Be present. Be in the moment. Be mindful. Staple mantras for yoga, meditation and a plethora of “new age” things. The idealistic preconceptions surrounding presence vary greatly and tend to focus on benefits that are purely philosophical. The required steps and/or time for achieving these awe-inspiring results varies just as widely. But is it necessary to sit and pick lint from your belly button for months or years to start realizing the benefits of being present?
I don’t think so. I have found some of the best benefits of being present are in the mundane of daily life. Yes, being present may fire up your sex life, it can help you improve your health and at some point you may be able to drop the illusions of time and space and teleport anywhere you want, read minds and fly. Until then, being present has other benefits to offer.
The benefit I want to focus on is connection. How we connect to others, how we connect to ourselves, and even how we connect to nature. How quickly will you start to see it in action? That’s the good news. It starts as soon as you start. You just have to know how to recognize it when it happens.
I’ve been in yoga classes where the teacher tells the class to “bring your mind to the present and be present in the moment.” I don’t know about you, but that’s always been a little ethereal for me. I like simple, relevant examples so I can really begin to understand something and want to share a few I’ve experienced.
Think back to a conversation where you felt truly heard and understood. The person you were talking to, what were they doing? I’m willing to bet they were doing nothing but focusing on you and what you were saying. No digi-distraction with phones, tablets, television or anything else to draw their attention off of you. They were focused on you and in that moment, they were present with you and that created a connection.
Next think about a time (and this one won’t necessarily apply to everyone) when you were either playing with or talking to a young child. Could you feel that intense focus rushing out of them straight at you? That intense focus that comes so naturally to them is them being fully present. They weren’t thinking about their friends, what they were doing later or anything else. And in that moment with them, a connection was created because you were both present.
Now that you remember that feeling of connection and presence, the questions become how to build it and where else can it be used. The answers are amazingly simple; use it and anywhere respectively.
To be able to consistently build a connection with someone takes practice and a few simple rules. The practice part is easy, build a connection with everyone you meet. The rules I use I’ve listed below.
- Turn off and put away all electronics – not always possible in some environments, but at least the ones you carry with you
- When you are in a public place and can’t turn off things like televisions, find a place where there isn’t a good view
- Set aside your own baggage – forming a connection through presence is all about finding harmony with another person; this is almost impossible if your thoughts are occupied by your own stuff
- Be flexible – trying to force a connection or insisting that it form in a certain way is a sure way to undermine the whole process
- Hold space for the other person – as tips go, this is one sounds pretty vague; the essence being that as you are forging the connection, you both need to feel safe
Where Connections Can Be Created
The answer is, anywhere. The places where people will be most receptive are places that foster a common bond to begin with. Think yoga studio, spin class, pilates class, martial arts class, etc. While it’s easier to create a connection in these environments (there is already some common ground) it’s certainly not limited to these places. Below are a few examples of where else you can build connection outside of these places.
- In meetings – need to sway a decision for an important project, create connections in the meeting and see just how much more open everyone is to your ideas and point of view
- Commuting – more for the mass transit crowd, but even on long flights, I’ve met some very interesting people by opening with a present minded ‘hello’
- Personal relationships – one of the best tools for resolving issues with your significant other is to let them know you have heard them fully and completely without judgment – it works wonders
With these ideas in your personal toolbox, I encourage you to go put this into practice. Worst case, you get a little TMI, best case you resolve a challenge you’ve been facing or even better, make a new friend.