Presence of Mind

Chris and I have regular (Zoom) meeting where we share our recent experiences and insights on such things as everyday magical occurrences. Another topic that frequently crops up is Presence or Being Present. We’ve discussed it so many time now that we have a (reasonably!) common understanding of what we mean by the idea. But it occurred to me that these, and related terms, are often banded around and some readers won’t really appreciate what we’re talking about. So, here goes!

As I start writing I feel my head in a warm glow. In some ways I sense that my mind is no longer my own. What’s coming out into my keyboard is more coming through me as from me. On this occasion I can relate the feeling to what I’m doing and know that if I ‘go with it’, some good (i.e. useful) words are going to flow. On other occasions my head feels so much like cotton wool, full of cloud, unable to ‘think’ in a conventional way, that I have to stop what I’m doing. The feeling no longer bothers me: I know (through previous experiences having been positive ones) that I’m probably uploading some wisdom, doing some mental realignment or otherwise allowing this unconventional mode of consciousness to take me over. Let’s say it’s my higher self, my soul, the God in me, speaking to me.

It’s paradoxical in that whilst at such moments we may feel out of control we are (in conscious evolution terms) far more our true selves than we might have imagined possible.

In moments of extreme stress

And it’s not that unusual and in no way unnatural. Consider those situations, perhaps an emergency, where everything seems to be slipping away from you. There may be no time to think things through but, somehow, you do exactly what needs to be done. An observer may say you ‘had the presence of mind to …’ (give CPR, for example).

When we’re in danger, this way of ‘thinking’ kicks in automatically: it over-rides the much slower rational thought process and, in such a state of mind, we just know what we need to do.

But these are not the only times that we can be over-come by a deep presence.

In moments of bliss

Consider those, perhaps few and fleeting, moments of bliss in your life. Perhaps whilst watching a sunset, or whilst creating or watching a particularly powerful piece of music. Again, the rational mind is subdued, it’s put to one side: no labelling, no judging, no inner (mental) commentary. We are just there. Present, in the moment, totally absorbed in the experience.

Some might call these periods mystical experiences, or peak or religious experiences: although the activity leading to the moments of blissful presence often have no religious or even overtly spiritual intent. We might equate them to the top sportsmen and women being in the zone: so at one, in the moment, that they can perform at their absolute best.

Which begs the question: if athletes (for example) can train themselves to be more present, what about the rest of us?

Of course we can! And that’s exactly what conscious evolution is all about. Once we know what being present feels like, we can (as Chris and I were discussing this morning) locate that sense within us and work with it: we can consciously develop the ability to be present.

But we cannot control it.

As anyone who’s tried to dowse or be mindful (for example) will tell you: the more you try to make these things happen, the less likely they are to actually happen. Reflect on those moments of danger or bliss that did results in pure presence: they happened spontaneously.

They need to be allowed to happen.

We can, however do a few things to encourage and enable these wonderful period of now-ness:

  • Be willing and able to surrender into the moment. To let go. Or ‘let go and let God’, if you prefer.
  • To have no expectations; either of attaining a state of presence (in my PhD thesis I called them transcendent experiences) or having any other preconceived goal in relation to the situation we’re may be in (like winning your tennis match, for example). The more empty our mind is, the easier it is to be wholly present.
  • To take up and practice any technique or activity that helps the mind to empty and a higher consciousness to embrace us: any form of reflective, contemplative or mindfulness practice, for example. Or self-healing (e.g. Reiki) or meditation: so long as you experiment and find an approach that works for you.
  • Being with nature and being artistic or creative are often also effective. Anything you’re able to immerse yourself into.

And so, over years and decades, those moments of presence begin to come more easily and frequently, and to last for longer.

Not only does this feel good for us, as it happens, but those around us will benefit to: when we are present, so things flow effortlessly around us. Just by ‘being present’, not necessarily doing anything, so others feel more relaxed. What a wonderful gift to give to the world.

If you’re stuck choosing a Christmas offering for someone, consider Being Present instead of giving one!

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