‘Openness, or conscious presence, is the sole means of unveiling your innate bliss.’ Christopher Wallis, Tantra Illuminated.
The present is the moment that presents itself to us right now. Presence means being in the moment. Yoga is practicing the art of living and life consists of a continuous flow of present moments. The yoga sutras of Patanjali say that yoga is the disassociation with the fluctuations of the mind. It is the union of body, mind and soul in the present moment. Yoga is being fully present in the moment. Yoga is now.
We experience life more fully when we live consciously in the now. Presence creates openness to life as it unfolds in every moment. Being present deepens relationships, creates connection, increases productivity, and leads to an increased sense of clarity. It alleviates suffering and allows us to act more consciously. Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now writes, 'Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry -- all forms of fear -- are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.' We get to know ourselves better as we stay aware of our thoughts, emotions and the sensations in the body. Being present is honouring the precious time we have, moment by moment.
How can we be present? We can stay present by focusing our attention on the present moment, cultivating an awareness of what arises and accepting our present reality.
Attention: We need to actively focus our thoughts and energy in order to pay attention to what we are experiencing in this very moment. By directing our attention to a single point of focus, such as the breath, we can anchor ourselves in the present moment.
Awareness: Being present means having a natural state of awareness of whatever arises in the present moment without judging or categorising any experience. Essentially this is what mindfulness meditation teaches us. As we become more aware of our now and the fluctuations of our mind, we can be present with what is. This way we can observe our now without judgement.
Acceptance: Once we are in this continuous flow of awareness, we can practice accepting the present, by not struggling against any part of our reality. When we are not attached to a particular outcome, we create freedom to experience the present more fully. ‘When we let go of wanting something else to happen in this moment, we are taking a profound step toward being able to encounter what is here now.’ (Jon Kabat-Zinn).
Being is presence. It is peculiar that we cannot grasp the present moment, even though we live in it. Being present is so simple, because it is our natural state, yet it is so difficult. Essentially when we live fully in the moment we are awake to our living state and we are fully consciously alive. It is therefore not about striving towards an end goal of becoming more present. Presence is our natural state, that we are returning to. It is an innate quality that we can sharpen and cultivate. We are already present and we know how to be present because we live it, so all we need to do is be.
Live each moment fully. Don’t hurry through life. Use your breath to arrive in the present moment. Honour the moment and give your presence as a gift to yourself and to others. It is the best gift you can give to anyone, including yourself, because only when we are present can true compassion and deep listening arise. Presence is love.
If you are interested in exploring the topic of presence further, here are some great resources: