“Awareness is the space in which thoughts exist, when that space has become conscious of itself. You can then make a conscious choice to be present rather than to indulge in useless thinking.”
I’ve been talking to my students about this in classes a lot recently. Do you ever catch yourself glazing over whilst in conversation with a friend? Or thinking about what to make for dinner in savasana? Or being somewhere and watching the clock, wishing you were some place else? We’re all guilty of this at some point, maybe even every day. In a world where the speed is set to accelerate tirelessly, where we find ourselves rushing around, overtaking people down corridors and running to the tube with a flustered sense of urgency even though there’s really no genuine rush to be where we’re going any faster, it’s no wonder we rarely find ourselves being 100% present.
To be present means to be focussed solely on what is happening in the here and now, without distraction and without concerning yourself with the past or the future; it’s the simple act of being, which for most, isn’t actually that simple.
Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power Of Now - a book dedicated to this topic, says that the present moment is all we actually have, and the more focussed we are on time – be it past or present – the more we miss out on life.
The moment I recognised this lack of presence in myself and started making a conscious effort to become more so, I felt less anxious, and much calmer and happier in general. I realised that dwelling on the past would only manifest itself as negativity in my now, and concerning myself with the future would stop me from fully enjoying, appreciating and getting the most out of it. For instance, being unable to let go of things that happened in the past means you will always be anchored to those events emotionally, which often results in them happening again, right? And wishing you were elsewhere, be it in your job, with your fitness goals and other aspirations, means you are unable to find contentment in where you are currently at.
So how do we go about doing this? One effective way of reaching a state of presence is by bringing our awareness to the breath – something that is inherent to the practice of yoga. In doing so, we are able to find a sense of stillness in our monkey minds, that space between our thoughts; an expanse of peace and renewed purpose in each and every moment. I’d like to invite you to take a few moments to connect to your breath, every time you notice your sense of presence slipping away to thoughts about something that doesn’t concern your now. Become conscious of every inhalation and exhalation, perhaps counting to 5 each time to focus the mind on the breath and nothing else. Feel the expansion rise up from your belly, into your chest and your throat with each inhale, and gentle leaving the body as you exhale. Set aside a bit of time to do this every day – even if it’s just for 5 minutes with a cup of tea in hand each morning, and notice how much calmer you feel afterwards.
You, as well as your friends and other people you encounter in your life, deserve your full attention. Acknowledge that you are exactly where you need to be at this current moment in time, and rather than focussing on the end goal or result, trust in the process and allow yourself to fully enjoy the journey.