in the world

What Does It Mean To Be Present?

How present are you in your own life?

Are you present to the world around you? How about the people around you? How present are you to your acquaintances, to your loved ones, to yourself?

We’re all capable of being present, at least some of the time.

Even before I started working at this stuff in a serious way, I was often able to be present when I needed to. But sometimes, even these days, I find myself drifting off or forgetting that I’m here.

Presence oscillates. Sometimes it’s here, sometimes it fades a little. I don’t even think we’re built to be present 100% of the time.

But to be present just a little more? We all have room for that. Actually, once you get into the habit of trying to be more present you’ll find your capacity is pretty great. To notice you’ve been absent and gently welcome yourself back is a nice start.

For me, being present means feeling grounded in your body. It means being receptive to the person, or people, in front of you. A big part of being present means being aware of what’s going on in your heart: do you feel tender right now? a little closed off? what are you noticing in there?

We all want to feel more whole, more sane. We all want to feel that we belong. In moments of presence and quiet I start to believe we are all more whole, more sane than we think we are. I certainly believe we all belong.

A Matter Of Kindness

I used to think being present was a matter of trying hard, and wrestling with countless, urgent thoughts. And if you’re thinking that too, I want you to know–it’s not about that.

I used to think no matter how much I meditated, or tried to be mindful, that I was never doing enough. That I wasn’t devoted enough, or smart enough to ever get it. These days I’m so much kinder towards myself because I know that’s all untrue. It’s not true about me, and it’s not true about you either.

Sometimes it’s simply enough to hear birdsong outside your window and remember, “Oh, it’s Spring.”

What does being present mean to you?

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  • Reply NJ April 25, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Being present means feeling this very moment for me. It’s harder with each coming year to stop for a second and breathe the present. Thank you for this post.

    • Reply Dave Rowley April 25, 2016 at 10:53 pm

      Hi NJ,
      “Feeling this very moment’ That’s so beautiful. I’m sorry it seems harder to be able to stop and breathe and be present. Keep trying anyway, every moment offers a new chance!

  • Reply Brittany April 25, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    Beautiful x I notice myself when I’m caught up with technology and I am the opposite of present. I’m like a walking zombie. I have to ground myself and get back into reality. Loved the post <3

    • Reply Dave Rowley April 25, 2016 at 10:54 pm

      Hi Brittany,
      Oh, yeah–technology is a tough one isn’t it? I’ve done the walking zombie thing too. Ground yourself and get back into reality is great advice 🙂

  • Reply Uma Srinivas April 25, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    This made me think! well i don’t know the answer….good one!

    • Reply Dave Rowley April 25, 2016 at 10:55 pm

      Hi Uma,

      Me too! It made me think, and I don’t know the answer either, at least, not the full answer. 🙂

  • Reply Rica@ Yoga Mat Monkey April 26, 2016 at 2:50 am

    I agree, we are not really built to remain present, but we can definitely benefit from more time in the now. I do love to daydream, however. And those little journeys are great for me creatively and emotionally. Thanks for another amazing post, Dave!

    • Reply Dave Rowley April 27, 2016 at 3:59 pm

      Hi Rica!
      I’m a day dreamer too 🙂 I think that’s an important part of us, like our capacity to be present. While being more present grounds us in reality, and contributes to healing, we also have so many other rich and valuable ways of being in the world.

  • Reply Lisa April 26, 2016 at 4:58 am

    This is something I definitely need to read as a mother and a wife 🙂 I get so caught up in daily duties and work, and I need to sit back, breathe, and be present 🙂 Thank you!


    • Reply Dave Rowley April 27, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      Hi Lisa,
      Oh, I know what you mean! We have two young sons and it can be overwhelming at times. Taking a few moments when you can to pause and be present can be so helpful.

  • Reply Jess April 26, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Presence is so important nowadays I think. But then I guess it can mean different things to different people. Thanks for sharing this – it’s made me realise my version of presence is different to yours.

    I see it as acknowledging my surroundings and appreciating life in a slower way.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Reply Dave Rowley May 2, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      Hi Jess,

      “it’s made me realise my version of presence is different to yours.”

      That’s wonderful! It’s so important that we explore and find our own relationship to presence, and to really experience what that means for us!

  • Reply Mosab Alkhteb April 26, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Being present, just like what you said, is a matter of respect for the person that you’re interacting with. Sometimes when we’re supposed to spend time with ourselves we start to drift away, worrying about the future or planning for something, or even worse; living in the past, regretting our mistakes and beating ourselves up.

    Of course being present 100% of the time is impossible, also it’s not that good, we need a time to be drift away and think about all these other stuffs in our lives, we need to listen to what our own mind is trying to tell us.

    Some of us are absent because we’re inside our own head judging every single thing we do, insecurity basically! And that’s destructive, because while not being present because you’re thinking about a different subject can be harmful, thinking about our own flaws is much more worse and unproductive at all.

    Also I would like to mention that most of those who “drift away” and struggle to be present are creative people, seriously! They’re able to think very deep and they have an urge to think deep even if they’re in an environment where they’re supposed to be present.

    • Reply Dave Rowley May 2, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      Hi Mosab,

      It’s so true what you say, here: “Sometimes when we’re supposed to spend time with ourselves we start to drift away, worrying about the future or planning for something, or even worse; living in the past, regretting our mistakes and beating ourselves up.” It can be hard to maintain presence as we are pulled in so many directions. For me, the answer to that is to develop some kind of daily practice that helps us to build up our ability to remain present when life presents us with distractions.

      I agree with you that there needs to be time for a little daydreaming and creativity, that’s such an important part of who we are and needs to be celebrated. Thanks for your thoughtful response!

  • Reply Renee April 26, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    It means being in the moment! I try to do this especially when i with my grandchildren and my kids. I try to stop and really enjoy the moment so it will be etched in my memories forever…We all are so busy and don’t have time to eat together as a family or just sit calmly by ourselves and read, we must do that whenever possible.

    • Reply Dave Rowley May 2, 2016 at 6:31 pm

      Hi Renee,
      I love what you said about your grandchildren, and kids. My wife and our two boys are such a big motivation for me to be as present as possible. So I can soak up all the goodness that comes from being with people I love, and as you say, to etch these wonderful moments into memory.

  • Reply Emily April 27, 2016 at 12:32 am

    Being present means living in the moment, taking in the people and places around you and not bring distracted by the millions of other things you have to do.

    • Reply Dave Rowley May 2, 2016 at 6:33 pm

      Hi Emily,
      I love your description. Especially about ‘taking in’ what’s around us, of really engaging with the people and places we come into contact with.

  • Reply Sidney Aldaine April 27, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Being present is the very first step to enjoying every moment of your life! Lovely!

    • Reply Dave Rowley May 8, 2016 at 12:43 am

      Hi Sidney,
      Yes, and what a beautiful first step to take 🙂

  • Reply LizCasteel April 27, 2016 at 11:15 am

    I agree and love how you brought up being kind to oneself. That is one of my opportunities and to simply start with “That is a lie” is a great tip. I am definitely incorporating that into my routine. I would have to say that being present means calming my mind chatter and focus on what is happening around me whether it be interacting with family, enjoying the sunrise with my morning coffee, or finding peace when doing yoga. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Dave Rowley May 2, 2016 at 6:35 pm

      Hi Liz,
      I’m so glad that idea of self kindness resonated for you (that topic is going to be a focus on the blog over the next few months). I love your list of things you like to focus on, and be present to. Sunrise + coffee sounds a very pleasing way to start the day!

  • Reply Moe April 27, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Being present means taking a step back and enjoying the moment, knowing that it will pass. That way I feel content after the experience has passed.

    • Reply Dave Rowley May 2, 2016 at 6:37 pm

      Hi Moe,
      “taking a step back” is such wonderful advice. We spend so much time rushing forward, it’s so important to find a way to slow down and bring ourselves back.

  • Reply Cole April 27, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    To me being present means really engaging with the people you’re with, or really focusing on the task at hand, rather than thinking about something else.

    • Reply Dave Rowley May 2, 2016 at 6:38 pm

      Hi Cole,
      Yes, ‘engaging’ and ‘focussing’ are both such important aspects of being present!

  • Reply Mariana May 2, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    Interesting as i’ve never stopped to think about it. I can’t even define what’s being present for me… :O time to do some thinking…

    • Reply Dave Rowley May 3, 2016 at 12:59 am

      Hi Mariana,
      Well, that’s great! I’m so glad you stopped by and read the post 🙂

  • Reply Keli May 2, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    Absolutely loved your post! I love the concept of “presence” and mindfulness.

    • Reply Dave Rowley May 3, 2016 at 1:00 am

      Hi Keli,

      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Reply Stefan - The Millennial Budget May 3, 2016 at 12:26 am

    Being present to me is living in the moment. This means enjoying what is right in front of you rather than worrying about everything else.

    • Reply Dave Rowley May 3, 2016 at 1:01 am

      Hi Stefan,
      ‘Living in the moment’ — sounds great to me! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Reply Paula Niziolek May 5, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Presence can mean so many things and I think the biggest one in our world right now is putting down the devices and tuning in to what’s going on around you. How often are we in a room with a group of people and most are simply staring at their phones, even while holding a conversation? That’s something I’m trying to be very mindful of anymore. Also, for me, presence means actually LISTENING to the other person talking and not just waiting for your turn to speak. Be present. Be engaged.

    • Reply Dave Rowley May 8, 2016 at 12:37 am

      Hi Paula,

      Oh yes, so important to be able to put down those devices. It seems to be getting way out of hand how much time we spend on them, isn’t it? I love what you say about really listening, and being fully there for what people say rather than thinking up what we will say when it’s ‘our turn’.

  • Reply Joy May 7, 2016 at 5:07 am

    It is my intention to be as fully present in this moment as possible for me and I do inner work to learn to open my heart and expand my understanding to be more fully present, with love and gratitude. To me, presence is about where I place my attention and energy and also has to do with noticing all of the energies weaving into a moment or experience, as they are (instead of how I wish they were or how any expectations or judgments might label them).

    • Reply Dave Rowley May 8, 2016 at 12:42 am

      Hi Joy,
      Doing that work to open the heart is so important. When we’re able to open our heart there’s a fullness to our presence and people really notice that, and are affected by it in a good way. I love what you say about placing your attention and energy in a conscious way and noticing how energies in any given moment ‘weave’ together (lovely term you used there 🙂 )

  • Reply Jane Duncan Rogers May 8, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    I think we ARE presence itself – that means we can’t not be ‘built for presence’. When we know that, deep down, and know that this underlies everything that happens to us, there is a sense of presence always available in every moment (so long as the mind is quiet enough in that moment to realise and feel it). It does take practice, or at least it did for me after the initial realisation. So right now, as I type this, it is presence present (!) showing up as a typing human called Jane. Great post, thanks and I would have missed it if you hadn’t sent me the newsletter. Thank you!

    • Reply Dave Rowley May 9, 2016 at 6:50 pm

      Hi Jane,

      What a rich and beautiful response! What you said here: “I think we ARE presence itself – that means we can’t not be ‘built for presence’. ” is truer than how I put it. I can still get caught up in the difficulties of touching that awareness from this physical body that likes to duck and weave its way into distraction. I love what you wrote as it provides an antidote to that habitual distraction. Oh, and I’m so glad you arrived via the newsletter! 🙂

  • Reply Psychic Nest May 13, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    Hi Dave,

    This is a pretty interesting topic. Many times we hear about being present but really, what does it mean? For me, it means to be physically, emotionally and spiritually in tune with the person and the situation. I have noticed that when I struggle to achieve that, it is a sign of emotional blocking.

    Emotional blocking is the situation when we prefer to distract ourselves from a situation that bothers us emotionally. So for example, when I am not present when someone is trying to hold a conversation with me, it means that there is something I subconsciously avoid.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, great post indeed!


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