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Presence is all about how much you are here, right now. Not lost in thought, talking inwardly, problem solving, spacing out or otherwise distracting yourself. Simply here.
Most people are not present at all. Their minds have been hijacked by the mass media. Endless inward chattering blinds people to what is right in front of them: the immediate, the real.
The problem with not being present is that you live in the here and now. Not in your memories or the past. Nor in speculation and worries about the future. You are here right now. Everything else doesn't exist.
To the degree that we are
present, there is no fear.
When somebody is semi-present, they are only giving partial attention to what they are doing at any given time. They drive a car whilst texting on their phone or taking a phone call.
Their mind is not here and now. Their ability to respond spontaneously to immediate circumstances is diminished.
Instead of being vital, present and here, the individual is drifting in the clouds of their own thoughts, ideas and memories.
Try talking with somebody who is not fully present... They seem distracted, slow, listless. Not attentive. They have difficulty following a train of thought. They are not really listening to what is being said.
There is a certain vacancy in their eyes. Or a look of inward anxiety. A deeply neurotic urgency of purpose.
When a person isn't present, their body reflects their mind. There are often careless habits of slouching, poor poise, bad patterns of usage. They look like they've borrowed the body for a while.
No nimbleness, grace, vigour, agility at all. The body is reduced to a shambling carcass; transporting their chorus or thoughts around their life.
The degree of presence affects emotions. Much of what people speculate about never comes to pass. Gossip is mean and fruitless.
Politics is merely a form of amusement for the bored individual seeking identification with events greater than themselves.
Consequently, people explore a range of faux emotions every day that have no direct bearing on the immediacy of their lives.
Since we live in the immediate we need to be conscious of the immediate. The more present we are, the better we can address what is taking place as it is taking place.
For a martial artist this is imperative. For everyone else it is still essential. If your mind is elsewhere, who is running things in its absence? There is no autopilot.
Meditation is about training the individual to be here and now. Initially there will be very little improvement but over time things will change.
Rather than space out, you find yourself increasingly aware of what is taking place.
This will facilitate a deeper, richer engagement with life.
Heightened level of awareness
You will notice more. See more. Feel more. Experience more.
Whilst other people are tapping away on their phones you will see squirrel on the tree, the pheasant at the roadside, feel the slight twinge in your back or hear the creak of your friend's knee.
Noticing things will broaden your perspective and change how you see the world. You may find that humour comes more readily and easily.
Your life will change in ways you cannot imagine.
It is said that soon after his
enlightenment the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the
Buddha's extraordinary radiance and presence.
The man stopped and asked, "My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?"
"No," said the Buddha.
"Well, then, are you some kind of magician or wizard?"
Again the Buddha answered, "No."
"Are you a man?"
"Well, my friend, then what are you?"
The Buddha replied, "I am awake."
There is nothing mystical about 'presence'. It is simply a condition of awareness whereby you are rooted in the immediate moment rather than absorbed in thought or memory.
In order to do anything wholeheartedly you need to be present, not daydreaming or 'spacing out'.
Certain activities can help a person gain presence. These are not 'meditation'. They are simply activities or exercises that encourage you to be conscious of the 'here and now'.
Ultimately, everything that you do should help to bring your mind back to reality; whether it is washing dishes, walking on a deserted beach or sitting quietly.
The activity itself is not important - it simply serves to initiate the condition of presence. If you come to rely upon the activity, this is a mistake.
Simple is not easy
Tai chi requires awareness; the mind must be without thought in order for you to move internally. Beginners initially learn 'standing qigong' because this helps them to calm the mind and be present.
The exercise is uncomplicated and offers almost no physical challenge except to remain relaxed and aware.
It is the very simplicity of the qigong that causes problems for people; it is an exercise that lacks activity.
An agitated mind needs entertainment and rebels against inactivity. Once the mind settles, the senses become more acute and you begin to notice more. This is the beginning of presence.
Alcohol, drugs, sugar, smoking etc hinder mindfulness. e.g. alcohol dulls the senses.
The original meaning of intoxication is "a poisoning". The euphoria people experience from alcohol isn't the outcome of being healthy and present. It is the consequence of poisoning the brain.
You cannot be mindful and clear if your brain is dulled. Drinking alcohol is the polar opposite of mindfulness.
People may drink alcohol regularly, read this information and then object... It can be worth asking yourself why?
The answers are simple: habit, lifestyle attachment, emotional investment, peer pressure, self-image and even (potentially) addiction. Common sense and reason are inconvenient.
Presence can be seen in a different way... Some people seem to have 'presence'. They exude a notable air of security and calm.
These individuals quietly walk through life in a comfortable, natural way. They are unaffected and genuine. There is no conflict or aggression in their manner. Just gentle humour and grace.
Ed Parker says, "The only reason men fight is because they are insecure; one man needs to prove that he is better or stronger than another. The man who is secure within himself has no need to prove anything with force, so he can walk away from a fight with dignity and pride. He is the true martial artist - a man so strong inside that he has no need to demonstrate his power."
The Chinese word for this kind of confidence is 'sai', which can be defined as 'presence'.
18 April 2005
Last updated 17 September 2019