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Being Present – Learning to Stay

One of the most powerful ways of facilitating healing in oneself is to cultivate the ability of being present or learning to stay in the moment.

When I started my meditation practice, I quickly discovered that most of the time, I wasn’t present at all. Frustratingly, I discovered that was also the case for most of my meditation sessions.

The lights were on, but I wasn’t really home. Not really.

Over nearly 35 years of my practice, I have consistently found that my mind is a noisy place to be. I’m constantly distracted by thoughts and sounds and pussy cats. Itches itch and twitches twitch. There’s a never-ending stream of “stuff” that constantly vies for my attention. I’m perpetually distracted.

Eventually, I learned that it was okay to experience this. I learned that amongst all the mental chatter, noisy trucks and occasional bumblebee, there were glorious moments of stillness waiting to be discovered. I learned to appreciate the noise and chatter for what they are: aspects of my essence. I learned to appreciate the stillness for what it is: an aspect of my essence.

I learned that each moment is fresh, full of opportunity for growth and discovery.

Moreover, I learned that the stillness, once found, becomes the baseline for everything else. If there were a thing we can call “home” in this existence, that stillness one finds in that perfect moment is it. It is our centre. It is the wellspring of our consciousness from which we experience everything.

Alongside my meditation practice, I’ve gone through a lot of living. Much of that living has been stressful and traumatic. There have been addictions and divorces, fear, uncertainty … You name it, it seems that I managed to draw that experience into my life. Sometimes, I’d forget where “home” is and would go long periods of time without meditating.

It would become normal to scratch the itch, flailing at symptoms, instead of sitting with it to discover the source of the real problem. And there, really, is the power in being present. When we sit with something long enough, the knee-jerk urge to respond lessens and we see things from a fresh perspective.

Sometimes, I call this “cultivating the observer”. You see, in being present in each moment, we develop this amazing capacity to remain objective regarding a situation’s triggers. Instead of becoming angry, we recognize why our partner is behaving that certain way toward us. We can respond from a place of love and compassion instead of triggering and erupting in an ego-driven argument intended to protect.

The same applies to addiction. Instead of reaching for the bottle or pills or whatever your particular vice might be (and, yes, it could be that tub of Triple Chocolate Chip in the freezer), we learn to sit with our “itch” and experience it in a way that helps us to understand the why. And in being at peace with both the itch and the why, we begin to heal it.

It’s a very natural progression. Yes, it can take time. Yes, it can take a huge amount of courage. Yes, we can falter and stumble, taking time to get back to our centre and embark once again on our path of self-discovery and self-healing. And that’s okay, for it’s the journey itself that matters most. Getting caught up in our failure to succeed is, after all, just another itch born of us being programmed to think a certain way.

When we learn to find that stillness, when we learn to stay even if only for a little while, our immune system is bolstered and even the sickest body begins to heal itself. Our emotional centre becomes more grounded. We learn objectivity.

Start off with sitting for just a few minutes. Try to get comfortable and relax and just sit. “Follow the breath”. What will you discover?

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