Living in the Present: How to be Truly and Fully Here
Stop and smell the roses. Live for the moment. Just be here.
You have probably heard some variation of something like this.
It’s a common refrain to try to bring us back to this moment when our world is going wild around us.
While well meaning, stopping to smell the roses may not always be that helpful in centering us in this moment.
So how do we get back to this moment and live in the present? And what does living in the present even mean?
The phrases cited are about something greater than physically being present. So how can we understand this common phrase - live in the present - in a way that actually helps us make the most of the moments in our lives?
Why live in the present?
Satisfaction in life comes from being a whole and complete human being. It is what psychologist Abraham Maslow called self-actualization; a term for those people who are motivated to discover their true selves and answer their deepest emotions about meaning and purpose.
This journey to self-actualization has been called many things. Here are a few:
Reaching emotional and spiritual maturity - by Larry and Hersch Wilson, authors of Play To Win.
Evoking the better angels of our nature - by President Abraham Lincoln.
The undivided life - by author, educator, and activist Parker Palmer.
The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell
Finding your superpower - by me!
Regardless of the name, what it really boils down to is the unfolding of who we are and who we can be. The starting point for this journey to wholeness - to self-actualization - is living in the present - being here and ready for whatever the moment asks of us.
What does it mean to live in the present?
Living in the present seems intuitive - all I have to do is focus on this moment, right? - but in practice what does that look like? Is it taking a few moments to breath? Is it trying to relax your body? What is it?
One of the best things I have found to understand what it means to live in the present is the concept of presence.
Watch a video of me explaining presence.
Presence is about being fully in this moment. To be fully in this moment we have to get to a place where we exist in a space of emergence, a space of connection to the divine, or where god speaks to you.
This means we must move past a place where we are controlled by any wounds or emotional or spiritual hurts that we have accumulated throughout our lifetime so that we can step into an amazing place where the wonders of life unfold before us.
Presence is also defined by Kristi Hedges (2011) as:
aligning your thoughts with your words and actions. And it requires a keen understanding of your true, authentic self, as well as your impact on others.
Thus, presence is about both being fully in this moment and aligning your thoughts, words, and actions with your most compelling values.
So how do I live in the present?
The ability to live in the present moment involves two parts: having a fundamental understanding of yourself, and then being able to center yourself and bring yourself back to your core in any moment.
The first part, understanding yourself, is grounded in getting to know your core values. Knowing what is at the heart of you gives you the bedrock to live from your authentic self in every moment.
The second part, bringing yourself back to the moment, involves reaching a place of, “letting come”, as explained in Presence by Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski & Flowers.
“Letting come” is about being in a space where we open ourselves to live beyond our own preconceptions, and to let go of old identities and the need to control.
Some exercises to help you center yourself and reach a space of letting come can be found in this video.
I like to use these when I am especially frazzled, because they do a great job of helping me center myself.
Additionally, our old stories and wounds keep us from being able to live in the present.
These stories and wounds buzz in the background, drawing parts of our attention and focus away from the now and keeping us from being fully in this moment.
To reach the place where we are capable of letting life come, we have to honor and let go of these old stories.
The way that you can reach this place is by clearing away your scrap heaps. The wounds that we have accumulated throughout our lives, whether that comes from your family, relationships, money, etc., not only keep you from living your most authentic life, they also keep you from living in the present.
What happens when I master presence?
Mastering presence opens a path to a new future for yourself. Mastering presence, at its core, is about becoming a master of yourself - finding what is at your core, clearing away any of the hurts you have accumulated, and sitting in that every moment.
The book Presence elaborated on what happens when you are able to move into presence.
When you see what you’re here for, the world begins to mirror your purpose in a magical way. It’s almost as if you suddenly find yourself on a stage in a play that was written expressly for you. (p. 114)
Moving into presence allows for a new, amazing future to emerge for and through you and for you to feel like you are living the life you were meant to lead.
It also means you are strong enough in yourself to let others say what they need to say without reacting or judging, and hold the space to love yourself and others.
Living in the present means living authentically and being fully here. It means living your best life, designed by you for you, and not the life others have laid out for you. And when you are able to align your deeds with your authentic self in every moment, incredible things emerge!
Wishing you llama llove,