Updated: Aug 7, 2020
I was speaking to a dear friend today and the subject of presence came up. Not presence in the way you might be thinking as in being there for someone etc. We were discussing the spiritual practice of presence; the art of remaining in the moment when everything around you appears to be collapsing.
Difficult at times. Especially for someone like me who knows the value of remaining present but in my moments of anguish, everything I know theoretically can sometimes float out the window like a spring butterfly on a gust of March wind.
We were discussing the futility of past regrets. Thankfully, I’m pretty adept at making peace with my past so while that’s not my drug of choice, I have a habit that can be equally as harmful. I’m a future dweller. My mind constantly leaps ahead. I plan, I calculate. Always anticipating fate’s next step. Always at the ready. Always prepared. And while I love this particular skill of mine and it serves me in many positive ways, it doesn’t come without its pitfalls...his brothers, anxiety and worry, wait in the wings hoping to catch me slipping. Being in the material world while holding onto your spiritual existence is no easy feat. It’s like dancing on water if you will. You’re there, executing every move with excruciating precision knowing one false move and you’ll fall in. At that point you’re no longer gracefully dancing, you become mired in human existence and completely disconnected from your higher self; worrying, anxious, scared and sometimes angry, and at that point completely cut off from any assistance your spiritual practice has to offer. Guidance is there, beckoning you to follow, but once you lose your connection, it’s impossible for you to hear and you’re forced to go it alone which will often result in making bad choices.
Worrying about the past tends to fill us with regret over things we didn’t or should’ve done. It expends precious energy on things you can’t change. Having made many mistakes in life, I finally learned peace was better. I was able to let go of the past in one fell swoop. You can’t change it, so why bother?
Same thing with the future. Constantly living in the state of if this then or what could possibly go wrong or any other phrase the mind uses to keep us creating negative states around what the future might hold can be wasted energy as well.
Here’s where the beauty of presence comes in. To the extent we can remain tied to the present moment our mind doesn’t run off to places that allow negative mental states to set in. To the extent we can remain focused on what is before us, which is mostly all that we have control over anyway, we have greater control over our mental state. It doesn’t mean we don’t plan...kids still need braces, we still need retirement accounts etc. That’s not what I’m referring to. Do all the things that make us human, and anticipation and planning is a part of that and even looking to the past and learning from mistakes can be important, but commit that you’ll only give yourself permission to emote about what is in the present moment and trust that things will work out. When you think about it, they almost always do.
It is what it is, is a quick mantra you can repeat to yourself in times of trouble that can bring you back to the present moment. It is a mantra of acceptance...of surrender. The But in the image is powerful because your mind is an entity. It’s separate from your true self and often has more power over you than you have over it. It takes discipline to get to the place where you’re in command, so it may take a stern "But...it is what it is," and you may have to say it a few times before your mind will completely submit to you and stop making up excuses as to why you should worry, but it’s a practice well worth the effort. The But let's your mind know you're completely rooted and grounded in the present moment and simply not going to do it.
When you’ve done all you can...accept the present moment with grace and honor. Focus only on what you have power over and free your mind and heart for peace to enter. Worry accomplishes absolutely nothing. Practicing presence renews your energy reserves, allows you greater access to your higher self and spiritual disciplines and clears the way for peace to enter your heart and mind. Can’t go wrong with any of that.