Perception is Projection
The simplest definition of “being present” is the awareness of who we are and what we experience without judgment or emotion. Eastern philosophy advises that to find peace and serenity we must observe what happens in life in a detached state without layering emotion over what we observe. Modern psychology teaches that what we observe often is changed through our perception and judgment of it. In other words, perception is projection of our thoughts and prejudices on what we experience. Thus, concepts such as good and bad and right and wrong are purely subjective and different for everyone. When we are “present”, we can be aware that our understanding of the world is simply our perception of our experiences influenced by our thoughts, emotions and beliefs. “Being present” detaches our awareness from our thoughts, emotions and beliefs so we can see the world for what it is, simply what we are experiencing in the present moment. By doing so, we eliminate emotional stress, fear and anxiety.
Be grateful 5 times a day
Routine remembrance of things that make us happy helps us to focus on the blessings of life and stop complaining. After all, people who constantly complain have a hard time being “present”, primarily because they don’t want to “be present”. They want to be a victim and manipulate their family and friends with their suffering. Some people are quite good at it. By being grateful, we empower ourselves to see life as it is, and “be present”. A “present” is a “gift” and if you don’t appreciate all the gifts you have then you aren’t going to appreciate being “present”. By thinking about being grateful 5 times a day, we reinforce this feeling of gratitude and keep reminding ourselves what is important. Pick the times you will practice this and stick to it. You will be amazed how your stress and anxiety goes away.
Remember the past, don’t resent it
I hear over and over on the Internet and in workshops that we “have to let go of the past” to achieve something (fill in the blank…happiness, goals, abundance, relationships, etc.). I must say that this totally misses the point and probably does more harm than good for people who are struggling and suffering with their life. In my practice and in my life, I have found that it is far more productive to embrace my past and enjoy it than to “let go”. This also includes the notions that we must forgive and forget our past and the people who we have experienced in it. When we can detach from the emotions of the experience, we can look at the experience for what it was, just an experience. If we can let go of the emotional attachment to getting what we want, we can eliminate suffering. Perhaps they also mean “don’t be a victim”, again not the same thing as “letting it go”. If we believe that we are not victims and the creator of our reality, why would we want to “let it go”? Each experience is our creation, our baby. Why would we want to let that go?
We don’t need to “let our past go”. We need to appreciate our past, embrace our past and understand that we are who we are because of our past. Now if we do not love ourselves, and fill ourselves with self-hatred, then we will resort to denying our past and “letting it go”. If, on the other hand, we love ourselves, we do not have to “let go of our past”. To love ourselves is to “be present”.
Life happens for us, not to us
We are here to experience life. Every experience we encounter is meant to teach us something about ourselves. There are five levels of consciousness (1) survival, (2) self-awareness, (3) detachment, (4) release of the idea of self and (5) enlightenment. To “be present” we must get to level (3) if not higher. When we are constantly in survival mode and going from one disaster to the next, we are not able to “be present”. So, become “self-aware” and then “detach” from your judgment about life. “Being present” is the ability to see life as it is, not what you judge or believe it to be. In this way, you can fully appreciate what is happening, and that is to make you a better person.
Observe, don’t judge
What do you spend your day thinking about? If you are not thinking about what is happening in any moment, you are distracting yourself and not “being present”. We were designed to fully focus on every given moment but through culture and programming we have learned how to distract ourselves from that designated purpose. We think about the past, we think about the future, we think about our finances, we think about our relationships but we rarely, if ever totally focus on what is happening in any given moment. We focus on getting what we want, or how to keep what we have, but don’t have the power to observe our experience objectively and rationally. We wear colored glasses (goggles?) to change our experience. These glasses can be glasses, judgments, beliefs, prejudices, drugs or alcohol. We must take off these glasses to be present and accept the world for what it is, a gigantic playground.
People love to get in each other’s business and then share the contents of everyone’s life with someone else. We chew over every little morsel with our friends and digest everyone else’s life in intimate detail. The juiciest bits are the parts that may be embarrassing or destructive. By doing this, we distract ourselves from our lives so that we don’t have to deal with our experiences. This gossip includes politics, religion and scandals. To be present, we must focus on our own experiences and be self-aware of our own existence. Someone else’s business is none of our business.
Being present is a moment to moment thing. Very few people can be present all the time. The best most of us can do is try to be present often. These tips can help us do that.