized, you might become aware of tensions dropping away.
When you make this a regular practice you begin to notice subtler things going on underneath the surface–tight spots in your body, relaxed and pleasant sensations, a quiet feeling, an old memory, a thought that has been looping over and over in your mind without your knowing.
Just noticing these things can make a big difference to how you experience your day. Coming back to yourself in this way helps you to feel grounded and makes it easier for you to resist being bounced around on a hectic day. When something throws you off course, doing this practice can make you feel soothed and energized and ready to get back into your routine.
So next time you are feeling overwhelmed (or when you simply remember) try this exercise out. Welcome yourself home, even if only for a moment or two. See how it goes.