I didn’t know it as a child, but now I recognize the gift my father gave me by being present. He had the ability to stop what he was doing and truly focus on others, and listen to not just words, but what was behind those words. As a parent, it can be challenging to shift gears and to listen with more than the auditory nerve. It isn’t easy. I hear, but what is really being said? How often am I missing the small, but meaningful moments? What does it mean to be fully present?
All too frequently, we find ourselves tethered to our smartphones or distracted with the noise of our day, and reacting to a deluge of information. We are in a rush to get somewhere, but end up getting nowhere. We hurry to get ahead, and find the truth in slowing down often is the very mode that allows us to speed up.
When my clients’ coaching goals include gaining more focus and prioritizing, I often see a pattern of speed in how they are organizing themselves. It’s a habit. Someone recently said, “I’m just not able to slow down; I’m not wired that way!” He didn’t believe it was easy for him, so therefore he wasn’t able to do it. Being present and mindful of what’s going on at this very moment is a skill. Training your attention to create a clear, calm mind is not automatic, and can be particularly challenging in a culture which values speed.
1. Start small. Each day, find an opportunity to take just a few seconds for a really (really!) deep breath. Become aware. What’s going on? What do you see? Hear? Think? Just start noticing in a single breath what is going on in and around you.
2. Stay non-judgmental. One of the first questions is, “Am I doing it right?” Forget about doing something a certain way. If your mind wanders, notice that it wanders. Become an observer and just watch yourself.
3. Be in the Body. Notice places in your body that may be tight or holding stress. How are you sitting or standing? What do your shoulders, back and neck look like? Simply relax and let go.
Being present is a skill. With practice, we can focus with power and intensity. We become aware, and recognize that choices exist. We can become more intentional in making ones that represent our priorities and deepest values.
Try it for a week. See what happens when you become very present. What relationship could benefit from greater presence? How can this open more possibilities and choices?