words to live by: dare you to move
light up your life: 5 ways to make your path brighter

the filmstrip: a new way to look at presence


being present

[Note: Today I'm honored to have a guest post written by the totally awesome Glen Allsopp. Glen writes for PluginID, a blog I've loved to read ever since I started blogging. His blog focuses on Personal Development and also covers topics such as Personality Development. Glen's blog is awesome and so is the guest post he wrote for me today. Thank you, Glen, for dedicating your time to writing this post!]

Presence is often quite a tricky topic to write about. If I talk about happiness, you can recall moments in your life where you were happy and relate to what I'm saying. If I talk about misery, you can probably recall moments in your life when you were miserable and know exactly what I'm talking about. Yet, when we talk about presence, things are a little different. Total presence, which involves significantly diminished mind chatter, is more of an experience, rather than a thought. In fact, if it was a thought, then it wouldn't really be presence. A little over a year ago now I purchased a book I'm sure many of you are aware of called The Power of Now. This book showed me that spirituality isn't some 'hippy rubbish' from the 60's but something more powerful which has roots that span thousands of years. There was something about this book which just...felt right. There was something about the message inside that just made total sense and I knew I had to pursue it more. So I did. I practiced meditation for the first time and was pleasantly surprised. I picked up the authors other book, A New Earth, and felt like I had a greatly expanded view of my environment. I even tried my best to be present as often as possible, but then I realised something: I knew how to be present, but my mind wanted a concept of what presence was.

Confusion About Presence

In my mind, being present is similar to being in the flow. It might be playing a video game and hours unknowingly disappear or it might be working out in the gym and only having the weights in your perception, completely unaware of the sweating companies around you. This kind of flow can be easy to get into naturally when you don't know about it, but now I was trying to do it consciously. I took on board advice like focusing on each step as I walked up or down stairs and I practiced going outside into nature and not putting a label on any items. I even practiced washing dishes without wishing I was doing something else or didn't have to do them. There were moments where I believe I experienced total presence, and everything felt blissful, but the majority of the time I was lost with the question: "Am I doing it right?" If I had to think about walking down the stairs consciously, do the thoughts imply I wasn't present? What about being aware that I was consciously walking down the stairs; was that presence? Or how about washing the dishes without wishing I was somewhere else. Was I really present, or was I just thinking about it? I became so confused about what presence actually was that I ended up less peaceful than before I was aware of the 'concept' of being present in the first place.


The Filmstrip

Whilst reading a spirituality book one day, I independently had the idea of presence being like a dial on a film strip. The strip represents different aspects of your life, and the dial represents the focus. The dial never moves, but the film strip is constantly running depending on your surroundings at any given moment. Your attention (your awareness) should be the dial. Whatever is on the film strip right now (your environment or task) is where your attention should be. Your awareness never moves, but your environment or tasks will. This is presence. Really. Your mind will probably want to make things a lot more complicated, but if you're aware of it doing that, you won't be sucked in. Once I realised this, being present suddenly become a lot easier. And, all the benefits of presence (peace, mood control, acceptance) started to come just as naturally. I recommend this great article by Dani if you want tips on how to become that dial. My favourite question to help is simply: "What is going on?" This can either refer to the contents of your mind, or the surroundings in view. Being aware of either can soon become the most enjoyable practice of your life.


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The presence is a time where the past and the future never exists. It is a time where time stops and where the mind halts. :-)

Great write up.

I like the visualization and I like the concept of presence.

One of the mental models that I liked is the difference between practice and performance (or the "training mindset" and the "trusting mindset.")

Hi Dani,
Great guest you have here today!

Hi Glen,
Good to see you! Love the filmstrip angle - that really does describe presence so well! Being in that moment, the one on the filmstrip of life, and not concerned about past slides, or slides coming up - that's being in the present moment - and so well described. And I love the question you pose at the end - "What's going on?" - I'm going to play around with that one!

Thanks for the opportunity Dani, and thanks for the great comments!

I'm always happy to help out and had this post idea in my head for a while, so it was nice to 'release' it.

Have an awesome day

- Glen

Walter - Great point! I agree and I think the present moment is where we should be living.

J.D. - I agree! Glen did a great job with this post and I love the visualization too.

Lance - I know! :) I'm lucky to have have Glen as a guest poster. And the filmstrip angle is so interesting, isn't it? I love that you highlighted the "What's going on?" question because I thought that was brilliant!

Glen - You're welcome! Thank YOU for taking the time to do the guest post. It's such a perfect one for Positively Present. Hope your day is awesome too and thanks again! :)

Great post Glen and blog Dani. If I may, I'd like to add a bit to Glen's idea (quote)..."Whatever is on the film strip right now (your environment or task) is where your attention should be". Mine's an old idea though, not a new one like Glens. Here it is. To help with attention to the moment (the "Now" of your life), use gratitude. Look closely at that moment and identify things you're grateful for. Good health perhaps, or the wonderful warmth of sunshne streaming in from a window. Sounds of family happily laughing in the background are good candidates too, or just the roof over your head, sheltering you from pelting rain outside. Maybe it's birdsong across the way or the rejeuvenating green leaves of grass outside your door. If you grasp the moment firmly and find ten things to be grateful for....it will focus your attention on that famous "power of Now". Like Glen said, it can make being present in your life the most enjoyable practise ever. Ciao Glen and Dani. John Duffield

I like this quote, "Your awareness never moves, but your environment or tasks will." Sometimes it's hard to live in the present moment, but when we practice just being conscious of what is going on at the moment, we will feel more at peace and in control of our lives. Thanks Nice post Glen and thanks Dani for this awesome blog.

Excellent post on presence. I think that the fight to become present is one o the most fundamental aspects of personal and spiritual development. To me that awareness and presence has developed in the ocean and forever changed the way I look at the world.

Hey Glen and Dani.

Glen you set up the imagery in a cool way here so that it was imaginable. The filmstrip concept you bring up makes me also think of our actions being like a movie unfolding that we can alter the results of using the awareness you are describing.

That customized image is action-packed. That could be any of us at various moments through our day, and we can be focused during those moments, instead of naively letting them pass by.

John - Great point! I think gratitude is one of the most important ways we can work on staying in the present moment. When we look around, noticing all we are grateful for, we turn our attention to the now. Thanks for the great comment!

Tristan - It's certainly difficult to stay in the present moment at times, but, as you said, it really does help you to feel more in control and at peace when you're able to stay in the moment.

Srinivas - I agree that being present is one of the key elements in personal/spirital development and it's a very hard one to deal with at times. It's awesome that you've found a way to relate to presence through the ocean.

Armen - Glen's imagery in this post is awesome and really helps us to see how the filmstrip idea works in relation to the present moment. I'm so glad that Glen included the image because it really does illustrate the points in his article so well!

Ahh...love this visualization Glenn. This is a great way to put everything into perspective.

Without a doubt, practicing mindfulness and being in the "NOW" will bring the world alive not only outside of us, but within.

Great post!



Dayne - Isn't Glen's visual awesome?! I love it too and was so excited when I opened the email he sent and saw that image. It goes so perfectly witht the post! And, as you mentioned, being in the now really does make the world (inside and out!) come alive.

Nice alternative view on presence.

I totally agree with your conclusion. I strongly believe that awareness is the key that opens many doors. The more time pass, the more I realize how awareness is an answer to so many questions.

It's nice to see it put this way - I've always been confused about what it means and how it feels like (silly logical thinking). :) Oh, and I loved your fall post, too! I adore autumn - ginger snaps, pumpkin chai lattes, pumpkins!, halloween... It's all so great! <3

That sense of flow is how I feel when I'm dancing, which is interesting because it is often when my "consciousness" is almost melted away in the moment.

Really interesting article and I love how he approached the concept of presence here as opposed to positivity, which Dani has pretty thoroughly covered. Fresh and beautiful piece of writing.

Gilbert - I agree. Glen did a great job putting a new spin on the idea of presence. I'm glad you highlighted the concept of awareness in your comment because that really is so important.

Ia - Glen's way of putting it was very helpful, wasn't it? It makes it so much easier to understand! I'm so glad you liked the fall post too. As you could tell, I'm pretty much in love with this time of year.

Hayden - It's really cool that you feel that sense of flow when dancing and I love the way you put it -- consciousness melted away into the moment. I'm glad you enjoyed this post. Glen did a great job of addressing presence in a new way.

That's a great post on something I, too, stumbled upon a few years back. I went to a mindfulness meditation retreat two years ago, and remember talking to a guy afterward and asking, "How do I know if I'm being mindful and doing the meditation right?" He told me something great: he said that whether we have to bring our awareness back to the present moment once or a million times in a 30-minute meditation, each of those times represents mindfulness. Anytime we catch ourselves - maybe by asking the question you posed - we're being mindful. We're IN the NOW. I'm not sure we were built to ever stay in the now, but that's okay, too. We can always get back to it, whenever we'd like.

Megan - Thanks for sharing your experiences with mindfulness here. It's so interesting to think that it's something we can do over and over again and every time it's still mindfulness. And you bring up the wonderful point that we can always, always get back to it, even if we slip away from it for awhile.

Being in the "now" is truly being! When we remember to live in the now we are truly aware, we are having the optimum experience. Great post.

Great post.
Thank you Glen and Dani, really practical way of thinking about how to be present.

This is great Glen and Dani. I think this filmstrip idea is similar to Tolle's being the background. You are the still background and everything that happens is in the foreground. Being aware of that stillness in the background as you watch events unfold in the foreground helps me a lot. This filmstrip idea is another way of doing that. I think it will be a great tool in my toolbox. Well done!

Mark - Great way of putting it! If you're being in the now, you're not truly being. Living in the now really makes our lives the best they can be.

Jen - It's definitely a great and practical way of thinking about living in the present and I'm glad Glen shared his ideas here on Positively Present.

Stephen - Good connection to Tolle's work. I agree that this is very similar to that important idea that we are the background and we watch things unfold around us. I love the imagery that comes to mind with Glen's filmstrip idea and I think it will help a lot of people relate more to the idea of being present.

I most definitely enjoyed reading this as I was a bit confused myself. You truly helped me!

Tabitha - I'm so glad this post made the concept easier to understand. Glen did a great job writing this and I'm thrilled that he shared it here on Positively Present!

Always being present in the moment is one of the great challenges for us these days. There are so many distractions to cause our attention to stray from the focus of the moment. Nice reminder...

Greg - Being present is extremely challenging (especially for me!) and, with all of the ways to access other things that are not in our present moment, it definitely is difficult to stay focused. Glen's post here really helped me to remember to stay in the moment and I'm glad you liked the reminder too!

I find myself in the moment when my mind doesn't wander and I can simply just BE. That happens on my sailboat and when I'm doing other work on the boat. I can forget about other stuff that is distracting me from the present. Great post.

Syd - It's great that you have a place that you can really focus on the moment and exist in a state of being. I think we should all have a place like that. Though it would be ideal to be present all the time, it's great if we can have one place that we know will center us and keep us in the moment as your sailboat does for you. So glad you liked Glen's post!

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