“It’s all a matter of paying attention, being awake in the present moment and not expecting a huge pay off. The magic in this world seems to work in whispers and small kindnesses”
– Christopher de Lint.
With this month’s blog I want to share with you one of the fundamental qualities of mindfulness, PRESENCE. I work with women daily who are physically present, but their mind is a million miles away. It’s a helpful coping strategy when A) the husband has Motorsport on all afternoon B) when your 4-year-old is off the charts at the supermarket or C) when it’s 3pm on a Friday at work and you’re dreaming of wine. Sometimes it’s referred to as being away with the fairies, not home or automatic pilot – whatever you choose to call it, it’s not really living.
Thankfully, as the incredible species we are, we have been equipped with this wicked brain that can process everything, it can make plans and it can ascertain judgement calls that will (hopefully) serve us well… the only downfall is that we end up planning and judging not just our current experience but also this time last year. Last week. Yesterday. We worry and try plan for tomorrow, next month, for next year. Holy! We’re amazing… we can be in 7 places at once without even leaving the room!
You get my drift.
We may be sitting with our kids or hanging with our girlfriends – but our minds are so far from being present.
Let me ask you, how does that feel? What does it do for your mental health?
We are gifted with an amazing brain, capable of so much. So much so that it often ends up running the show. We find ourselves snapping out of a daydream 10 minutes after we actually finished our lunch. Or, we realise that 20 minutes has gone by because crap, we’ve bitten our nail down to the skin and we can’t recollect what we’ve been doing, except that we recognise the sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach, and our mind is racing from one thought to the next as if the speed of sound was its rival.
Our mind takes us to weird and wonderful places. Which is ok – it’s just doesn’t allow us our full and gorgeous experience.
When we’re in our head we are missing out on the world around us.
We miss out on the excitement from our kids, the hugs from our friends and the gorgeous smell of spring flowers. Presence is power and it’s something that we need to foster if our lives are going to be meaningful and if we’re going to enjoy the many blessings we have.
I can hear you interjecting… “not every experience is so joyful”. Which is true – some being crap. Some are so bloody hard we amaze ourselves by coming out the other end, intact and still breathing. But, just because times are hard doesn’t mean that they’re not worthy of our presence. Take my word for it – next time life gets hard, if you allow yourself to stay present you will come out the other end sooner and having dealt with it better.
It’s easy to get caught up in the trap of believing that, in order to improve our happiness, we need the latest book or the latest evidence based therapy tools, but really, the best platform to leap off is the most basic, and the most effective-and that’s our breath.
Let’s show our brain whose boss and actively try and be more present for our day to day experience. Our breath and our senses can bring us back to where we are, back to what’s important rather than stressing about goings on from last week.
My personal fav is to notice the coolness of my IN breath, feel my feet connected to the ground and allow my OUT breath to drop my shoulders and relax the muscles in my face.
in-feet-out shoulders… in-feet-out-shoulders
Do this as often as you can. The most important thing, and key to success is to practice when you are in a good space so that when you really need it you can easily remember what to do. When our brain is in fight or flight mode, our brain struggles to think of the best way forward, all it can think about is survival.
So! The more you practice presence the more you can tap into it when your brain is trying to carry to away.
Stop and pay attention to what you can hear or what you can see. Stop and smell the daphne, the fresh cut grass, your coffee, or your kiddo as they engulf you in a cuddle. Life isn’t made to be lived in your head. Bringing a conscious awareness to being present brings calmness, happiness and a greater sense of control.
So why wouldn’t you give it a whirl?
About Victoria Hood
Victoria has been working in the mental health and addiction field over the past 7 years since leaving University with an honours degree in Psychology. During her time spent working in addiction, Victoria was introduced to the practice of mindfulness. Since this time Victoria has become extremely passionate about incorporating mindfulness into both her professional and her family life.
Victoria has an honours degree in Psychology from the University of Canterbury. She is a Life Coach, Mindfulness Coach, Mindfulness Practitioner in schools and is a passionate holistic health and well-being advocate and facilitator of mindfulness based workshops.
More about Victoria…