2010-08-13 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Practicing Presence
By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES Present time seems elusive. Not only does it seem elusive, it is elusive. It lasts just as long as you put your attention on the moment in which you are living. As you attend to that moment, you create the experience of the present. The next present moment will be built on that on which you were focused in your last present moment. Platitudes like, “All we have is the present,” and “Be in the moment,” are ones that we all have heard. It is the application that is just so difficult. What is not attractive about the present moment? Why do we squander it? At no other time than August, is it more apparent to me. In Rockaway, the turning of the days towards August 1, becomes a foreshadowing of Autumn and the inevitable return to school. Vacation will come to an end and the rigors of life will resume. As August plays itself out in the beautiful abundance of fruits and vegetables coming into their ripeness, the moment is lost in the din of the cries of projections of tomorrow, the future, the end of the summer. It seems to me that a whole month of glorious sunshine is discounted because we are living in the future not the present. Practicing presence is an art. It becomes a practice when you do it every day. Presence is as easy as breathing. In fact, that is the way into the present. Focus your awareness on your breath. Breathe in slowly until you find your inner rhythm. Use all your senses to experience where you are in that moment. Feel the body on the earth, grounded. Feel the sensations of the environment in which you are. Warm, breezy, hot, sweaty. Feel it all. Feel the quality and temperature of the breath through your nose. Notice the smells. One cannot ignore the smell of the ocean, the suntan lotions and the BBQs that emanate from the beach. Smells bring memories to our consciousness. In that moment we can be happy with our memories and make new ones on the spot. What we see and hear becomes context for the story of this moment to unfold. When we fully experience each moment with all our senses, we create a life for ourselves. We are able to design the scene that will sustain us. Each moment that we live fully in the present adds to our longevity.

There is no rush to start thinking about the next season. It will come in its own time. We risk losing the joy of the day when we worry about tomorrow. When we lose joy, we don’t feel well. We feel as though something is missing. Then we begin to anticipate and anxiety creeps in. That is because one cannot and should not live for the next moment and gloss over the place one is in. Our beings automatically sense the disconnect in that. It creates apprehension, we feel ungrounded, unfocused, our timeline is out of synch. We are not in harmony with our environment and every cell in your body knows it! It takes a lot of energy to push past the truth and project your energy and focus into another time/space. Diverting attention from the present depletes our energy stores. It causes attention deficit symptoms. Restlessness, irritability, sleep issues, organic symptoms, eating disorders, weight gain are all signs of a disconnect. Believe it or not, it is healthy to be in the present and in harmony with your self in relationship to your surroundings. How can something so simple be so elusive? Basically, it is a learned skill that we need to practice. BE-ing, breathing and BE-coming aware. Practicing presence can be done with a partner. Sharing a romp in the ocean, a bike ride, a hike, shopping for and cooking a memorable meal are all ways to communicate to each other your individual experience of the moment. That sharing gives it richness and connection. That is the way in which memories are built. That is what dreams are made of. Present moments. The rest will take care of itself. May The Blessings Be!

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