Being Present In Sh*t Circumstances
Photo Copyright April Ann Roy
Do those spiritual gurus even practice what they preach?
That’s what I’d like to know.
When they’ve stopped recording their YouTube video, the ring lights are shut off and they’re confronted with actual life...3 children who are distance learning and complaining about it all day long; when the dog shits on the living room carpet and the cat hair takes over the corner; when what they need at the grocery store isn’t on the shelf and their partner makes ‘that’ noise again...
...are they still living in that present moment space?
I’d love to be a fly on the wall the minute they pull away from social media and stop advertising their latest book (nothing against self-help or spiritual books, I like many of them), newest meal plan or the 7 steps to becoming a non-human who thrives on air alone.
WE. ARE. ALL. HUMAN.
They are no exception.
Despite the unattainable, picture-perfect life that is portrayed by the vast majority of spiritual gurus, there are some pretty good methods for calming the fuck down and keeping yourself emotionally well.
One of those things is being in the present moment.
The phrase is overused and begins to sound like some flowery fairy who’s invisible and farts the essence of lilacs in full bloom on a dewy morning in the sun-lit prairie. But there is some truth to it.
So, What Does Being Present Even Mean?
In short, being right here, right now.
A lot of the time, especially lately with the pandemic, I get wrapped up in things that I can’t do anything about. I think about things that I have no control over and that have little to nothing to do with my actual life.
An example of something that happens to me is getting on Facebook in the morning and I’m suddenly inundated with oceans of information, most of it completely irrelevant to my life. But I gulp it down as fast as I can with the unconscious idea that if I know enough, I might be able to fix something or control something or do something.
Before I know it, an hour has passed (or more) and I am getting more and more disturbed and unhappy, even though I can’t pinpoint exactly why I feel this way.
It’s not just the current events or Facebook though, it happens to me with many things.
In the shower, I’ll be thinking about the purpose of life and all the unanswered questions I have for the universe which triggers an existential crisis. *eye-roll* (it’s happened so many times that I annoy myself.)
Or I’ll be cooking dinner and the “what ifs” start tumbling in my head like boulders thundering down the mountain, picking up speed heading towards little ‘ol me who’s fixated on them, paralyzed.
It happens everywhere.
With my kid, with my husband, at the grocery store, taking a walk...playing endless scenarios in a time and space that does not exist (except in my mind) while my actual life is going on around me. Sometimes it feels like my body is going through the motions, making all the right gestures and comments while all this unnecessary processing is happening.
For me, all this processing contributes to anxiety and depression and just a general lack of enjoyment. As if I am half-assing it through life.
I don’t like it.
There are times when I KNOW I am fully present and engaged in the moment. And it feels fucking AWESOME! I want more of that. I bet you do too.
You remember how they always told us “practice makes perfect”? I’m not too fond of that phrase because there is no such thing as perfect, at least not in the common understanding of the word. I do, however, like this phrase better, “practice makes progress”.
If we want to feel that present moment sweetness, we’re going to have to practice. It sucks because its hard work and we just want to be the best us we can be right now. But it’s not going to happen that way. Sorry.
You know how the other day I told you that my day was shit?
Well, that’s true.
I’m not that spiritual guru who likes to pretend my shit don’t stink. I’m just a human, trying to survive in the world just like you, figuring out who I am and how to enjoy life and make it better the best I can.
So, sometimes I have shit days.
And sometimes I have great days! Even super spiritual days where fairies do fart lilac smells and the birds land on my hand like they do for Snow White (metaphorically speaking of course), and I go on singing through the house as wild animals listen outside my window.
What I’m trying to say, is that practicing the art of being in the present moment has improved my life...even though I don’t remember to do it all the time. I feel less stressed, my day is brighter and it helps the people around me too. And boy, we need that more than ever before.
What Being Present Means to Me
When I practice being present, I immerse myself in ONLY what I am doing. If I’m taking a shower, my mind is on the showering process...what the warm water feels like on my body, how nice it feels to clean the grease out of my hair, the sensation of my exfoliation gloves on my skin.
If I’m talking to my son, my phone is off, I’m looking into his eyes, I am focused in on what he is saying rather than what I have to be doing or what I’m going to say next.
If I’m making dinner, I’m listening to the sounds of the knife chopping through the vegetables, taking in the yummy smells cooking, enjoying the process of it.
Being present, for me, is about narrowing down my focus to the space I’m in, the time I’m in and the details of what I’m doing. It’s paying attention to all the sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, and sights.
It’s letting go of things that have happened, things that might happen and fully embracing the exact moment of existence.
I absolutely LOVE the feeling of it.
So much of what we think about is making us disoriented, angry, unfocused, depressed, and anxious.
When I start having one of these emotions that make me feel mentally unwell, I try to remember to ask myself if I am being present. And if I’m not, I start with these questions;
Can I do anything to fix or help the situation I am thinking about? If no, then I step away from it completely, because what’s the use of thinking about something that you can do nothing about. If yes, I determine what I can do about it.
If I can do something about the situation, but I’m not willing to do the thing, then I step away from it completely.
If I can do something about the situation and I’m willing to but can’t do anything about it right now, I make a note about it so I can do it at a later time. And then I step away from it completely until I have the time, space or ability to do the thing.
If I can do something about the situation, I’m willing and I can do it right now, I go do it. And then I step away from it completely because I’ve done it and there is nothing more I can do.
Of course, this doesn’t work with every little thing, because there are always grey areas, but it works - at least for me - on the vast majority of the things that tangle me up.
If these questions don’t work, sometimes I find it helpful to make a specific time where there are the least amount of distractions and purposely think about the thing to see if there is anything I am missing. In this space, I am only thinking about the thing, running through all the scenarios, asking questions, getting deep into it. I write things down that pertain and then I leave it the hell alone.
There is so much right now (and at many times in life) that we cannot do a single thing about. Many of us do not have the money, time or resources available to help anyone but ourselves. And sometimes we are not even able to do that.
Burdening our minds with the guilt of not being able to help, ingesting loads of information and stories and what-ifs laced with drama and conspiracy theories that may or may not come true isn’t helping anyone, especially not ourselves.
If all we can do in the moment is Netflix, binge, and cry, be outrageously, fucking present with that!
Put that movie on, curl up on the sofa with your self, your animals, your kids, your partner, stuff your face with as many treats and chips as you can possibly stand and just have at it with that present moment. No judgment. No guilt. No comparison to those impossible Instagram photos and just suck all the enjoyment out of whatever it is that you are doing.
All of this doesn’t mean shutting off emotions and ignoring them either. I still let myself feel things. I let myself feel shitty or angry or sad. I feel it as deep as I can feel it until it passes. I journal about it. I blog about it. I talk to someone about it. And then I move on.
This time we’re in is the perfect circumstance to practice being present. Not because most of us are stuck at home, because a lot of us still have to work...and not only work but do it in a stressful and dangerous situation.
It’s the perfect circumstance because right now is one of the most difficult, most confusing, most fucked up times we will ever live through. Hardships and uncertain times can produce the deepest growth.
If that’s what you want.
If you don’t, that’s cool too!
You don’t have to be as “good” as someone else, (whatever that means anyway) or as “woke” or as “chill” because they don’t do Netflix or eat processed food. (Nothing wrong with that either)
Like I said before, no judgment.
If all you can do is survive, do that.
Dive into that survival shit, be present in THAT. It’s all you can do anyway right? No need to stress out harder with all the mind clutter that makes you feel like you’re not doing life as good as someone else.
So, I’m gonna give myself MUCH space to have a Netflix, binge and cry day if I need to in this weird-ass world. Or at any time I am feeling overwhelmed. But then, I am going to pick myself up, and do this ‘being present thing’. Not because it’s more spiritual or more ‘woke’. I want to do it because it feels good to me and because I really do enjoy becoming myself, being authentic and I love the hell out of self-growth.
I do it because it works for me.
It keeps me sane.