“None of what you just said makes sense! What does me being stressed out and having a scowl on my face have to do with being a present, in the present or whatever you said?”
My client said with a growl this after I had made the statement that’s the title of the blog this week.
“After listening to your wife, I’m fairly sure that she does not feel, much of the time, like you are a present to her, or a gift to her. And it certainly doesn’t sound like she believes she is a gift to you,” I responded.
You would have thought I did a gut punch, because the growling look on his face and his tone immediately changed with what almost sounded like a gasp.
With a much softer tone, and the facial expression of an innocent little boy, he almost whispered: “Then I need to look at that, because she’s the best thing God ever did for me. “
I nodded in admiration and noted the tears in his wife’s eyes when she saw him soften.
So, what happened?
I brought him to the present moment.
Before I continue sharing about our interaction, let’s look at the word “present” and its 3 different meanings.
You are a PRESENT …
A gift that you give or receive.
When you are PRESENT …
A moment in time, when your mind, your heart, your focus, and attention come together in that moment.
In the PRESENT.
The current moment. Not the moment before, not the moment after.
Just, the moment.
“I guess if the truth were told, I’m not much of a present to her, and I know I’m not present much. And it feels like I’m always somewhere else in my mind,” the husband admitted.
“But I don’t even know where to start on any of that!”
With a warm smile, I assured him, “I understand, and that’s why we are here!”
He nodded in relief.
(A note from my AA recovery friend… “Step 3 says, ‘We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.’ Everything vies for our attention like…who’s looking at me, why are they looking at me, I wish I was like them, what am I going to say if they talk to me, I don’t want to talk… etc. etc. etc. … the moral of the madness? It all keeps me from the present to keep me drinking … to quiet the circus in my head. The circus that keeps me anywhere but in the present with those I love and who want to love me. That’s nuts and…who better to help than a power that’s always present and knows what I need to do to be present.)
I shared 3 things my about being present that I would like to share with you. Because it will make your life more fulfilled, your relationships richer, and your future brighter.
1. Signs we are not present prevents us from being present.
“Well, how on earth am I supposed to know if I’m present or not?”
the husband asked with sincere curiosity.
“Well, let me share with you, some of the symptoms of not being present, and that will give us a place to start,” I responded.
With a slight expression of fear, he sat up straight in his chair, and commented, “I guess this is where I should buckle my seatbelt!?”
We all got a good laugh. I
Then I began with some of the symptoms that reveal you most likely aren’t present:
- Glancing at your cell phone, or even having it out of your pocket, and certainly if it’s on the table… even face down. That is a neon sign that blinks and screams: “I am partially present, but whatever might show up on my phone will definitely take precedence over you!”
- You find yourself saying things about Murphy’s Law always applying to you. 90% of the time Murphy’s Law occurs because you’re not present. You are racing through something, or your mind is elsewhere.
- You find yourself engaging in annoying habits like chewing on your nails, tapping your fingers on the counter, picking your nose, or gazing into outer space instead of making eye contact. (If the other person were a mirror, you’d be horrified to see yourself doing any of those things, indicating that you’re not present).
- You’re formulating responses, judgments, or opinions in your head.
- You’re nonresponsive to bids for connection. (The other says they had been thinking about planning a trip … and you give no response).
“You’ve got to be kidding me?” the husband said, with a heavy sigh “I do almost all of those!” To which his wife retorted: “You’ve got to be kidding me! You do every single one of those!”
His response went from a flash of indignation to an a-ha moment in just five seconds!
(A side note…. Selfish people, are almost always people in survival mode. They learned what they needed to do just to feel the peace they never saw, heard, and learned growing up.
Needs go unmet and we fill in the blanks.
These behaviors become our normal and they (for sure) manifest as selfishness.
We either surrender them, medicate them, or sulk in them. They were true-early-honorable unmet needs, that tangle our power to choose and vie for the presence of our ‘present’ selves.)
“I guess you’re right … I do all of those things. I guess I just don’t know how to be present, or what prevents me from being present.”
I suggested: “Let’s look at some of the things that prevent us from being present, and then we will know how to help you become more present.”
I continued, “Here are some of the things that prevent us from being present, in the moment. And therefore, being a present to those we love:”
- Distractions like cell phones, sports, news, media.
- Worry about the past or the future.
- Allowing your mind to direct you instead of you directing your mind.
- Not wanting to be present.
“I should’ve known that my cell phone, sports, news, and social media would come up,” he confessed.
“Are those the only ones you struggle with,” I inquired?
“I guess not. I don’t think of myself as a worrier, but when I go off on interest rates, the state of our country, and all those things that I’m truly concerned about … I guess that’s worrying.”
His wife nodded in agreement.
“I’m sober, and so I’m not active in my addiction, but everyone tells me that these extra 40 pounds have to do with switching addictions. If you believe, food and sweets can be addictions.”
I laughed when I told him that I believed it with all of my heart, because I had been addicted to sugar for many years and have been sugar-free for over 30 years!
He continued, “And I might as well admit that sometimes I just don’t want to be present. I’m ashamed to say it, but it’s true. And she tells me all the time I should learn to control my thought processes, because left to my own devices, I know they mislead me all the time!”
I thanked him for his honesty and told him that his responses would help us in the process of becoming a present … because he was present in the present.
What about you? What are your symptoms that you are not present? And what are the things that keep you from being present?
Study the interactions you have with those in your life. Which ones mean anything to you? Why do they? Who do you admire as a listener? Now, go replicate it. Make it simple…DO what you LOVE done to you.
Honest answers will help you become a present in the present, by being present!
2. Finding the present (the gift) in every moment.
All we ever have is now.
One of the first things I shared with him was the skill of finding the present, or the gift, in every moment.
“So, I’m just a guy. I have no idea what that would look like,” the husband responded.
I explained to him that if we could enter into each moment, believing that we had to find one thing to be grateful for in that moment… it would force us to be present.
If we don’t begin with that intention, our mind will wander to various things that have nothing to do with the moment.
I suggested this.
“Let’s practice! At this moment, give me one thing you’re grateful for in this moment.”
With a big grin, he responded with, “I’m paying close attention to what you’re saying, and I think it will help me, her, and our marriage.”
Then I asked him to just stay in the moment as I turned to his wife and asked, “What are you thinking and feeling at the moment?”
“Hope. Hope that he can be with me, really with me … at least some of the time.”
Immediately I turned to him and asked, “What are you grateful for in this moment?”
With a big smile that indicated he felt proud of himself he responded: “Grateful that she feels hope that I can do better.”
“Well done,” I commended him!
When you are with those you love, begin looking for something to be grateful for in that very moment.
It accomplishes 2 things.
First, it sets your reticular activating system (your RAS) in your brain to searching for things that are good. And that prevents judgments, and it leaves the moment to formulate your response.
Secondly, it forces you to stay present … in the moment.
You’re likely reading this ‘at the moment’ so press pause and say out loud one thing you are grateful for in this moment.
Truly, it’s not that hard, but it’s a habit we must develop, in order, to be a present by being present in the present.
3. Practicing presence.
“Are there other ways I can get better at this,” he asked?
I informed him.
“There are many more ways but let me start with some that you can practice this week.”
Here are some ways that you too can practice being present.:
- Before engaging with someone you care about, or love, ask yourself why it’s important to you to connect to them. If you love them, you will want to connect. Going into the interaction with your intention set correctly will help you practice being present.
- Make eye contact. When you make and maintain eye contact, it is more difficult to leave the present moment. However, if you go into a dead stare, instead of eye contact, even if you’re looking at their eyes, it’s just another way to leave the moment. Make meaningful eye contact.
- Pay attention to your body language. If your arms are crossed, or you’re leaning back, you are likely not present. You can practice presence by leaning toward the person you’re interacting with slightly, with a nod, or a smile to show that you are engaged.
- Pay attention to your facial expressions. If you are not present, you may have a scowl, a look of concern, or worry, not appropriate to the moment, or just look absent. (Like the growly face his wife had to look at when he was stressed). If you ask yourself what your face is saying in the moment, it will force you to be in the moment.
- Make physical contact when appropriate. Reaching out and taking someone’s hand, or gently rubbing their shoulder, or some other form of appropriate contact forces you to be in the present moment.
- Learn to reflect and validate. You cannot do either of those if you are not present. When someone you are with is sharing something, you can reflect, not by parroting, but by using the stem sentence: “It sounds like you are saying…” And fill in the blank. Our validate by saying, “It makes sense to me that…” And filling in that blank.
- Learn to pause and take in a deep breath every few minutes. Not in an annoying or exaggerated way. Just in an intentional way. It will force you to be present in the moment.
“That’s all-hard stuff for me,” the husband commented!
“It’s hard for all of us in the beginning. But if we practice it, it becomes easier,” I explained. “And it will make you a present to those you love and help you to be present and stay in the moment.”
I had the floor and continued.
“And the result of that is … priceless!”
He responded, “She is worth it, and she is my present, so now I need to be hers!”
I love what Albert Einstein says about happiness:
“A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future.”
What about you? Are you ready to practice being present in the present so that you are a present?
Consider the words of Henry David Thoreau:
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
Be a present, a gift …
Be present, fully engaged …
In the present, at this very moment!
“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Repeat after me, “All I have is now and I will make the present count!”
Now … Let’s do this!