People tell us to be “present in the moment” (popularized by Eckhart Tolle), but can’t explain it without:
1) Using the word “present,”
2) Teaching you some weird breathing technique,
3) And using hippy woo-woo language.
Here is my practical interpretation for what it means to be present without any of those three! It makes sense to me, so yeah… you’ll understand it too.
#1) Emotions are experienced in the present, not the future or past. Enjoy the process.
“You can’t experience happiness in the future because it hasn’t happened yet. And what happened in the past is your mind’s recreation of the experience, not of the experience itself. ” -Me
Have you ever thought to yourself…
“I’ll be happy when ____”
“I’ll make it when _____”
“When I find someone then I’ll be _____”.
Yes, all of us do at some point. I mean that’s what motivates us to have goals and ambitions. But sometimes we get wrapped in our milestones that we focus on them with no regard for what is happening now. We think once we get there, then we’ll be satisfied.
There’s a popular expression to “stop and smell the roses”. Isn’t it funny how we pay a premium for flowers on Valentines Day, yet we are oblivious to them in our daily lives? So many of us are caught up in our busy lives that we don’t see something as simple as roses because we don’t perceive them as important (except when the days become important).
So how does this relate to presence?
Anything of value will be painful and difficult. Most lessons learned are through the struggle and hours devoted. Have you ever had a goal, competition, or milestone that was difficult going through it, but looking back, was one of the most happiest and cherished memories in your life?
You appreciate it because of the difficulty to achieve it. I’m not telling you to not think of the future, but to enjoy your current progress each and every day. It is through the struggle, the teamwork, the hardship that creates appreciation when you achieve your goal or know you did your best anyway.
Being present means to enjoy the process for what it is now and not as a memory; And to stop and smell the roses along the way.
#2) Stop hearing and start listening. View people as people.
“Being present means to stop thinking in the future for what you are going to say, and start listening in the present for what is being said.” – Me
Seriously, so many times we don’t actually listen to what others are saying, but merely just endure to get our response in immediately after. When you are talking to someone, are you quickly calculating what to think of what to say in response? You are thinking in the future, developing things to respond to instead of fully listening to the speaker and responding as necessary.
You are in your head and not even caring about what they are saying.
Trust me this is a hard one, especially if you aren’t a well versed speaker (I know I don’t have that quick conversational banter gene). But it’s okay, go at your own pace. Your speech cadence doesn’t have to be fast, but it’s better to listen then to spit out a rehearsed response.
But you know what? Just like any skill, you just jab away at it and you will naturally become a better speaker, as you become a better listener. You will begin to realize others’ points of views because you are present with them, listening.
Lastly, we calculate the value of others by how they can benefit you or hurt you in the future. Do you treat the janitor the same way as the boss of your company? You might be nervous or extra giggly with your superiors because you are thinking in the future. You don’t want to make a bad impression, right?
When you talk to someone, do you change how you treat them based on their status, power, etc. instead of treating them as another individual person? View people as people, whether they are at the top or bottom and the more you do that, the less wavering you will be.
Being present means to stop hearing and start listening; And to view people as people, not by how much they can benefit you in the future.
#3) Stop chasing external validation. The social media conundrum.
“We take photos and videos in anticipation for what people will like when we post it on social media. Why don’t we just take photos for our own memories sake?” -Me
I sound like an old geezer, but I remember back in my day we used to take photos just for our own memories, not for social media. There was no like button for photos, memes, videos, or shares.
Social media today has created a platform that allows people to become their own brand, a content pushing producer. It feels good to get 100+ likes on a certain post because the dopamine rush to your brain is real, I know.
It’s not that social media in itself is bad, it’s just how much you attach yourself to it. Just like money in itself isn’t bad, it’s the person’s attachment to it. We all have selfishness in our nature that can attach to things like social media, money, and validation.
That’s why on my last vacation, I decided not to bring my DSLR because I just wanted to relax and not worry about taking photos. And you know what? My vacation was AWESOME. My iPhone did it’s job just fine taking snippy snappies and it was one of my best vacations ever. I’m not here to tell you to stop shooting photos or sharing them, but sometimes we need to take a step back and live a little without our phones.
If you’re a grounded person, then social media is just an extension of your personality and that’s not a bad thing, that’s probably a good thing.
It’s when your sense of happiness is dictated by receiving likes and notifications, or if you’re only doing activities for the sole purpose of sharing to the world how awesome your life is, that’s when it’s bad and you need to detach.
Being present means to stop chasing external validation, take social interactions over social media, and take memories over megapixels.
And that’s my take on what it means to be present.