“What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.” ~Buddha
Being present is about becoming fully aware of the moments in our lives so that we may come to recognize what is most valuable to us and to see the depth of our own possibilities for growth. It is about being consciously aware of the choices we make in each moment, so that we may become an active participant in our own lives. This may seem like a simple principle to grasp, but I find it is one of the hardest to live.
At the beginning of every yoga class, my teacher has us set an intention for our practice. Mine is always to “be present.” I want to allow my practice to become a “meditation in motion,” where I am fully aware of my breath and my movements. I try to purposely still my mind…not through brute force, but by conscious will. At the end of class, as we go into savasana (the final relaxation pose) my yoga teacher often has us recall our intentions and reminds us that we are really striving to achieve a state of mindfulness, not just relaxation. Whereas relaxation is unconscious effort, mindfulness is conscious effortlessness.
As I said, this is typically no easy feat for me. I’m sure it comes easier to some than to others, either because of personality differences or practice, or both. According to the StrengthsFinder assessment, my #1 strength is FUTURISTIC. Basically, this means I’m the kind of person whose gaze is constantly on the horizon. Thinking about possibilities energizes me. I put a good amount of my time, energy, and thoughts into imagining grand possibilities for myself, my work, my friends and family, and our society. I consider this strength to be a valuable asset most of the time, but it does make it very difficult for me to bring my gaze back down to the present moment, to what is happening right in front of my eyes. But it does happen sometimes…
Sometimes as I’m hiking, I’m stopped in my tracks by a tiny frog hopping along the trail. It seems silly that seeing a tiny frog still brings me the same happiness it did when I was three years old and would rather stand outside and pee my pants than set it down so I could go inside! Another thing that always manages to slow me down is a clear, starry night. There is something about all of those bright twinkling lights set in a deep midnight sky that just takes my breath away.
- What are they things in life that stop you in your tracks and take your breath away?
- Isn’t it an incredible feeling?
That is the power of being present. I want to discover how to tap into that power on my own. I want to be consciously aware of why I am doing what I am doing and thinking what I am thinking. I want to know that whatever I am doing and thinking in this moment is helping to align me with my life purpose. I want to awaken to conscious being.
What are the benefits of being present?
Have you ever been around someone who is living in the moment? I’ve been fortunate to have several sources of inspiration in my life, and I’ve witnessed the benefits first hand.
- Experiencing less stress. As someone who is almost always living in the present, my husband rarely ever gets stressed out. He doesn’t agonize over the past or worry about the future. Now, learning from the past and preparing for the future are certainly good and important things to do, but we can’t live there. We can’t change the past, and there are no guarantees about the future. There is only the present moment.
- Being happier. I have a friend, Allison, who is quite possibly one of the happiest people I know. It’s not because she is rich or famous, it’s because she spends everyday living in the moment. I remember when Allison was selected for a position at work that held high face value and the potential for a good follow-on job, but wasn’t much fun and required long hours. There were so many people who complained on her behalf saying they felt sorry for her and that the position was beneath her, but not Allison. She remained her usual happy self, smiling and saying, “I learned a lot in my last position, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot in this one too.”
- Adding value. I had the privilege of being mentored for a short time by Tyler Eldred, who was one of the greatest men I have ever met. When you spoke to him, you could really feel that his complete attention was on you and he was fully with you in that moment. He was that way with everyone, nearly all of the time. This was his mission statement:
I can tell you, that’s exactly what he did.
For more sources of inspiration, check out this post from Zen Habits and please share your own sources of inspiration!
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to always “be present;” however, this principle is a reminder to continuously come back to the present moment, to increase our everyday awareness in order to have a richer and fuller experience of life.