How Present Are You?
First, let’s define what it means to be “present.” To be present simply means to be consciously in the “now,” not focused on the past or the future. It means being free from judgment, aware of and able to calmly acknowledge and accept what you hear, see, smell, taste or feel what’s right in front of you – or inside of you, including your own body sensations. It is a heightened state of awareness.
What Does “Not being Present” Look Like?
You’ve undoubtedly experienced taking a trip, arriving at your destination and barely able to recall how you got there. Or sitting through a meeting and being unable to relate to someone else what transpired in that meeting. All of us are guilty of not being present at some time or another.
But, are you present when others speak directly to you? I know that you know when others aren’t present to you. They fidget; they try so hard to keep eye contact that they seem to be staring at you; they say, “uh, huh” or make other non- verbal responses at inappropriate times. The list goes on. But do you ever do this to others? Hopefully not because the consequences can be significant.
What’s the biggest consequence of not being present?
The biggest consequence of not being present can be the stress, anxiety and illness that can come with negative thoughts that stampede through your mind with no bridle to rein them in, unable to choose a more productive and healthy path. In the case of not being present to other people, it can mean the loss of trust and credibility. Not only does our lack of presence feel disrespectful to the other, it can often leave that person feeling sapped of energy, and unlikely to seek our presence again any time soon.
Even if you’re guilty of not being present much of the time, don’t beat yourself up. The mind is a tricky thing. Staying present requires some practice. Of the 55,000 to 60,000 thoughts we think a day, most are spent focused on the past or the future. That means that they’re not focused on the present. Add to that the fact that the nature of the mind is to wander…moving from one random thought to another. No wonder it’s difficult to stay present to someone without our thoughts wandering or free associating with something the other has just said. For example, someone mentions to you that they’re going on a cruise to the Holy Land and immediately your mind free associates the Holy Land with a trip you once took to Rome and your visit to the Vatican. You’ve left the present for the past. It happens so automatically, you don’t even notice – unless you practice being present.
How Do You Practice Being Present?
The brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised, just like any other muscle of the body we want to develop. To build the mental muscle that makes it easier for us to remain present, able to gain control over our mental, emotional, and physical well-being, some basic practice is in order.
The easiest and most basic practice is to focus on your breathing. The moment your attention moves from your breath to a random thought, simply notice and bring your attention back to your breath. Start practicing 5 minutes a day. Gradually, increase the time you spend staying present to your breath.
Personally, I have found it easier to practice focusing on my breath if I switch it up. First, I focus on breathing my breath and then I switch to my breath breathing me. The moment, a thought enters in, I’m right back to focusing on my breath.
This simple act of focusing on your breathing and remaining present to that, helps to build your mental muscle, aware the instant your thoughts begin to wonder. This creates a heightened state of awareness. And the best part? The sheer act of focusing on your breathing lowers any stress response you might be experiencing and returns you to a state of internal relaxation and calm, and literally helps to shrink the part of your brain responsible for stress and anxiety while making it possible to choose healthier, more positive thoughts, exercise your creativity, and make better decisions.
Think of how much you miss every day simply by not being present. You can begin to change that today. Not only will you experience more opportunities to choose the best for yourself, it will put you in the best position to be present for others, able to have more authentic, more positive interactions.
Want to know more about the power of presence and your ability to influence others? Click here for Influential Leader: Rise to Real Power in Business & Beyond.
Want to experience less stress and anxiety while increasing recognition and rewards? Stop wasting time and money trying to do it alone. Go here now so that you don’t do a repeat of this year next year.
© 2018 Mary Jane Mapes All rights reserved.