Much of our pain and problems come from too much thinking. Unfortunately, our too-much-thinking comes from anxiety and worry and tends not to actually help us solve a problem. Worse, it’s usually negative. Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” Or paraphrasing, you can’t solve a problem with the same mind (or thoughts) that created it.
If you take a look into your thoughts at any given moment, they involve the future or the past. Things that happened in the past which for us often predict a future. That’s great if they are positive thoughts: planning for something, or a great memory. But too often they aren’t. Regrets, old anger, resentments, hurts – these come back to haunt us in our thoughts. From that standpoint the future seems to be more of the same. It’s what we know so why should it change? In future negative thinking all the “what-ifs” cause our cortisol to run wild and we begin looking for all the reasons why that will definitely be the outcome. We’re not thinking, “let me just wait and see,” or “I’ll cross that bridge . . .”
Our thoughts are seldom about what’s going on right in front of you, what our senses are picking up: sights, sounds, smells, sensations. Much of the time we are not present experiencing whatever the moment has to offer us. This means we seldom enjoy anything. We take a bite of food and we may enjoy it, but in the next moment we’re off thinking about something or saying something. We are so distracted!
If you practice staying present even for a moment, you may notice that nothing really is happening. You are looking at a tree, you hear a siren, you feel an upset in your stomach or a breeze against your skin. Perhaps you smell the hot pavement or your favorite food. If you can stay there you will notice there is nothing to be afraid of, nothing to worry about, no problems just for this moment.
I’ve experienced this first hand and it is such a discovery and so liberating. Now of course, two seconds later the past and future flood in and we’re lost again in the swirl of emotions, thoughts, anywhere but right here.
I’ve created this recording for you to practice, as Pema Chodron calls it, “staying”, to practice being present. I firmly believe this is a big anxiety and stress reliever. Even if you suffer from chronic physical or emotional pain, this is incredibly helpful – like a refuge from the storm.
Listen to a sample of Being Present: