Becoming present is a process. You can’t flip the switch and expect to be ‘on’. It takes a certain kind of focus. Everyone always talks about being present, being in the now or being mindful of the moment, but no one ever tells us how to do it.
So this is how I do it. It works for me, it might just for you too.
Firstly, I describe presence as a feeling. A sense of being. There is no doing, no thinking, no analysis. It is awareness of our consciousness, a direct experience of our selves once we stop playing the thinking game. And once you’ve felt presence for the first time, it’s something you will know again. A familiar sense of safety, of support, of peace. In presence the body relaxes, the breath slows, the mind stills. It is a feeling of opening, of expansiveness, like stepping through a doorway into a new dimension. A portal back to ourselves.
So how do you get there?
There are three portals to presence. These three doorways will take you to the same place but your journey there and how you arrive will be different depending on the path you take.
The differences between the three can be subtle and no portal is better than the other – it’s just the way of entering presence.
Listen to this 11min audio to find the portal that works best for you.
The body is a portal.
Pay attention to the physical body.
Notice how you hold yourself.
Notice where you are in contact with the floor.
Notice the sensation of the clothing on your skin.
Feel the air on your skin.
Feel the central axis of your spine.
Feel your bones become heavy.
Feel your muscles relax and your skin softening.
Feel your heartbeat, your breath and any other internal movements. Listen to your inner sounds.
Feel a sense of aliveness in your body.
Feel the energy that animates you. Feel the energy within and surrounding each cell. Feel the energy that gives rise to your breath. Feel the energy that initiates each heartbeat.
Experience this energy.
What does it feel like? Stay with that feeling. Experience yourself.
Accessing presence through the body is a powerful technique. And the beauty of this technique is that we don’t need to be sitting or lying still. Presence through the body gives rise to moving meditations – walking meditation, dancing and yoga. Practising yoga without presence is more of a fitness class. Practising yoga with presence is uniting mind, body and breath.
The breath is a portal.
Follow the path of the breath, in and out of the body.
Feel the way the breath moves you.
Feel how your body accommodates each breath.
Let yourself be breathed.
Open yourself up to receiving the breath. Be receptive to the gift of the breath. Feel into the energy that initiates the breath. The energy that is breathing you.
Feel the space behind the breath.
Feel the spaces between each breath. Settle into that space. In that space between breaths is the portal to presence. An access point to reality, a direct experience of self.
The breath is always present, it only ever occurs now. Focusing on the breath takes us immediately into the present moment.
The mind is a portal.
Turn your attention to your thoughts.
Let your field of awareness create a container for your thoughts.
Watch the thoughts come and go, watch them shift and merge.
Watch how one thought leads to another and another.
Watch the thinking process unfold. Let your mind think freely, while you follow, like a shadow. Watching where the mind goes. Observing each thought unfold.
Try to isolate an individual thought. Pick it out from the chain of thoughts and stay with it until it ends. Then pick the next thought out from the chain. Stay with that thought until it ends.
Notice how each thought has a start and an end. Notice how your stream of thoughts is made up of individual thoughts strung together.
Try to locate the space between each thought. Look for a break in the stream. Look for an opening. When you find that gap between thoughts, dive into it. That is your portal to presence. Going behind the layer of thought, into the space that exists behind thoughts. The pure stream of consciousness.
Accessing presence through the mind is a way of turning the mind upon itself. Shifting the focus from thinking to observation gives rise to a higher sense of awareness. It creates a detachment from thought, leaving behind a feeling of spaciousness. At any moment, imagine subtracting your thoughts from your experience – this will take you back to presence.
So which portals works best for you? Let me know in the comments below.
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