My mother had an experience where she was learning about being present. When we are just learning about being present, the last thing we are doing is being present because we’re trying to “figure out” how to be present, which goes against the whole concept. On one of her walks along a levee, she finally asked aloud, “What does it mean to just BE?” She was serious when she asked this question. Her answer came immediately in the physical form of a large bumble bee that entered right into her space. Buzz buzz buzz. My mom got the cosmic joke and pretty much went into hysterics. What a sense of humor God has! Coincidence? I think not. She asked for “be” and she got “bee.” It was a sweet (pun intended) lesson to her about being able to laugh and enjoy the moment.
When I was learning about being present, I was trying to figure it out too. For someone like me who lives inside their head observing and analyzing everything and everyone, being present was a difficult endeavor – nearly impossible for me. I can honestly say it took me about three years of practice. That’s a really long time, but one of the things that helped me was the birds. I was sitting on my front porch bench thinking about being present (oxymoron) and suddenly a bird chirped very loudly. It woke me up out of my thoughts and there I was, suddenly present to the moment. Chirp chirp chirp. The bird was out of sight, but I was aware. For once I was aware of the surrounding world right now. I got a revelation that perhaps the bird’s chirp was divinely designed to wake humans up to the moment. Each time I heard a chirp thereafter it was a reminder for me to get out of my head (which is pretty much like telling a two year old to stop picking their nose – they just can’t help it).
It’s been about seven years and my world is entirely calm now. Being present is no longer difficult for me because it saved my life. It is a place of healing. It is a place where I am the organic, genuine me. When I am present, I am not planning ahead about which mask I’m going to wear, or what I’m going to say ahead of time. There is power in being present because it’s where all of me is in one place. I am not split up in my head between the margins of yesterday and tomorrow. I’m not on the battleground of my mind. I’m just here. When my words come out now, sometimes they are quite intuitive. I shock myself with the insight that flows when I am present. When I am present, I can write from a genuine place. I’m not trying too hard when I am present.
Being present also means letting things go right away. It means that if I make a mistake, I can stand in awareness of that mistake, and then be present in the next moment where that mistake does not exist. It’s immediate forgiveness and being in a constant state of healing. If I am having an emotional moment (no matter what the emotion is), I can acknowledge the emotion and allow to be there with me. When I am present, I feel the emotion in its entirety. I don’t judge it or resist it. I just give it space, and quickly, it moves through me. There is no lingering when I am present. Compassion flourishes in the state of being present. When you are present, there is no resistance, judgment, worry, stress, apprehension or pretention. You are in a constant state of acceptance of what is, no matter what is. If the what is brings up raw emotion, you are present with that emotion. The emotion will pass and there you will find yourself again blossoming in your magnificent awareness of both yourself and the immediate world.
I used to get a little weepy thinking about not holding onto people, places and things that made me happy, but as I’ve been letting go more in my life, each moment that I am completely present (no matter what I’m doing) is enough to fill any void of loss about whatever it is that I’m letting go. When I am completely present, nothing I’m doing is draining, or that awful either, because being present means not dreading it. It means just being.
Being present does not mean that you cannot use your imagination. We need creativity in our lives in order to invite experiences and things into fruition. I make space during certain times of day (early morning and late at night) to visualize and make an intention for what I desire in my life. Many people use dawn and dusk for prayer or mediation. Prayer to me is being present and it is more of a state of being rather than a thing that we do. Meditation is something I can do pretty much anywhere. Being present is also a constant state of mediation.
I used to get wound up about what was up and coming, and what I had to plan for a month ahead of time. I would get twisted about Christmas – in February. I thought everything had to be done right this second, but I guess after sitting in a treatment facility for six months and not attending to much of anything outside that facility, I realized that things either work themselves out, or they don’t much matter. Not as much as we think they do anyway. If something comes up now, I deal with it when it comes up. I don’t thrash and spin over the things I have no control over and I don’t get anxious about the future. Worry never helped me or made things any easier. On the contrary. Worry is a life-suck, so I’ve learned to just deal with things as they arise, rather than giving power to them ahead of time. I know we have to plan things in life. Of course. But when I am present during the planning, the planning is much simpler and less of a burden.
Being present is the easier, softer way (if that’s something you’re looking for in your life). It’s the answer to just about everything. Many times my daughter will bring up things she’s worried about and I’ll say to her, “Is that happening RIGHT NOW?” No it never is, and she gets it. She immediately calms down and usually discovers a smile in the midst of the temporary anxiety. The only thing that is happening right now is usually nothing. That’s the truth. Big things happen in our head more than they do in real life. Of course, I’ve learned to be so present that even my job and home reflects a very peaceful environment. That wasn’t always the case. Like I said, it took several years of practice, but the result is that the world around me reflects my state of being. The world around me is pretty much calm. If yours is not, then keep practicing being present in the midst of the chaos. If you can’t seem to find yourself centered, call aloud for assistance. Ask for help. Tell the birds and the bees to remind you about their sweet way of bee-ing!