What Does Being Present Mean?
What’s your Story?
What Does Being Present Mean? It means not being in a story that you are writing or have already written for yourself. If you fail to differentiate between who you really are and the thoughts that take place in your mind. You accept your thoughts as being true and blindly react to them. For most people, their thoughts are in the background. They are a constant drone of noise that they are completely unaware of. When we are present, we realise the distinction between the thoughts and who we truly are. Our true self is peace, happiness and pure joy. It is the out-of-control mind that creates suffering, agitation and misery.
To begin this process, watch your thoughts. Try to not judge them as being bad or good, just notice that they are there.
Keep an eye on repetitive thoughts. What thoughts do you repeat over and over again? How long have you been running these thoughts through your head? When do your thoughts arise most frequently? What effect do these thoughts have on your body? How do you feel when you think these thoughts? Do you reach a conclusion from these thoughts? Do they help you in any way? How much time do these thoughts take from you?
By watching your thoughts without reacting to them, you learn about the nature of thought and become less of a prisoner to it.
For example, when you are talking with somebody, do you have a lot of thoughts? When you are reading a book or doing a task, does thought after thought distract you? When you go for a walk in nature, is your attention in your head or are you really seeing, hearing and feeling what is going on around you? When you are driving, do you lose track of the journey and enter the stream of mind? When you are brushing your teeth, is that all you are doing or where is your attention? When you are eating a meal, are you enjoying each mouthful or did your mind take you over soon after the ﬁrst bite? When you have breakfast, are you also reading the newspaper, the writing on the cereal box or whatever else is available? As you drink a cup of tea, are you really tasting what you are drinking, sip by sip? When you go to the toilet, are you really there at all or is your attention elsewhere?
Please do the above and, in every situation that you ﬁnd yourself in, watch how you are thinking. Are you really living life or are you solely living in your head? Are you missing what is going on around you or are you really connected? Is your mind causing you torture and draining you of energy? Do you think to reach a conclusion or are your thoughts a merry-go-round with no ﬁnality?
Is the mind the absolute truth?
Many influences shape your life: events, TV, media, literature, advertising, family, friends, parents, society, education and religion. All of these things develop and condition the programmes of your mind. In turn, this influences how you act, react, perceive and interpret. Ultimately, no attitude, behaviour, thought or opinion is truly yours.
A child grows up with a parent who constantly fears poverty. Year in and year out, they listen to their parent talk about a lack of money and all of their many bills. This parent is afraid to spend money for fear of the future. The child listens to this from day one to when they gain independence and leave home. Their parent has a poverty consciousness and chances are that it will be passed onto the child. Later in life, whenever a decision is made relating to money, the child who grows into an adult will look through their poverty consciousness. Every time they receive a bill in the post, their stomach will tense. Anytime that they go to the bank to deal with a small issue, they will worry about it beforehand. If someone overcharges them, they will get very agitated. They will make choices solely based on money. This person will constantly fear and worry about ﬁnances. A loss of money will be a great hardship to them, even if they are relatively wealthy.
Another child lives in a household of similar means but with a parent who has a comfortable attitude about money. They are careful and do not overspend. They do their work and earn a living, even though sometimes it is not easy. This parent does not constantly complain about a lack of ﬁnances. If they have a tight few months, they realise that this will change. Their child will grow up to be an adult who does not fear a lack of money.
The ﬁrst child who grows into an adult will believe their viewpoint to be absolutely true. Tension, anger and arguments will arise if their partner’s behaviour differs from theirs. The second child will grow into an adult without such heavy opinions regarding ﬁnance and money. Who is right? Who is wrong? Who is acting out of free will?
Our mind is shaped and conditioned by many factors over which we have no control. Many of our thoughts are shaped completely by our past, and are based on the opinions, habits, events and actions of other people. For most of us, we are living a life imposed by someone else. Do you think you are living a life free from the inﬂuences of others? Don’t accept what your mind throws up at you to be the absolute truth. We all form opinions about people, situations and events. But are these completely true or are they based on our past conditioning?
Are you always seeking the future?
When the boy is small, he is waiting to grow up to be a big boy. When he is a big boy, he is waiting to change schools. When he is in primary school, he is waiting to attend secondary school. When he is in secondary school, he is waiting to get a job or attend university. When he has a job, he is waiting to get married. When he is married, he is waiting to have children. When he has children, he is waiting for the children to get older. When his children are older, he is waiting to retire. When he is retired, he has little future left so he starts to dwell on the past. When he is young, he is anxious and thinks about the future. When he is old, he is depressed and thinks about the past. Life has passed him by, and by the time he realises this, it is too late. Don’t wait for your life to change. Live it now.
Not only are we waiting for life changes, we are also seeking lifestyle choices. “Oh, life will be so much better when I achieve this, that or the other. Oh, how wonderful life will be in six months. Oh, how happy I will be in my new car. I long for the future. My car is not the latest model. My house is not as nice or as big as my friends. I was happy until I saw my friend’s house, but now I am not happy. My house is not good enough.”
“I made a mistake six months ago. I cannot live happily with my problem. The problem is so big. I am putting my life on hold until the problem is solved. I will be so unhappy until then. It is the future that I want. I will be only happy in the future.” When I get a new house, life is bliss for a few weeks. When I get a new car, I am so happy for a few weeks. When I get a new wife or husband, I don’t know how I will ever have lived without this person – for a few weeks. When my problem is sorted out, it will not be long before another surfaces.
Achievement of goals brings momentary happiness. As soon as we achieve, the mind sets another goal. Like the boy growing up, the goalposts keep moving. We can never catch up using this approach. Set goals but keep your attention in the present. Don’t be concerned about the outcome. Set the outcome aside as this will only take you into the future. In any event, having your full attention on the task at hand will generate a far superior quality of work.
Work on your goal but keep your attention immersed in the present moment and move with it step by step, frame by frame. Move simultaneously with time. You cannot live in the future, nor can you live in the past. The present moment is the only time you can live in.
We come into this world with nothing. We leave this world with nothing.
Is this his life?
Liam was one of the wealthiest property developers in Ireland during the economic boom until the market crashed. Mid-2009, an Irish bank sought to put him into bankruptcy. The Pat Kenny morning radio show mentioned that a friend told Liam that it was “only money,” to which Liam replied, “it’s not only money, it’s my life.” Is his perspective true? Yes, he spent years building his empire and it was tumbling around him. That is difficult. But how is it his life?
For years, he might have invested a lot of time thinking about his life story. “Oh, what a wonderful man I am. How wealthy I am. I am worth so much money. I have big cars and property. Oh, people must think I am great. I am so clever. I must have the Midas touch.” He reduced his life to a story. Now, circumstances have changed and he can no longer live the story that he built up over the years. His lifestyle no longer coincides with his story. This is a rude awakening but it is not his life. The story is nothing more than a ﬁgment of his imagination. Of course, build up your business, make money, have a nice lifestyle. But don’t get lost in it. Don’t lose sight of the real you. Things come. Things go. Everything in life is a series of cycles.
Life is not about more money, more cars, more houses and more business. This is the human mind and not the real you. The human mind always wants more. More, more, more.