Presence is the greatest gift of life. Once I learned to be present, truly present, my entire life changed. Forgiveness came naturally. Ideas flow effortlessly. Love surrounds and permeates my being. I’m so grateful for presence, I can’t imagine going back to my “what if” and “remember when?” life.
I had a lot of the hurdles along my journey that kept me from being present in the beginning. All the resistance, all the fears, all the thoughts that come up when we practice presence can seem scary at first- until you see that there’s nothing there but this moment.
Let’s go through the most common reasons we avoid being present and their solutions to help you pull back the veil on your fears and embrace the magic of this beautiful moment:
1. We’re practicing avoidance.
“Avoidance learning is the process by which an individual learns a behavior or response to avoid a stressful or unpleasant situation.” –American Encyclopedia of Psychology
Avoidance is an excellent and necessary tool when the mind truly doesn’t know what to do with a situation. With presence and re-framing, however, avoidance isn’t necessary. Avoidance says, “I’m a victim and I can’t get out of this situation.” By looking at the situation differently, you can take a more empowering stance. There is always something you can do. You can always be grateful for something.
Solution: Stay present, and re-frame what you see. “I am making the choice to feel differently. I am making the choice to stay present. I am making the choice to be grateful for what I do have. I am grateful to have the option to choose, I am grateful to see the opportunities in this situation instead of feeling trapped.”
2. We haven't addressed our fears.
Sometimes a little story will sneak up on you that you don’t address right away. Someone might have said, “Oh, I wouldn’t do that if you don’t want X to happen.” Or there might be a subconscious story going on, like, “If I finish that project, it won’t be perfect, and I’ll be embarrassed.” Or, “I’d rather not do anything than try and fail.”
Solution: Every one of these fears is a projection into the future. We’re saying, “If I do X then Y will happen” and quite frankly, you don’t know that’s true. When you add in the weight of intention (“Our intention creates our reality.” -Wayne Dyer) then you realize that when you fear, you are creating the situation you fear. Intend that your project or action will have incredible results, and it will.
3. We're hanging on to the past.
“The last time I did X, Y happened.” “Every time I try something new, I fail.” “I tried to learn that once, but it was so hard.” It is so common to hang on to these stories and tell them, we hardly notice them! There might be any number of reasons something didn’t “work” for you last time- perhaps the #1 reason was that you didn’t expect it to.
Solution: Make a point to stop telling and thinking the stories in the past. You can’t operate there- you only have this moment. Is this something you want to do right now? Do it. Is it something you would love to do? By all means, don’t let some silly story stop you. Anything you want to do or be can easily be managed when you break it up into the present moment.
4. We’re afraid to be honest about what we really want.
I worked full-time office jobs for years, and was thoroughly part of the corporate culture. I’d often hear, “Must be nice for him, he doesn’t have to go to work everyday.” “Must be nice to be a millionaire while we’re here slaving away.” “He’s got the life.” “Sure, when you’re the boss you can do whatever you want.”
Comments laden with sarcasm, bitterness, and unhappiness.
Honestly admitting what we want can be hard. When we’ve attached bitterness, envy, resentment and anger to it, it can be even harder. Honestly admitting that I wanted to work from home, I wanted to be free from the corporate culture, was not taken so well when I shared it with others. Their fears spewed out torrentially, “How are you going to make it? Have you ever done that before? I could never do that. What if you have a dry spell? What if you can’t get a job again if you don’t make it?” Many of these thoughts could’ve kept me doing what I didn’t want to do- and kept me in a state of memories and fears instead of presence.
Solution: Honesty in the present moment is more powerful than all the fears and stories anyone can heap on you, including your own. That little voice inside you is your intuition that’s telling you something’s not right. Your intuition is firmly rooted in the present moment- where it’s telling you to take action now. Listen closely to your intuition- your true and honest self- about what you really want, and remember that everyone else’s comments are just stories of fear.
5. We have unrealistic stories about what being present means.
When I first started learning about mindfulness and presence, I thought it meant I would walk around in a blissed-out, zen-like state. While I am pretty blissed out these days, I’m still a fully functioning human being who’s able to relate to others, have amazing conversations, and do “worldly” things with incredible joy and presence. I still hear some of the unreasonable expectations pop up from others, and I can assure you being present is the most joyful, incredible gift I’ve ever been given.
Solution: Identify your fears around presence. Do you think you’ll have to join a monastery, or leave your family, or shave your head? You don’t. You can live an incredible, mindful life right now.