What does it mean to be present? We have terms like ‘presence of mind’ and we say that something was saved or something bad was averted due to somebody’s presence of mind. On the other hand, we also have terms lime ‘I am lost’ or questions such as ‘where are you’, ‘you don’t seem to be present here’. These things imply that it is possible to either be present or absent somewhere in spite of being physically present there.
Two questions arise (i) Who is present or absent? (ii) From where and from when?
I want to answer the second question first. The answer is “In the Here and Now”. The here being defined by the location of our physical body and all the space around the body where the senses of eyesight, hearing and smelling can reach. This whole space is called the here. The now is the present moment in time. The moment you start describing or even thinking about what is happening in the present moment, it has already become a past event. So the now is a continuously evolving occurrence that can only be experienced when we come back to being present. Life happens only in the “Now” moment and we can live our life or experience our life only in the present moment. Instead of living and experiencing the now moment, we can also get lost in the past lived moments or get carried away by imagining the future yet to be lived moments. That is when we are said to be absent from the here and now.
Coming to the first question, who is present or absent, it cannot refer to our physical body because the physical body is always present in the here and now. Our brain is a part of the body so the brain is also present in the here and now. The answer to this question is “our Awareness”. We are either present or absent from our body with our Awareness. This Awareness or our aware mind is different from our thinking mind or emotional mind or limbic mind or intuitive mind in a subtle way although it encompasses all of these.
How to know the diffrerenc between our aware mind, thinking mind, emotional mind, limbic mind and intuitive mind and know where from are we percieving in a given moment? I would like to answer this question experentially rather than intellectually. Because, to experience the mind shift that helps us step out of the thinking mind and into the aware mind is a skill that can be learnt and practiced without intellectually learning the answer to this question. The intellectual understanding arises with ease out of our experential realisation as we practice coming back to being present and cultivate a habit to do so.
One simple and effective tool is ‘Fixed Gazing and Conscious Breathing’ or FGCB. This practice can also be used as your first step to an effective meditation practice.
Do this for just one to three minutes and see if it helps.
Sit on a straight back chair with feet flat on the floor, the entire soles of the feet from tips of the toes to the heels firmly contacting the floor. Keep your back erect, you may place a cushion behind your back for support if required but do not lean back on an inclined backrest of the chair. Let your head be held straight, neck straight, shoulders square and relaxed. You may tilt the head very slightly downward to gaze at a point on the floor in front of you a few feet away from you.
Keep your eyes fixed on that spot for a few minutes without moving your eyeballs. Allow your eyes to be half open and half closed and hold that spot in a gentle gaze and not a stare. You are not looking there to see something but simply holding that spot in a gentle gaze.
Exhale with a loud sigh from your mouth and use gentle effort to empty your lungs as far as possible without straining too much. Then relax your body and allow the inhale to happen effortlessly and soundlessly through your nostrils. When you sense that the inhale is over, do not put any further effort to breathe in but repeat the exhale from the mouth with the sound and gentle effort. Repeat this for a few minutes. I call this conscious breathing. Effort only for the out breaths and allowing in breaths to happen effortlessly.
This entire process is called FGCB or fixed gazing with conscious breathing. You can do this at any time and in any place. Just do this right now and see if you can experience a momentary shift into the aware mind. Once you are able to experience this, you may set hourly reminder alerts on your smartphone and repeat this one to three minute FGCB every hour throughout the day today and see how it helps with calming your mind. This is a powerful grounding practice and you can do this even when you are driving and waiting for the red signal to turn green. Allow any such interruptions in your day to remind you to come back to the practice of FGCB repeatedly.
To be present is to find our ‘Happy Place within us”. My recently launched book “Awareness Journey – The Happy Place Module” is a true story of the seemingly miraculous healing effects of cultivating the simple habit of coming back to our happy place within to make it our default way of being. You can find more details about my book and the link to buy it on Amazon or various other online bookstores on my website, For more information and plenty of free resources to aid with the practice of meditation and deep healing.