Demystifying the Art of Being Present
‘Being present’ has become a luxury in our modern, distracted lives. Matt Killingsworth of Harvard, estimates that nearly half of our waking hours we aren’t present, we’re ‘mind wandering’ — often lamenting the mistakes of our past, or obsessing over a future that has yet to materialize. Research suggests that regardless of what’s on our mind while we’re ‘not present’ — good or bad — we would be happier if we lived in the moment.
It’s hard to fathom the sheer amount of our lives spent less happy than our potential. The average person’s lifetime ‘awake’ hours is about 55 years… 660 months… 19,800 days… 475,200 hours. If we’re the average mind wanderer, 50% of this time is spent less happy. This suggests that about 27 years… 330 months… 9,900 days… 237,600 hours of our lives could be spent happier by simply being present.
‘Being present’ is a platitude that frustrates most. Most of us know what we should be doing; we just don’t know how. Finding the discipline and awareness to live in the moment, although simple to understand, eludes even the most disciplined. So how do we begin to learn how to master our mind?
This takes me to ‘It Just Is’. The three words ‘It Just Is’ can transform your life. If you truly believe in these three words, it can free you from the regrets of your past and allow you to live in the present. It’s the first step in surrendering to what life has in store and detach from future outcomes.
To help understand, believe, and live the essence of ‘It Just Is’, I will touch on three concepts: Consciousness, Uncertainty, and Success.
We are a function of our past… genetically, experientially. Every decision we make is the decision we were destined to make, based on our consciousness at that moment. Our decisions are the manifestation of our cumulative and unique consciousness.
It’s pointless to question outcomes because any outcome is what was meant to happen. We need to learn to accept that IT JUST IS because there’s no other alternative. We are who we are at that moment. Whatever happened was destined to happen.
Even the act of planning for the future is directed by our consciousness today. So, in order to change our future decisions, we need to proactively condition our consciousness to think differently. This can be accomplished by experiencing new things, meeting new people, reading different books, or traveling to new places.
When things are uncertain, you’re challenged. You’re under tension. Your thresholds are being tested.
You can have two potential responses to uncertainty… anxiety or excitement. It’s one or the other. And although both produce the same physiological response and both can fuel growth, they can produce very different outcomes:
- Anxiety breeds fear. Fear diminishes the chances for a positive outcome. We’re limited by these fears.
- Excitement breeds passion. Passion fuels the chances for a positive outcome. We’re driven by this passion.
So, the question is, how can I turn my anxiety and fear into excitement and passion in uncertain times?
People will say, ‘how can I get excited about losing my job?’, or ‘how can I look forward to a divorce?’. The difficulty in answering these questions lies in our definition of excitement.
Yes, a divorce or losing your job is riddled with uncertainty and create lots of tension. But if you believe and accept that this uncertainty will catalyze growth, then you can begin to love. You can begin to love that which will provide you growth.
So maybe excitement isn’t the best word. Maybe anticipation is more suitable. Instead of being anxious and fearing an outcome, we can anticipate what it will provide us… growth. Stephen Colbert in an interview said ‘Love the bomb’. Love that which you fear the most because it provides the greatest opportunity for growth. He maintains this attitude despite losing two brothers and his father in a plane accident.
If you strive to convert anxiety into anticipation, something unexpected occurs. By solving the riddle of anxiety, it will have a proportional effect on your level of anticipation. If you value uncertainty, based on the growth you will experience, then there is no anxiety, nor anticipation. What will happen, will happen. You don’t need to love the event, but you will appreciate to LOVE the growth.
The word love stands out because when you love the journey, when you love the gift you’ve been given, when you love the growth, then you love these opportunities to grow. There is no good, nor bad outcome. There is no anticipation, nor anxiety. IT JUST IS.
IT JUST IS is a tricky concept to embrace because we are driven to ‘succeed’, to want more, to want someone else’s ‘IS’. It’s tricky because many of us want to be that person who’s famous, with a great job, and great cars, and great homes, and great friends. The person with a seemingly better life than ours. We’ve been bred to ‘succeed’ in this material world. So our source of validation is materially based.
But what other people have is not even relevant. Their reality is not ours. And we know that our ‘IS’, just is. We are who we were destined to be. All comparing is doing, is leveraging extrinsic motivation to solve intrinsic needs… happiness, fulfillment, meaning.
The fear of failing to ‘succeed’ is only holding you back. You might think extrinsic motivation is driving you and helping you succeed, but beware what you attract when your motivation is fear. It will undoubtedly be disappointing if meaning is not the foundation of your drive, or your ‘success’.
Believing IT JUST IS at a cellular level will take work. Just like a muscle grows via time under tension, you will only start believing these three words if you work at it. You need to repeat it to yourself daily. You need to consciously program your subconscious. You need to change your perspective. This takes repetition. You need to believe this and remind yourself over and over again….
IT JUST IS…
“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but — I hope — into a better shape.” ― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations