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Patricia Rust

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Being Present Is a Present to Yourself

Posted: 11/10/2011 12:21 pm

I used to pride myself on being laser-beam focused on whatever task lay before me. But when you start finding socks in the refrigerator and the milk carton in your kid's chest of drawers, it's time to really focus. Pouring cat litter into the bath instead of Epson salts can be really scratchy and when you barely notice, it's time to give yourself a present... the present!

When you are not fully present in the moment and completely focused on what you are doing, you are missing the experience. You are cheating life. You are cheating yourself. So, I try to keep the goals and activities limited to six arenas: career, family, health, fitness, emotional well-being and spirituality, and not in any particular order. You can prioritize them if you want but it's not necessary.

What does it mean to be fully present? It means to taste what you are doing; it means to smell what you are doing, to hear it, to see it and to touch it. All your senses become engaged and passionate about what you are doing, and none of them are making excuses for wanting to beg out and be somewhere else. Sound familiar?

I had to take an 8-hour online course that was tough and not fun and worse, the grammatical mistakes in it glared out at me in a way that made me want to complain to someone, but it was the weekend and I didn't want to get some poor schmoe into trouble for writing terrible copy. "Everybody wants to be a writer and no one wants to be a plumber, even though there's more money in it," or so said Bob Hope in the movie "Critic's Choice." Clearly that writer was not in the moment, not even close.

When people are in the moment, the work shows. Have you ever watched the Tibetan monks chant? They go someplace very deep. Granted, they have practiced, but so must we, be it through meditation, chanting, prayer, yoga or whatever gets us calm and centered. It's not easy but if you can do it once, you can do it again and again.

Try taking a wee walk and breathing to match your walking cadence. Listen to your breath and count your inhalations and exhalation as in, "In two three four, out two three four, in two three four, out two three four..." If you feel yourself being pulled into thoughts of the past or the future, stay focused on the present. You can think of those at another time.

I have always talked to myself like some sort of a coach and when people hear me, I simply say, "Talking to myself. Sign of intelligence." Then, I laugh a great good laugh. It seems to diffuse that questioning look on their faces! And when I see them doing the same, I say the same thing to them with a slight change in the wording. It becomes a compliment! So, be your own coach!

In my screenwriting career, I have been fortunate to have written for some great performers and one thing I've done is concentrate hard on words that I imagine would come out of their mouths and then take those words and make them not only funny but real-sounding. It requires buckets of concentration but the rewards are really worth it. It feels so good to hear an audience laugh at them! I am prejudiced, but I believe that words have magic. And so much more so when one is present!

In terms of getting you to be present in the moment, pick something about what you are doing and focus on it. For instance, if you are eating ice cream, and are so on overwhelm that you might forget that you have even eaten it, focus on the chocolate chips, the color of the cone, the sweetness of the ice cream. Engage that ice cream and really connect with it. Make it come to life in your world -- this is just an exercise that will lead to bigger things. Don't exaggerate its importance or obsess on it -- just keep it fun and enjoy your ice cream!

Now, light a candle. Watch the flame. Clear your mind. Empty it if you can. Simply sit comfortably and watch the flame for a few minutes. This really will help you focus. Try to do this on a regular basis -- maybe every other day for a few months.

If you can get to yoga, this will do wonders for your concentration and focus. I go to www.truyogala.com and my relaxation class with Chani Nichols is super relaxing and restorative. I think it helps with focus but it's hard to measure these things. I just sense it on an intuitive level, and this is my present to me. It feels so good, too!

If you want to give yourself a present, then be present, for life is glorious, even in the tedium. Remember as a child, when you watched industrious ants? They didn't seem to mind their jobs too much; they just did them. I'm not comparing anyone to an ant; I'm simply suggesting that there are ways of being present and enjoying the process by engaging your senses, your soul, and giving it your all even if it means talking to yourself. Can you ever be too present? If you've left your child at school and forgotten to pick up your pride and joy offspring, you've gone too far! But you made it! Your life will feel richer for it. Good job!

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