Presence

What percentage of your day is spent in a state of presence?

This is a question I have been thinking a lot about lately as I reconsider how and where I invest my time. It is a question I think I have ~neglected over the past few years as I have been consumed by notifications and alerts. It is a question I _think_ holds a lot of important answers for me.

Because when I really think about the greatest moments of my life, which is not a reflection I do quite enough, I realize that being present is a commonality. Above money, above freedom, above things—I care about LIVING PRESENTLY.

Presence, at least per my definition, is that feeling of being there — in it, in the moment.

Presence is not an emotion. It is a state. Being present could mean feeling extremely sad and crying. It could also mean feeling extremely happy and excited. Presence is just the idea of being in the moment.

There is a lot written on this topic, especially stemming from the Buddhist religion and practice of Taoism (a la The Way of Zen by Alan Watts). But presence, at least per a lot of my current understanding, is not really something to
*consume* at the cognitive level. It is more something to FEEL.

I have never been particularly adept at describing FEEL words. I mean I try but I find the english language to be rather limited at adequately expressing THESE FLUFFY THINGS CALLED FEELINGS. (Aside, there ~should be a better way to discuss them).

Trying to be present is paradoxical. You get caught in a loop where your cognitive state—the thing in your head TRYING TO BE PRESENT—blocks you from experiencing the moment. (This is similar to the paradox of seeking Nirvana. A monk would tell you that is a foolish endeavor). This is frustrating. Really frustrating. So frustrating that books and religions obsess over it.

So then how does one seek presence if trying to be present is actually self-sabotaging?

I imagine this—this THING THAT IS SO HARD TO DESCRIBE—is all part of life’s journey. This is what love is about. This is what yoga is about. This is what religion is about. It is about building a life where you can LIVE.

I worry that my life has actually become _less present_ in recent years. Why have I made decisions that do that?

If I were to take out a highlighter and scan my day—what percentage is present? What are the trends? What are the themes?

Where do you feel most present?

What comes to mind for me is when I am:

  • Running
  • Working on a hard problem that I care about solving
  • Working out
  • With people I love and care about
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Exploring a new country

That list is not particularly long but I actually think it’s rather comprehensive. Would be curious what other people’s answers are and if their list has expanded or shrunk over time.

I really enjoy the things above on the list. Not always in the moment. But always after (and yes that’s an absolute statement). I never regret doing any of the things I listed above. That’s a rather good sign.

I could probably also rather easily generate a list (a long list) of times where I do not feel present. (Now it’s also worth acknowledging as I will very often that the world is not full of stimulus. I should get to choose how to respond to situations. Therefore, there’s no reason that, for example, working on a boring problem forces me to not feel present. It’s more that it’s just not my default. I think that pushing myself to be present in environments where I feel ~distracted could be a good test for myself. I have a friend who literally does this at the grocery store. Go in, count your steps, and feel the moment).

So so much of my day—basically times where I am doing things that I do not really care about and/or with people I do not truly care about—is spent in a state of distraction.

The state of distraction is probably a not adequate description. It is a state of frenzy where my mind can race to different territories ranging from fomo (fear of missing out) to worry to rumination to loneliness. This state is not healthy or productive or efficient. It is a state that I fall victim to when I feel especially lonely and hopeless.

As a sidebar, I wonder if this state – call it whatever you want – is the outcome from the last 20 years of technology progress.

Is the smartphone really a bicycle for the mind? Or is it actually a treadmill?

It feels like the latter would be a more telling description. You have this casino in your pocket that sends you pings and allows you to vanish from your current state of presence.

In many ways, I think a lot of people are on that treadmill looking for distraction because they are unwilling to ACCEPT reality as it is.

I am/was/trying not to be stuck there.

When you are running on a treadmill that never stops, the only way to get off is to simply let go. Let go and fall off the back.

Sounds illogical. Sounds stupid. Sounds irrational.

This can and is really scary. Especially when the treadmill is going really fast. But letting go and ACCEPTING LIFE. That feels like a path to presence.

Money cannot buy you acceptance. Neither can other people. You cannot outsource it. And you probably will have to work on it for the rest of your life.

It is a you thing. It is a man, alone in his room type of thing. No internet. No substances. Just you. I recently spent about 4 weeks without a phone or internet and that was a life changing experience. It made me realize so much—so much I need to process and write about still. But one of the biggest things it made me think about was how much I crave presence. It also made me realize that my pursuit of the state of distraction is due to fear of being alone.

And being alone—THAT is the driver of my nerves and fear. Wanting attention. Wanting validation. Wanting love. That is blocking my presence.

Accepting that life is default lonely. It is default a single player game. We are creatures that want love and want attention, and yes recent technology has actually enabled that (which is certainly short term great) but what if there was a way to return to presence? What if there was _something_ we could build that was truly an enabler of intentionality?

Presence is what I crave really above all else.

You sometimes meet people who exhibit complete presence. Someone comes to mind for me. Someone I have only met a few times. But in their voice you could hear it. When they asked you how you were doing, you could feel the presence. You could feel the clarity. The confidence. The acceptance. The patience.

When you are present, you are not worrying about other places or people. You are not insecure. You are you.

Being you is the pursuit of life. At least the one I am after. Stay tuned.


Posted

in

by

Tags:

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *