[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.
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.