Here I offer the ways in which to think about presence during meditation and how to live in a state of presence in the moments of your life.
Presence teaches you how to willfully enjoy life’s moments, how to allow them in; to accept what they have to offer; to flourish in the experience of them, and to trust that everything by means of each singular moment is meaningful; each moment is significant.
When you practice presence, you become attuned to what is around you. You become more aware of the inward dwelling space of your inner being; and what allows you to witness yourself – your true nature – as the purest aspect of what you are.
Try this simple practice of presence for a moment with me. Close your eyes. Focus on your breathing. Soften into what you feel. Notice your heartbeat beneath the hand that you gently hold unto your heart center.
Presence is about joining in the moments of your life as they are already unfolding; and riding the wave of each moment; being one with them.
It is in this way that the practice of presence opens you. It draws you into the richness of the life you are living; and for seeing and experiencing more.
Presence is how you account for the certain stirring that you feel towards what is desired, what is inspiring; what holds you open to greater mystery and love felt easily as you are here and of this moment; and of the knowledge that life is precious.
I work with many clients who experience anxiety. Some have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and suffer in severe states of anxiety that is debilitating. A part of their journey as they choose to practice the relief of anxiety and as they are committed to this work – is the “work” of presence.
We have all been well trained to think about future and past; to dwell upon it, to re-experience it as the constant replaying of an incident or situation that only evokes suffering as one can never go back in time to relive the past.
We also live a good deal of the time distracted out of the present moment by the direction of our thoughts into the future and the unknown; and not always of what goodness is wanted but rather what is unwanted or feared.
We always have the choice in each moment to live it fully; one continuous ever-present series of moments that become a life lived.
As one client described the practice of presence: ‘It takes effort. You have to work at this.’ She is right. Yet, the work is not difficult, rather it is about your deliberate choice to hold attention to a single moment at a time as it unfolds within or outside of you; or both.
You choose what you will place your focus upon; whether something that will create worry and anxiety or a thought that evokes gratitude; an image of the future you desire held in your mind, or the curious observing of something in front of you.
You choose what you live. Yes we must look ahead to plan, strategize, problem solve; contemplate, imagine, and manifest. The work of presence is in remembering.
When you get too far down the rabbit hold of thoughts and worries; and unto problems that may not yet have solutions; parts of your life that have not yet unfolded or unfolded in a way that you are less pleased about; remember that it is in living each moment fully that life becomes fulfilling.
You can enjoy now without needing something else. You can release into the presence of this moment recognizing that you do not need anything more here and now except to be present to ‘what is’.
You can be doing one thing in the present moment and yet not truly attentive to it or what else is occurring around you; your body attending to a task whilst your mind thinking about something completely different.
I think about how we look at images on social media and immediately have thoughts that convey what we see as something we deem to be beautiful, or if we compare our self to something or someone; or as what we see and hear evokes authentic emotion, stirring within us an expression of what is raw and real.
Some moments we are present to as we are witness to them; and in the absence of what thoughts move us into the world inside our mind; which can be a difficult place to live in at times.
In other moments, your thoughts lead you out of presence. They transform you into another state: worry, trepidation, sadness, grief, uncertainty, self-doubt; all of which remind you that you have travelled out of the present moment and into the world inside your mind.
The world before you ‘just is’. It has no labels nor power until you make something the center of your attention and now it takes on new life; new form; new importance. What you choose to focus upon replaces the upcoming moments of your life. Moments pass as you are thinking into the future or of the past and what is right now is no longer. You lived a different moment.
“There is only ever each moment. Each moment gives you insight into what comes next.”
Something else that is important to know. It is not right or wrong to choose one moment over another. What is helpful to is know how to return to this moment as a conscious choice; to not react to everything that happens all around you and to the ceaseless thoughts that reoccur in the mind; but to make choices that define how you will live in the presence of your life. Because of course in the present is where each one of us has all of our power.
Our freedom to choose what is important is based on the thoughts we hold and the feelings evoked by our thoughts; and the words and actions that pursue.
“Each moment reminds you of what free will choice you hold to enjoy now.“Dorothy Ratusny
The secret to interface with life and to not be distracted; is to continue the process of being highly acute; highly aware of what you are thinking; aware of the thoughts that cross your mind; aware of the thoughts that are critical (whatever they may be) and then to bring your thoughts back to what is true; to the awareness of what you notice in your body or as you hear and see what you are present to.
The choices are endless. The choice is always to be present with what is right in front of you. When you need to think of something in the future or of the past, do so. Then return to ‘what is’ right here and now.
Anxiety exists when you give your attention away; as you attend to the future, to what you are worried about rather than what you desire.
Remember that anxiety is usually felt as a ‘forward fear’.
If you are someone who struggles because your anxiety is claiming power over you, return to the present moment. Return again and again. It’s as simple as being far more aware and attuned to what is happening right here; right in front of you and within you; and to just notice this. Notice and then bring presence to here and now once again. There is no need to react to everything, rather to notice, to observe, to witness, – to be attentive to this.
This allows you to make informed decisions about what is important to attend to; what you will choose based on the deliberate calling of your heart; and to decide what the moments of your life will be.
This is why meditation and mindfulness are so helpful to relieve anxiety. Here we are taught to pay closer attention to everything; to practice attention and presence rather than to observe something whilst thinking of something else.
While meditation is the practice of stilling the mind when in fact the mind’s preferred state is to be in constant motion, presence is the ability to bring your attention back from where it was – from where it is; and into now and this moment.
You use your free will choice to realign with life as it is always outpouring; and in motion. With each choice you choose anxiety or: calm, peace, joy, sadness, comfort, relief; “You choose each moment by giving each moment your attention.”
It may sound laborious but it is not. We watch young children do this all the time. Kids are exceptional at living with presence. They live witnessing life around them and attending to this; and also as they are thoroughly fixated on what they are hold attention to.
Moments will always happen. Moments will unfold right in front of you and you can be ‘in them’; you can exist in each singular moment; and the next, and the next and with little thought to distract you from what you are witness to. Practice holding presence in each moment unfolding as something that you become skilled in.
Presence and the present moment awareness that you give to now, is the ability to just be. Presence teaches you how to relinquish your need to label and critique; to make judgments, to wish for something to be different than what it already is in this moment.
Presence teaches you to remember, to witness, to be, to live, to exist in the space of now (and often without thoughts), rather attention and observance to all of the simple moments of life that are right before you because these are the moments that you remember; that you live – fully.
Presence is awareness. You can attend to what is in this moment or to something else – either way it is what you choose. You can attend to something else and then return to your breath, to what sounds you hear, to how you feel, and to other sensory information about your experience in this moment, as a means of grounding yourself in the ‘here and now’.
There are so many choices for the experience of presence.
Awareness is about using your free will choice. It is about the attention you bring to what is already here in this moment.
Help For Anxiety
The practice of presence is a notable tool to help you alleviate anxiety. Whenever you are anxious ask: ‘What is here? What is right in front of me? What am I present to right now?’ It won’t be the thoughts that you are thinking that are causing the anxiety, rather presence to what is here, now, and in front of you are such observations as: ‘I can smell the air.” “I am surrounded by so much beauty.” “I feel content.” “I can relax.” “I am grateful.” and also, “Oh Wow, look at those clouds, or that bird, or the snow falling.”
Presence brings you awareness of this moment. It allows you to be; to choose to enjoy this moment and each moment that you give presence to. As you get pulled away by thoughts of the future, critical thoughts, thoughts of self-doubt, or worry or any other thought that is not how you want to feel; you have a choice in the very next moment to return to presence.
If you would like to dive deeper into how presence feels in meditation and how you can live more moments of your life in the clear witnessing of presence; please sign up to experience my free course: The Four Essential Principles of Meditation. You can find it in The School of Wisdom.
Dorothy is a Registered Psychotherapist in private practice. She works remotely with clients online. If you would like to book a free discovery session or a session of counselling and/or life coaching, please reach out.