When I started studying meditation and mindfulness in the early 90s (due to a bout with depression – not even able to fold a basket of laundry), I thought mindfulness was about being grateful and thinking deeply about all of the blessings in my life.  Eating mindfully meant thinking about and thanking all the plants, animals and people who made my meal possible. Walking mindfully meant thinking about and being grateful for my health and my ability to perform such an activity. It wasn’t until my experience with cancer and the beginnings of awakening in 2007 (thanks to Eckhart Tolle’s teachings) that I finally got it. It is not about thinking at all – just the opposite – it is about stopping the incessant flow of thinking and returning to the senses.  

Jon Kabat-Zinn asks, “When you are in the shower, are you in the shower?” Or are you at the meeting coming up in a couple of hours?  Or are you still involved in an argument with a family member or co-worker? Instead, can you see the water and feel it as it bounces off your skin?  Can you smell the soap and feel the silkiness as it slides over your body? Can you hear the rush of the water? This is being present. 

Based on these insights, I developed a game for myself called Here I Am. I play this game whenever I am feeling angry, fearful, anxious, judged, annoyed, irritated…you name it. Whenever these thoughts are “taking me away,” I use this game as my reflex to return to the present moment.

To play the game I return to the present moment and say “Here I am”…add the verb (whatever I happen to be doing at that moment)…and then call upon my senses:

What can I see, hear, smell, taste, feel?   So, it goes like this.  Here I am typing on the keyboard.  I see the letters popping up on the screen.  I hear the click of the keys as I type, the flow of the river below my patio and the birds singing in the background.  If I really pay attention, I can smell the sweetness of the air and the faint scent of rain. I can taste the water I am drinking. I can feel my hands on the keyboard, my feet on the floor, my butt in the chair, the breeze as it blows across my face and through my hair.  Here I am preparing dinner. I take in the colors of all the foods, the textures and sensations as I chop. I enjoy the aromas of the sauteing garlic. Here I am driving my car. I see the sun, the sky, all the other cars, the road. I hear the sounds of the radio and the rush of the other vehicles.  I feel the steering wheel beneath my hands and my butt cushioned by the seat. I hope I don’t smell much. You get the idea.

This game is based on the fact that the mind can only focus on one point at a time; this is presence. This poem came out of that awareness:


Click of the dryer door
Warm air to my face
I wrap my arms around my clean clothes
And bury my face in their freshness
Rough and smooth on my cheeks
Into the basket of wicker and on to the bedroom to fold
Love my bedroom, soft light, brick wall I did myself
Hard work, I really hurt my hands, but that was then
Right now I’m here, folding the laundry
Beautiful napkin, first one out
Bright plaid of red, orange, yellow and green
Corner to corner
Line to line
Flat palm over textured surface, press
Diane gave me these napkins
I love Diane
I have an appointment for a massage with her soon
But that is then
Right now I’m here, folding the laundry
Sock to sock
Toe to toe
My piles, his piles
Put it all away
Sun is shining, birds are singing
Nice clean sheets
Good night’s sleep, but that is then
Right now I’m here, folding the laundry
Folding the laundry was once impossible
But that was then
This is NOW  
Here I am, here I AM, folding the laundry. 

When you practice presence, as with practicing meditation, you create new habits of the mind and therefore new neural pathways in the brain. Instead of feeling trapped by ego into reactivity or being swept away to past or future, you can say “Here I am,” and return more quickly to the present moment, to the space, to consciousness, to who you really are.