Everywhere I go these days, people say they feel stressed.
I am sure you notice this, too. An inability to get a good night’s sleep and adrenal fatigue are common complaints. The fight-flight-freeze mechanisms of the body seem to get stuck in the on position for too many people, and subsequently many are feeling depleted, having lost their resilience.
The antidote to this burned-out feeling is held in the present moment, that Shangri-La being state that is talked about by many spiritual traditions. Most recently, Eckhart Tolle has given us the vision of it, and the desire, in his book and CD series that began with The Power of Now.
Up until now, the how-to directions have been difficult to locate and even more difficult to understand once you find them. And yet, there is actually no better time to step into the present moment. With the speed of our culture, our busy schedules and the demands of our personal and work lives, it is imperative we crack the code and learn how to drop into the present moment and live from there.
Why, you might ask, would I put one more thing in my schedule—even if that one thing means being more present?
Because being in the present moment creates a more spacious sense of time, with a lot more grace and ease in how you respond to your world. Being in the present moment allows you more clarity about what is truly important. And being in the present moment gives you energy to meet tasks at hand.
So, how exactly does this work?
My definition of present-moment consciousness is “the ability to feel, recognize and accurately interpret sensations—sensory information in your body and environment around you, moment to moment.” When I am in the present moment, I feel connected to the world around me in a way that is healthy and life enhancing. I am able to discern when to say yes or no to what is offered to me.
My abilities to give and receive are both available. This means I remember to put my own oxygen mask on first before helping those in need around me. All of these are keys to cracking the code of present-moment consciousness.
7 Steps to Presence
There are actual steps needed to make this ultimate being state a reality in our lives.
1. Establish a connection with your inner landscape—it is the navigational system that will guide you in this process. To do so, you need to slow down time. This requires you to give your full attention to the process. Drop whatever other tasks you are doing and find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably with your feet on the floor. Allow your eyes to close fully or partially, so your visual field is not a distraction and you can begin to pay attention inwardly.
2. Invite your curiosity, your openness to discovery, to lead you. And then simply start paying attention to normal bodily processes, such as your inhalation and exhalation—how your ribs and chest expand and contract, how your belly feels rising and falling—and the temperature of the air as it hits your nostrils.
Be curious about what is going on in this present moment in your breathing. As you read this article, pause for a moment to drop inside and simply notice what happens in your conscious awareness as you do this.
Let any intrusive thoughts, those that want to drag you off to something else, or somewhere else, simply float away or rest outside of your awareness until this exploration is over. Kindly but firmly keep showing them the door as they appear.
3. Let your curiosity lead you downward inside your body until you notice how the bottoms of your feet feel making contact with the ground beneath you. This might be the sensation of the inside of your shoes cradling your feet. You might be in socks or barefoot and feeling the surface of the floor or the ground.
Be curious about this contact. Does it feel cool or warm? Is it rough or smooth? Can you feel your heels as keenly as you can feel your toes and the balls of your feet? Simply notice. There are no right or wrong answers here.
If a sensation reminds you of something, or you start to spin off in what this feeling means to you, treat it like an intrusive thought and let it go as best you can, returning to the direct sensation of what your body feels right now in this moment—temperature, texture, color, density—with little or no interpretation.
4. Establish a life-enhancing connection with your environment. For example, allow yourself to imagine (be curious about) what the earth under you feels like. We are all connected through Earth’s gravitational field, so feel it. Set an intention to travel down into earth as though you were putting down roots of awareness.
Go as far as you are comfortable. If that means you have tiny roots right on the surface, that’s fine. If you have a taproot the size of a redwood headed for the core of Earth, that’s fine, too.
5. Allow yourself to receive from Earth’s field whatever sensations would feel most nourishing and nurturing to you in this moment. Don’t go on autopilot. This is not a mental process; you are not willing yourself to receive.
You simply open to receive, and then ask yourself, “What sensation would feel most nourishing to my feet right now?” Then simply notice whatever feeling, sensation, texture, color or temperature shows up in your feet.
Allow yourself to soak it in as fully as you can right now. Go at a pace that works for you. Ask the same question throughout the rest of your body—your ankles and calves, knees, thighs, pelvis, belly, spine, mid-section, chest and shoulders, arms and hands, neck and head, moving out the crown and showering down around you. Take your time.
You will probably notice that your experience changes as you ask each part of you what would feel most nurturing and nourishing. Allow it to be whatever shows up, as long as the sensation is one that is life enhancing. If you get to an area that has a harder time receiving than the rest of you, just allow it to receive what it can and then go on by it. You can come back to it later and offer it more specific assistance once the container of your being is full.
6. Once the container of your being is full of nourishing sensation, you are now in the river of life—it is flowing through you consciously, and you have entered the present moment of sensation awareness. Congratulations. This is a simple, yet profound experience.
7. Just reading this article cannot fully convey the experience, so set aside at least 10 minutes to allow yourself to really dive in and play with this process. Also, like anything else, this process works best when it is a habit woven into the fabric of your day. If you take the time to do this inner exploration every morning, it will be there reliably for you when you need it in a stressful moment.
Grace and Ease
From the present moment, life flows with more grace and ease. You do not need to spend most of your time dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, as so many do. Information you need from both the past and future will naturally come to you in this moment.
One particularly telling example happened several years ago, as I was preparing to leave for a monthlong trip with my family. As I was in the flurry of last-minute packing and planning with a thousand details pulling me in all directions, I had the opportunity to sit down and do the exercise I just gave you.
As I took that time to drop inside, connect with Earth and fill up, I found my racing thoughts slowing down. The confusion and overwhelming feeling cleared. I felt as though I was returning to the center of my own universe, resting back into my own power. Details I had been forgetting showed up in my consciousness. Time expanded until it no longer felt rushed. The things I could drop became clear and the things that were important came into even clearer focus.
In this case, the shift in my awareness was so dramatic I could not miss it. But I had the luxury of having 20 minutes. What about those times in our lives where we have only moments in which to return to our center?
The good news is there are thousands of such opportunities in each day. As I mentioned earlier, the key is to practice the skill of navigating from within the container of your being on a regular basis, so you can remember to use the skills when you need them.
Try feeling your feet and connecting while brushing your teeth; or take three deep breaths while feeling your feet before you enter the treatment room; or at the end of every session, hold the feet of your client while grounding yourself.
Be creative. You will discover pockets of time in your day that can anchor you back into the present moment—even if only briefly—to slow down time, drop inside and fill up the container of your being.
The present moment is truly the only time there is, so when we can navigate back home to our bodies in the present moment, our natural vitality and resilience returns. There is more wisdom in everything we do, and the great and small joys of life can be experienced again.
About the Author:
Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, CMT, CST-D, author of Full Body Presence and developer of the Healing From the Core curriculum, is a regular contributor to MASSAGE Magazine. She teaches conscious awareness and its relationship to the healing process internationally.