To me, the idea of being ‘present’ was only something that came up in a yoga class when the instructor would tell me to stay present as I struggled and groaned trying to balance one leg over my knee. But recently I’ve read a few excellent articles about every-day presence by David Cain at Raptitude.com. Check out for instance, ‘How to Walk Across a Parking Lot,’ and ‘How to Stop Your Mind from Talking so Much.”
I’m also in the middle of a great book by Eckhart Tolle called “The Power of Now.” There’s a bunch of simple mental exercises he talks about, but one that stuck with me is the following:
“Try closing your eyes, take a deep breath to calm your mind then say to yourself, ‘when might the next thought come?’ From there allow your mind to become a watcher like a cat waiting for a mouse, and simply watch for the next thought to enter your head. You’ll notice you don’t see a thought for some time, and you feel possibly a sense of presence and relaxation.” (paraphrased from the book)
Many tasks in our daily lives don’t get much focus or attention- often driving home or walking to the store are activities that we have to do in order to reach the end goal of what we supposedly want to do. Clearly I would get much more out of my day if I’m present for everything I do, even the boring stuff, right? Turns out it’s not easy- you’re washing dishes with the intention on being mindful, but soon the mind wanders to what you wish you’d have said to that annoying guy on the bus, and suddenly you’re absorbed in your thoughts.
So, just like learning any new skill I decided to start small. I decided to dedicate certain activities to being present, namely walking to the grocery store. I leave my house and I suddenly put focus simply on just my steps, or on my breathing. I try to take in the space around me and appreciate where I am. I turn it into ‘me’ time, or a little vacation where it’s a period of time that no one expects anything of me and all I need to do is walk to the grocery store, and nothing else. There are no problems in that moment, and no rush to get there. I’ll get there however fast walking takes. I feel good and I’m walking and that’s it. Then when I get home I can go back to my hectic life 😉