Why are so many of us exploring mindfulness practices, meditation, and yoga? I believe this is because as the velocity of our lives increases, we seek to create balance by creating some spaciousness in our lives. This is certainly true for me—I want more spaciousness.
In Part 1 of this article I will share with you some steps you can take to be more present, even while living in a fast paced culture. Then, in Part 2, I will share a truly transformative leap you can take that changes the entire game of life. I believe both are necessary—the small steps and then the leap—because when I focus only on being more present, without understanding how to create presence in my life, I inadvertently make myself anxious.
To begin, I want to share my experience. The more tension I have in my life the more I weigh myself down. When I feel weighed down or overwhelmed, one of the most disappointing side effects is that I’m not present, therefore I’m not available to have meaningful and loving connections with people. Without those connections and love in my life, I spiral further into dissatisfaction.
The steps I’ll share with you in Part 1 of this article help me be present and stay more connected with other people—even though life is whirling and rushing all around me. When I want to slow down and connect I can do three things:
1. Return to now
When I’m talking with another person, especially if there is tension or conflict, I can bring the conversation back to now. I do this by asking simple questions of the other person and myself. “What can we do right now in this moment to connect?” “What do I need right now in this moment?” “What do you need from me right now in this moment?”
The power of now is that it represents the greatest opportunity to bring about change. We can’t change the past and we can’t be sure what the future will bring. But we have great opportunity to make this moment the way we want or need it to be.
The challenge for most of us is that we have learned to talk about the past, often as a way to justify what we’re doing in the present. And we have learned to talk about the future, often as a way to threaten (“If you don’t change your behavior I won’t stay with you”), or to cajole, (“It’s no big deal, it won’t happen again, you’ll see, everything will be fine.”)
In Live Conscious, we use the expression, “Return to now,” as a simple reminder to do what Ram Dass wrote about in his famous book, “Remember, Be Here Now.” Most people think the title of that book was “Be Here Now,” but he realized the key is remembering to be here now. And the simplest way we have found to do that is to talk about what’s happening now.
2. Tell fewer stories
The second thing I can do is to stop telling stories. Not all stories and not forever, but when there is interpersonal tension I help myself by telling fewer stories.
Many of my stories are intended to justify my actions or prove the other person was the cause of my current problems. Neither of these helps me reconnect with someone.
Can stories be useful? Sure. For one thing, a story can be a way to reveal more about myself, to make myself vulnerable, to seek to be better understood. But what would happen if I asked myself before telling a story, “What’s my intention behind telling this story?” For one thing, I would be more conscious of what I’m doing. And if I were to ask this question, there are many stories I would not tell.
The other problem with telling stories is that when I do so I often dilute my message—dilute myself. Why not simply state what I want, how I make myself feel, or take responsibility for what I’m projecting onto the other person. All of these bring me back to now.
3. Learn to be present with discomfort
Another reason I avoid being here now is because I may not want to feel negative feelings. So, part of our practice in Live Conscious is creating space to acknowledge how we feel, even when we don’t feel good.
We have developed a three-part model that we refer to as the PRO model. (You can read that article by clicking this link). PRO stands for Pond, River, Ocean. Each one represents an energetic state that we may find ourselves in. The Pond is the state we are in when we are feeling stuck or unresourceful. When in the Pond we often want to get out as a way to escape our discomfort.
I believe that I am often better off if I go into my feelings of discomfort, fully acknowledging them—hopefully in a mature way. The PRO model offers a way to do this. All things are temporary, including my uncomfortable feelings, except when I resist them. When I resist, my discomfort seems to persist.
In summary, Part 1 of this article describes three things I can do to be here now. These steps help me have healthier connections with the people I care about, and this helps me cope better with the velocity and pace of modern life.
In the second part of this article I’ll introduce a fresh perspective, not so much about how to be present, but how to create presence. And, I encourage you to practice what’s in this article in the meantime. The ideas contained above lay the foundation for what’s to come next.