The Importance of Present Mindedness

It’s really important to be present minded. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already on board with that statement, at least in theory, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it this week. My quote of the week for my newsletter is about present mindedness, and of course I always have more to think and say and share than fits in the newsletter format.

Considering the topic, it’s more than will fit in a blog post, too. So it’ll be another series that I’ll periodically add to, and I’ll link them all at the bottom of each post so you can follow along easily – if the link isn’t there yet, the posts aren’t written yet. 

In the series I’ll cover the idea itself, be here, now, which is this first post. There will also be: The future is a country for which you can’t get a visa, take it off your bucket list; the past is a graveyard of mistakes – learn your lessons, leave flowers, move on; wanting to be anywhere but here, now, is a signpost that you’ve got work to do, that’s all – don’t fear the signpost, don’t fear the work; self-awareness is knowing why we do the stupid shit we do, roughly when we do it; desire is a double-edged sword with a missing handle; impatience and boredom are red flags and what we’re impatient with is actually… ourselves; methods: meditation, qigong/moving meditation, journaling, therapy & spiritual direction, forgiveness practice, somatic therapies, and finally an abbreviated reading list.

Now, full disclosure: I’m not an enlightened master. I’m working through these things just as you are, and this post is just where I share what I have learned so far. It’s all a work in progress, until it’s not, you know?

So… Being here. Now.

The present is where all of life happens. Life doesn’t actually occur in the past, or in the future, it occurs right now. And fully half the point of present mindedness is to improve our quality of life simply by changing the focus of our minds – not by making more money, or having different relationships, or a different living situation, or a different health situation, or controlling anything else about our life circumstances. Only by changing the focus of our minds, we can change the thoughts we think and the emotions that grip us. We can sidle up next to inner peace, we can flirt with tranquility, we can fill our plate with more joy than we had before. Just by changing the focus of our minds.

Admittedly, the other half of the point of present mindedness is achieving total Enlightenment. Atonement. Inner peace. Nirvana. Oneness with Source. Divine Union with God. You can look at it as a religious thing, or a spiritual thing, or a philosophical thing, or a personal life goal thing, or just a thing for other people because what you really care about is the other half of present mindedness: changing the focus of your thoughts and thus improving the quality of your life. Your motivations are your own, and you don’t have to put them in an easily label-able box – you do you.

So there are a thousand ways up this mountain of achieving present mindedness, and they’re all valid. One person may manage it just by breathing deeply and completely, all day, every day, as much as they can… and that’s it, they’re good. Maybe they’re not ‘done’ because it’s an ongoing practice, not a one-time achievement, so they have to keep doing deep breathing, but they’ve already trained themselves to do it, so it’s a pretty easy practice to maintain most of the time, and the benefits are vast. They’re happier. They deal with stressful situations in a calmer and more useful manner. They still get angry, they still get sad, but they work through the emotions faster, deal with them in healthy ways and are able to move on and get back to their baseline which is by and large, both calmer and more joyful than before.

That’s one example.

The point is that you can use any one of so many different practices to get you up the mountain. It’s not that deep breathing is magical. (Well, it might be, but it’s not the only way to present mindedness.) It’s that deep breathing also works like all the other ways. And all the other ways will become easier with practice, they’re not a one-time achievement so you have to keep doing them, but since the rewards are so overwhelmingly good the effort you put in seems completely reasonable. And you’ll still get angry, still get sad, still have the full range of pleasant and unpleasant emotions, but in general you’ll be happier. You’ll deal with stressful situations in a calmer and more useful manner, and you’ll work through difficult emotions easier than before, afterwards returning to baseline, which will be calmer and more joyful than this time last year.

Those are the goals and benefits. The methods we’ll cover last. And in the middle we’ll look at the pitfalls of all the things our minds would much prefer we think about, plus a few helpful concepts to help us in our travels.

The essence of it is simple. It’s so deliciously, delightfully, deviously simple: be here, now. And the essence of it isn’t easy, unless you’ve mastered the practice of it. One you have, it is. Until then, it may be the hardest thing you’ve ever tried.

Oh, but it’s worth it.

This is part one of the eight part series: Sarey’s Practical Guide to Present-Mindedness. When they are posted, you’ll be able to find the other parts, here. (If they’re not here yet, they’re not posted yet! Subscribe to the blog and you’ll be the first to know when the post!)

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