I was raised on facts. Mathematical. Social. Familial. Spiritual. There was little room in my young world to question what parents and other teachers stated as truth or the right way to do everything. Fold my clothes. Select a job. Pray. Play. I’ve spent my adulthood questioning and disputing many of those premises, so when Conscious Connection invited me to write an advice piece on ways to stay present throughout the year I wondered how I might do that in a meaningful way. I have a love/hate relationship with how-to lists and am wary of advice … especially advice that unbendingly tells me the best way to live my life.
Nevertheless, I have learned a few things in my quest for a balanced life and, with a touch of humility, I’m delighted to share a bit of what I’ve learned. You’re invited to take what resonates and leave the rest.
Let’s begin with the fact that you’ve paused to read this article and therefore may be curious about how to foster more presence in your life. Step one: Decide you want to be more present. Not that you should or need to be more present, but that you honestly desire it. It’s as simple as saying, “I’m focusing on presence this year.” If that statement feels too broad, then get more specific. Perhaps you want to be more present to your family, job, eating habits, nature, or culture. State your intention. Write it down. Speak it out loud. Share it with a friend. Placing it outside yourself puts the universe on notice that you’re ready to pay attention.
Now here’s where it gets more personal. Choose how you will keep this intention in the forefront of your day. Write it in your journal, on your calendar, in lipstick on the bathroom mirror. What works for you? Make a collage, set a repeating alarm on your phone, draw an oracle card that supports presence and keep it in a prominent place. Nickname your pet or partner Presence. Hang the word or image from your car’s rear view mirror, print it on a bookmark, use it as a screensaver. Do you see where I’m going with this? Find a way to automatically remind yourself of your intention, so when life gets busy presence doesn’t get lost in the fray.
Keep it simple. Be flexible. Offer yourself grace.
Choose to be present to one thing each day. One simple act of presence I perform each day is to mindfully turn on the lamp atop the altar in my office. You don’t need an altar or even a lamp to do this. You might choose to light a candle or turn on your bedroom light and acknowledge, “I am here now.” I am here now is a simple and powerful act of presence. I am here now. Pause reading this article and try it. Close your eyes, feel your seat in the chair and your feet on the ground. Repeat, “I am here now.” Breathe deeply. Open your eyes. Carry on.
If you forget to begin your morning with presence, that’s okay. You can be present anytime and anywhere. It’s a choice and a mindset. Forget the prescriptions that say you need a meditation retreat or vacation to nurture presence. Presence is all around. It’s in the candle, these words, the air you breathe. Be flexible with what presence looks like for you. If you come to the end of the day or week or month and realize you haven’t been consciously present, don’t berate yourself. Offer grace and begin again. I am here now.
That’s the beauty of presence. It’s always available and once you are aware of that, your journey is well on its way. If this feels too esoteric, then feel free to make lists or put presence dates on your calendar. Success is finding what works for you. If you want to expand your intention, do it! One intention I have this year is to pay more attention to compassion, so I’ve chosen a book to read each day—Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron. Each passage is about two pages long. On the days I remember to read, I find a passage or two that resonates, highlight it, then set my timer for ten minutes and free-write in my journal what the passage means to me. Throughout the day, I observe how those thoughts weave in and out of my actions.
Presence is a journey and awareness is the first step. Finding what works for you is the key to sustainable action. In summary:
- Set your intention.
- Display the intention in visual form.
- Keep it simple.
- Be present to one thing each day.
- Be flexible. Expand and contract as desired.
- Offer yourself grace when you misstep. Begin again.
- Find what works for you.
- Become your own expert.