Creating Presence: One Step at a Time
Being present in our lives can help us create more intimate and meaningful relationships. It can help us make better choices, to handle our emotions with less reactivity and more responsiveness. It can help alleviate suffering.
One way I avoid being present is by procrastinating. For me, there are two kinds of procrastination: the normal kind, where I put off action, and the mental kind, where I fight the task ahead of me, even though I am going to do it, by dreading it. For the normal kind, I use a lot of energy avoiding the task. I chastise myself. I am not living in the now. I am paying attention to avoiding in the future.
When I am procrastinating mentally, I suffer. I think of the task to be done, I worry about it, I worry about getting it done. I live in the future, and the task becomes even larger than life.
The way to stop it, for me, is to remember “one step at a time.” It works like this in my yoga practice: There are some poses that are harder than others (and which they are can change from day to day). I dread the harder ones. I think about the poses I will do between the current one and the harder one, oh there are only two more poses before the hard one. Or I can remember one step at a time. I will do the current pose, and be present for it. Then I will do the next pose, and be present for it. One pose at a time. When I get to the hard one, I do it, and am present for it, and before I know it, I have finished the hard pose, without undue suffering. I do this by staying in the present, one step at a time.
Other ways I have used to become more present in my life:
- Focus on your breathing. Pay attention to the breath, as it moves in and out of your body. Notice the small pause after the exhale, before the inhale.
- Body scan: Notice each part of your body in turn. Notice where you are holding tension. If you like, release the tension by contracting that muscle, and then releasing it. Continue scanning your body, coming back again and again to the tight areas, and loosening them again and again.
- Meditation: counting breaths, repeating a mantra, chanting.
- Concentrating on something enjoyable. For me: piano playing, or listening to a live concert. For you, maybe running. Or yoga. Or music. You decide.
I’d love to hear what works for you. And I’d love to hear the results: what happens for you when you are more present.