One of the hardest things to do just happens to be one of the most essential—being present.
You would think it would be so simple, all you have to be is well, be. But many of us do not
recognize how easily our minds get distracted. When a friend seeks your help how present are you?
When you are doing important tasks how present are you?
You may think-be! I know how to be, I’m always present. But most of the time we aren’t aware of
being. We don’t feel our bodies, our space, we lose touch with our senses, and we may even forget
that we are breathing.
Have you ever been watching TV and suddenly forgot what you were watching, or just realized your foot
To get a sense of how present you are try these exercises,
taken from Karen Kissel Wegela’s book How to Be a Help instead of a Nuisance: Practical Approaches to Giving Support, Service, and Encouragement to Others
1.Turn your attention to what you are experiencing in this moment. Don’t pretend to throw yourself
in the experience; just sit and notice that you are breathing. When you lose track of the breath gently
come back to it. How long did it take to wander off?
2.Having no particular destination, take a walk for about 15-30 minuets and allow yourself to notice
your senses: hearing, tasting, seeing, touching, and smelling. Just let yourself wonder and let yourself
notice things as though you are experiencing them for the first time (which you are).
If you get lost in thought and lose your sense perceptions gently return to them. Afterward reflect on your experience.
Which perception did you tune into mostly? Did you spend more time in your thoughts or your sense perceptions?
3.In order to do this exercise you need to go to a location where there are lots of people. I suggest a mall. Find a spot to sit or stand where you can simply observe the changing flow of activity.
Get comfortable and take a posture you can hold for a while. Let your eyes rest in the center of their sockets and allow your breathing to be natural and uncontrived. Spend a few minuets resting in this
Gently bring your attention back to your gaze, posture, and breathing when your attention
wonders. Do this for a few a minuets. Now sift your attention slightly so that what you are paying
attention to is the movement of people as it passes in front of your eyes. Let whatever is happening in your visual field happen.
Do not move your eyes to follow people as they pass. Let them come into your field of vision and let them exit again. Do this for about 10 minuets. Did you notice any tendencies to follow a particular color or shape? Were attractive people hard to “let go”? Did you find yourself spacing out?
Each time you allow yourself to let your eyes chase something else you are not present of what is
happening in front of you. You may wonder why any of this is even important.
If you wander off when nothing much is happening-like sitting- it is much easier and almost certain
that you will “space out” or get lost in your thoughts when you feel uncertain or uncomfortable.
For example, my friends are lovely people (and I hope they don’t take offense to this because this is
not a lashing out on their character) but I rarely ask them for advice or help. It’s not that they don’t
want to help, it’s that they are not particularly helpful. When I’m in pain or feeling down the best thing
I can get from them is to be present.
I don’t want them to compare what I’m going through with what they or someone they know has gone through. I don’t want them to try to take away the pain or give me permission
to feel it, and I do not want inappropriate advice. I simply want them to be with me in the moment and allow
me to feel whatever I want without forcing any distractions on me.
In order to be truly helpful, we have to get over the discomfort we feel ourselves.
We do not want to be in uncomfortable situations. When our friends are in pain or sad we feel it and we will do anything to get away from the feelings.
Becoming more at home with others comes easier when we are more at home with ourselves.
The more familiar we become with our different ways of being, the more present we are in our
lives, and in turn the more present we can be for others.