Being Present


Right now I am sitting up in bed, my legs tucked under the covers. I should have made the bed this morning when I got up but I didn't. I had a feeling I would want to crawl back into it later, when I'd earned the right to lounge a bit, after playing with the pup and having some productive time at my desk, before showering and getting ready for work. I was right.

My blinds are open, and pale, late morning light filters in through the tree outside my window. Fan blades chase each other overhead, softly whirring, and the dangling light and fan speed chains dance a little in place. My back aches from my often poor posture and my shoulders are tight from stress. My full-length mirror leans against the wall across from me, waiting to be mounted in its new location. A piece of paper tucked in the corner of my dresser mirror bobs; a necklace hanging on a hook on the wall twitches. There is movement in this still moment.

My breathing is shallow except when I think about it, and then I take deep breaths. I roll my head a little from side to side, note how dry my hands are, catalog all of the things that are out of place in this room–an open drawer, a sweater at the foot of the bed, the pillows I tossed on the floor last night. The fan is the predominant sound in the room, but sometimes I can hear a car passing on the road beyond my apartment complex, a bug chirping, Olive shifting in her crate, a dog barking from the balcony of a nearby building. My back crackles as I straighten. The out-of-place mirror reflects the open drawer, saying please come shut me. I acknowledge the drawer, know that I will shut it when I get up, let the thought go. A car passes below my window. My hands make shushing sounds as I rub them together, an absentminded gesture that often accompanies thinking. I stop. My hair crinkles as I run my fingers through it. My toes wriggle, my legs shift. Restless. My body is telling me it's time to get up, to move my limbs. I stretch, re-settle, wanting to finish my thoughts before shifting spaces. The sounds the keys make as I press them is pleasing, marking progress.

I am present in this moment.

Occasionally, I will wonder what time it is, wonder if it is getting away from me, if I need to move on. I will think, should I wash my hair today, or wait until tomorrow? I will wonder how much money I have in my checking account, and my stomach will seize, and I will feel guilty about every dollar I've spent in the last few days and worry over all the bills I need to pay and chastise myself for not spending more time on job applications this week. This will all happen in a minute or less. And I'll breathe it out, return to the sound of the fan, the feeling of wisps of hair tickling my face, the smell of clean air, the simple joy of sunlight.

Being present can mean different things to different people. For me, it means living in your senses. It means taking in this moment, not living in one that will come or has already gone. It means being thoughtful but not preoccupied. It means self-awareness and self-acceptance and self-acknowledgement. It means living here in this world, not in a dreamscape, not in a stress space, not in an emotion.

Is it possible to be present 100% of the time? No, I don't think so. We consume television and film and literature to step out of our bodies for a while, to practice imagination and empathy. Art and music put us in thoughtful headspaces. And it's important to process emotion, to sometimes indulge nostalgia, to consider our histories, to plan ahead, to set goals. But, in the living of our lives, it's important to check in, to ask ourselves, am I here right now, or am I just going through the motions?

If you would like to be more present in your life, find those quiet moments to check in with yourself, and know that sometimes you will have to create those quiet moments for yourself. In moments between tasks, stop, take a deep breath, exhale completely, and ask yourself how you are feeling. What do you need right now, if anything? What can you do to fill that need? When you find yourself becoming consumed by an emotion, stop, breathe, and ask yourself, is this a valid emotion? Is this something I've gotten myself worked up about, or is this really important? Is this something I can address right now? If so, do so and move on with your life. If not, accept that this is something beyond your control and let it go. When your thoughts return to it, when the feeling creeps back up (and it will), acknowledge it and again gently push it away. Check in with each of your senses to ground yourself. When someone asks you how you are, take a moment and really think about it for yourself, even if you don't want to share the true answer with that person. Find the cues and spaces in your own life that will remind you to check in, find balance, become grounded.

And, when you can, take a few minutes to just be here in your body, in your senses. This may be through creating space in your schedule for meditation, or simply incorporating it into steps already in your routine, like showering or dog walking, anything where you can keep your stimuli and need for response low.

Resolving to be more present is the easiest, kindest thing you can do for yourself, and you can start at any time. You don't have to have a yoga practice or a meditation schedule to do it. You can spend one minute every day being more aware of and grateful for this moment and be happier. And it won't cost you a dime.

I hope that something in here rang true for you. This is a practice I've been working on most especially in the last year or so

Do you practice some form of this in your own life? Has it yielded any positive results?

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