The power of presence liberates you from the grip of the past and the uncertainty of the future, allowing you to fully embrace the richness of life in the here and now.” – Eckhart Tolle
Over the past 15 years, I have encountered various teachings emphasizing the significance of living in the present moment. They convey that the present is a powerful place to be, emphasizing that the past and future hold no existence, and that dwelling on them prevents us from being truly happy.
Despite hearing these ideas, it was only recently that I truly grasped the concept of being present, thanks to the book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. This book serves as a spiritual guide, highlighting the importance of living in the present moment. Tolle explores the role of the ego in causing suffering and detachment from reality. He offers practical advice on cultivating presence, releasing past regrets and future worries, and experiencing inner peace and fulfillment by embracing the power of the present moment.
Some may be rolling their eyes at the spiritual aspect, but as the book suggests, we should view it as a signpost or guide to deeper understanding. At our core, we are spiritual beings, and living from this perspective could potentially lead to greater happiness and, ideally, a more peaceful planet.
As a result of my reading and reflection, I have contemplated how to develop a practice of being present. I have questioned how to surrender, let go of the past, trust the Universe, and not worry about the future. This has led me to explore suggestions from the book that actually go along well with the contemplative practices I have explored such as meditation, yoga, and energy work. These practices have played a significant role in my personal growth, helping me reset my mindset and overcome depression. However, it is important to note that achieving these results required years of trial and error and, most importantly, consistent practice.
Now, you might be wondering, what does “presence” truly mean? According to Tolle, presence refers to a state of heightened awareness and conscious attention to the present moment. It entails being fully engaged and immersed in the Now, free from thoughts about the past or future. Presence is a state of alert stillness that allows us to observe thoughts, emotions, and sensory perceptions without judgment or identification. It leads to a deeper sense of peace, clarity, and connection to our underlying consciousness or essence. It is a state of being fully alive and awake to the present experience.
Tolle acknowledges that the mind alone cannot fully comprehend presence. We must practice “being” and explore the sensations of life within our bodies. We must listen for the silence behind the sounds. Engaging in these practices is the path to fully understanding what “presence” entails. In my own understanding, it is the connection to our sacred and authentic self—a state of enlightenment.
Practices to Cultivate Presence
If you’re interested in cultivating presence, there are several practices that can help. It’s important to recognize that our society conditions us to overthink, dwell on the past, or anxiously anticipate the future. However, overthinking and lack of presence are major obstacles to peace and happiness in our world today.
To achieve presence, we need to adopt a new mindset and rewire our brains through daily practices of mindfulness, embodiment, and meditation. These practices can be seamlessly integrated into our lives with a determined mindset. The benefits of cultivating presence are numerous, so it’s essential to find a reason that resonates with you and develop a personal mission statement to stay motivated and focused.
One effective practice is breath meditation, which uses the breath as an anchoring tool to help calm an overwhelmed or anxious mind. By directing our attention to the breath and observing how it moves in and out of the body, we can achieve a deeper level of presence. This practice can be incorporated into formal sitting meditation or integrated into daily routines.
How To-Formal Practice.
- Start off by taking a few rounds of deep breaths.
- Center your attention on the breath and pay attention to how it is moving in and out of the body. You can focus on the the rise and fall of the chest or the movement of the belly.
- To go deeper, you can sense where in the body that the breath is drawn to. Is it in the hips? The arms? Maybe the legs or feet.
- Continue to follow the breath. If your mind wonders, it’s ok, just bring it back to the breath.
- Start off with a few minutes and work up to 10 or even 20 minutes of practice.
How To- Daily Routines
- Finding yourself overwhelmed, overthinking or full of anxiety?
- Pause and focus on the breath. This can be 30 seconds to a minute. If you have more time, shut the door and do a formal practice.
- To go deeper, you can do a 2:1 breath count which is letting the exhale be twice as long as the inhale. This will trigger the parasympathetic nervous system to provide relief in a stressful situation.
For a guided Breath Meditation, find it here.
Mindfulness meditation, through a formal sitting practice, enhances awareness and allows us to assume the role of the observer. The goal is not to eliminate thoughts but rather to become diligently aware when thoughts arise. By finding a quiet and comfortable place to sit, closing our eyes or softly gazing ahead, we can begin the practice.
- Start by focusing on the breath, noticing the sensation of the breath entering and leaving the body.
- Let the breath flow naturally, without trying to control it.
- Thoughts may emerge during the practice, and when they do, acknowledge them without judgment and gently redirect attention back to the breath.
- The intention is to cultivate a state of open awareness, where we expand our attention to include our body, sounds in the environment, thoughts, and emotions.
- By observing these aspects of our experience with curiosity and detachment, we deepen our presence and connection to the present moment.
Embodiment practices such as yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Gong, and body scan meditations are also valuable for grounding ourselves in the present. As Tolle suggests, these practices shift our consciousness from the mind to the body, fostering a greater sense of presence.
Quick Body Scan Practices
- Upon waking and right when you go to bed, do a quick body scan starting at your toes and working your way up the body. Tune in and feel the energy of life within every cell of our body.
- During moments of waiting, (in line, in traffic etc) we can redirect our presence to our body and immerse ourselves in the energy of our being.
Sacred listening is another powerful practice that cultivates presence in our interactions. How often do we find our minds wandering or formulating responses while someone is speaking? Sacred listening involves bringing our full presence, attention, and awareness to a conversation.
- Find a partner and sit back to back or side by side without facing each other.
- One person speaks while the other listens. There is no conversation or interjection from the listener; their role is solely to listen with presence, attention, and awareness.
- Afterwards, take time to reflect on this experience.
- Now apply this practice as a listener in daily conversations, as it brings a profound blessing to every interaction.
- We can actively listen for the silence between sounds—a practice akin to observing thoughts but focused on observing the silence. This practice heightens our awareness and attunes us to the gaps between sounds, allowing us to tap into a deeper sense of presence and stillness.
I would love to hear about your experiences with any of these practices and whether they have helped you cultivate greater presence in the world. Remember, it is through consistent practice and exploration that we truly embody and understand the essence of “presence” and its transformative power in our lives.