"The joy of being is the joy of being conscious." ~ Eckhart Tolle

Some of the readings on the subject can be a little too abstract for me. When I read Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now, a mindfulness classic, I trusted that being present was important, but I have to admit… I didn't really get what he was talking about. After reading, and re-reading his work, I boil it down to this: being present, mindful is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the current moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Why is being present so important?

1. It lets you experience your life more fully. Think of it as something you do to amplify the positive feelings in your life. Once you practice living more in the moment, you'll know what I mean, and I am excited for you. Imagine: your same day, same life, but experienced in a much richer way.

2. Staying focused on the current moment spares you unnecessary emotional pain and worry. Think about the amount of energy you spend when it comes to thinking about your future. Not productive, planful thoughts that move things forward, but worrying about it, or replaying steps or concerns, the "What if's?" How about with feelings related to the past? How much time and energy do you spend dwelling on something that happened, not in a "work it through so I can learn from it and let go," productive way? Instead, when you actively choose to live more often in the moment, you save yourself a LOT of time and energy. You purposely create experiences that better serve you. When you have a distraction like worry, it uses energy. Whereas when your brain is working solely on the task at hand, it is more efficient.

3. Having regular moments of being mindful recharges you mentally and physically. It's a wise tool that increases your effectiveness because a well-charged brain is capable of greater clarity and concentration. So that in the future, you can put your mind more efficiently towards the planning and execution of the steps to reach your goals.

4. The ability to be present will help you enormously if you're ever feeling overwhelmed. And if you are at a point in your life when one or more things are uncertain - your work, a relationship, your health - it could be essential to your well-being. When you focus on what's happening now, it can help you to maintain perspective and break the challenges into manageable pieces. Staying present as much as possible will decrease your anxiety and distress significantly. At times like this, we get to choose how we manage. If you choose to care for yourself and live mindfully, you can spare yourself unnecessary suffering.

What does presence look like?

When you're going about your day, driving, walking, or sitting somewhere, and you're thinking about something that happened, or planning or worrying about something in the future, you're not SEEING the trees, the smile on someone's face, or that magnificent view, are you? You don't fully taste that coffee, or smell those flowers.

Think about the last time you had a happy moment: watching your child playing, a glorious sunrise, celebrating someone, or a project finished. Bring that to mind. Did you let yourself feel it completely? Are you taking it all in, with thoughts of nothing else? I got to hold a friend's baby daughter recently. I was so "there" with her. I didn't let myself get distracted by thoughts of traffic later in the day, or my to-do list at home. Just complete focus on this precious, snuggly little girl. Her laughing eyes! Mouth open like a baby bird! That sweet baby scent! The sense of timelessness, "this is what it's all about." Have you ever felt like that?
THAT is presence.

And in those difficult moments, the ones I talked about earlier, being present, will make all the difference in how you come through on the other side. In the space you create by being mindful, you can tell yourself that all you need to do is focus on what you need to do today. I know that it can feel hard to manage day to day when you have the added worry of what your life is going to look like down the road. It can feel like too big a leap from the steps you take today to a happier, more certain, peaceful future. That's where consciously staying in the now comes in. Presence isn't concerned with what you don't know yet, what you can't know yet. It is comfortable with that, so it tells you that everything will be okay. That YOU will be okay. Because being present connects you with the strongest parts of yourself, and creates a sense of faith that you will make it okay. It trusts that, while you feel uncomfortable, that it's a normal part of your life. Presence will remind you that all you have to concern yourself with is what's happening right now. This is why "One day at a time" is fundamental in the recovery movement. It is a profoundly powerful dictum for all of us: not just for people in recovery.

How do you "be" present? Attending to your senses is a big part of it. You focus on what you see, or hear, smell, or feel. Connect with the physical experience and sensations in your body. If you're feeling something like joy or calm or excitement, let yourself really be with that. As distractions enter your awareness, ignore them and refocus on the sensations or feelings connected with the moment. It will become easier to ignore distractions as you practice more. You can even hone the skill of consciousness when you're eating or drinking. By focusing on how the food or drink tastes and feels on your tongue, in your mouth, as you swallow.

Like any new habit, you'll benefit from reminders to do it. Initially, you may want to write it in your calendar or leave a loving note for yourself like "Have you been present today?" in a prominent place.

Next week we're going to look at a couple of my favorite resources to get you started. As always, you have to find what works best for you, but I'll share why these resonate with me.

Til next week!

Dr. Lee Odescalchi

Author's Bio: 

Lee Odescalchi is a coach and licensed psychologist. She has coached and counseled clients, just like you, looking for more fulfilling lives. Her unique approach uses the most effective methods of personal development and performance strategies. She does this while addressing issues from the past that have led to self-limiting beliefs that get in the way of your success. Lee also empowers people to “get out of their own way” and maximize their strengths so they can produce extraordinary results… in any area of their life.