Meeting Life With Your Full Presence

“Your true home is in the here and now

Thich Nhat Hanh

Lately I’ve been noticing how much there is that distracts me and others from being in the present moment.

There is a lot that is going on in the world – unrest in some of our communities due to tragic deaths from encounters between citizens and police, the noise from the Presidential contest that is now taking place (one friend told me she was experiencing ESD – Election Stress Disorder) and news about terrorist threats, to name a few. This is on top of the challenges that arise from time to time in the ordinary course of daily living.

If we’re not careful, it can suck the joy from life and poison what is intended to be the divinely inspired experience of spiritual freedom. To retain that joy and freedom, we must restore our ability to be in the present moment. Of course, this does not mean that we dismiss or ignore the events that are taking place in the world that require our prayers, attention and sometimes our action. But when we stay in the present moment, we’re able to put such events in their proper perspective and not let them infringe upon being “here and now”.

The way we can be in the here and now, our true home, as Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thick Nhat Hanh calls it, is to practice mindfulness.

When we are mindful, we are present for our life just as it is. Not as we hope it would be or expected it to be or seeing more or less that what is here. Nor is it being judgmental about life in a way that leads us to being reactionary rather than responsive to what’s going on. Instead it is about being fully present to what is happening and meeting it with eternal calm, equanimity and even joy.

Of course, that is easier said than done. But here are a few simple mindfulness practices we can use to be here and now:

  • Observe where you are. For example, when you go into a restaurant instead of making a beeline to the table where you are going to eat, take the time to stop and look around and take in the sights, smell the aroma of the food wafting through room and breathe the air. Do it with intention. You will find that you feel more connected to the moment.
  • Observe how you are. This is about being aware of how you are interacting with your environment. In the moment, be fully aware of how you are sitting (or standing), how you are breathing and how you are feeling in that moment.  If you are with another person, observe how you are relating to them, how you are speaking to them and how you are sounding to them as you speak. When we observe ourselves in situations, it makes us more mindful of the situation. It also allows us to be more intentional and observe how we are showing up in life – how we’re talking and how we’re relating. We can also be aware if we’re feeling anxious or negative. With that awareness we can make a more empowering choice.
  • Observe impulsive thoughts. Impulsive thoughts are those immediate reactions to things that are not necessarily the best response to a situation. It’s when we are aware we are upset about something (often not worth getting upset over) and rather than indulging in the upsetness, we pause, step into that space in between stimulus and response and ask: “What do I want here?” “What would serve here?” “How would my Higher Self or a better version of myself respond here?” This helps us grow and engage in situations that comes from a place of wisdom rather than woundedness and helps us be in tune with our true self rather than the drama mind.
  • Practice extended growth time. This is when we carve out dedicate time for meditation. We get better at being in the moment when we make it a habit to simply close our eyes, focus on our breath, observe our thoughts and let those thoughts just pass on by. When we do this, we find that space where the thoughts and chaos of the world are not taking away our peace and our ability to “be here now”.

With these practices, we can be more mindful, alive, centered, peaceful and present to the moment.

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