Philosophy

Simple Strategies for Presence & Mindfulness

June 29, 2019

You probably can’t go a day without hearing someone ramble about presence or mindfulness.  It’s everywhere now. But, as you could probably guess, there’s a reason for that.

It seems intuitive, doesn’t it?  Rather than focus on things causing you pain, or your frustrations, or future fears, if you live in and focus on the present, you actually have the opportunity to “suck the marrow out of life and feel connected and grateful for things right in front of your face.  

If you’re interested in learning more about presence, you can read anything by Alan Watts or Anthony De Mello or Sam Harris.  

I’m clearly not an expert on living presently.  I actually feel as if I’m pretty bad at it. However, since I’ve been trying for a few years now, and can actually see the tangible benefits when I do catch those moments of presence, I’ve tried to develop habits and strategies on finding and bringing the elusive creature of presence into my life.  

Here are some of the habits and strategies that I’ve found useful that you might like too.  

Strategies

1. Shower

Everytime you get into the shower, rather than singing or daydreaming, actually think about your shower.  Have you ever looked up and seen where the wall meets the tile? Do you even know what color walls your shower has outside of the tile?  And what does it actually feel like to have hot water on command pouring down on you?  Noticing these small things can bring you right into the present moment.  Plus, you’re primed to think about noticing every time you step into the shower if you do it often enough.  

2. Walking down the street

Try noticing your legs moving when you walk down the street.  If you’ve never done this before, you’ll feel as if your legs belong to someone else (or maybe that’s just me).  Take a look at the trees around you swaying in the wind. Thinking about parallax as you look up at the trees while walking can also give you an odd sense of the physical space you occupy.  No better way to become present than noticing the strangeness of your body!

I also stole another cool habit from Peter Attia (a physician focused on longevity research): try noticing the air passing your hands while you walk.  I guarantee you’ve never tried this before (unless you’ve practiced being present before) and it’ll change the way you think about walking down the street.  And also transport you to presence.


3. Look up at the tops of buildings

Another borrowed idea from the writer James Altucher: look at the tops of buildings if you’re standing or walking down the street.  You’d be surprised how much beautiful architecture you miss with your head down and Airpods blaring.  You’ve probably never even considered what goes on up there anyways.

4. Sitting down for the first time

Similar to finding presence in the shower: whenever you take a seat for the first time, whether at dinner, or sitting at your desk or on your couch, take 3 seconds to recognize what you’re doing, and feel the weight of gravity on your body.  I find this useful if I’ve been running around all day with my mind completely occupied and need a reset. Eventually just the act of sitting can trigger your awareness and presence of mind.

5. Keep an awareness journal

What’s the point of practicing presence if you don’t reflect on it?  You might consider writing down what you noticed about yourself and what you did each day at the same time.  I highly recommend Notion for archiving these thoughts.

Even writing down your train of thought as you sit down to write could be insightful and help with your practice of presence.  Reflecting on past mental states, emotions, situations, and thoughts can also give you a door into understanding where in your day you can improve upon your awareness and presence.  

Again, these above strategies have worked well for me in the past, but only reveal the tip of the iceberg when it comes to living with presence and awareness.  But: the more you practice or make the time to try, the more opportunities and ideas you’ll have on how to best make it work within your own day to day life.

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