The art of being present

I like to think about meditation as the art of being present. Being present is something that is quite difficult sometimes, mainly because the mind tends to wander and take us on unexpected trips to either the future or the past. It is often busy producing thoughts that might create anxiety in us, or fear, or any other emotions that are not that positive and that are often related to how things should be. Or our minds entertain us with things that we would like to have or do, or perhaps events that we did not find comfortable for some reason. We might even be repeating scenes that created a lot of pain or that still hurt—maybe just seeing an image of a person with whom we have some existing conflict with that hasn’t been resolved yet. There are many, many ways in which we can not be present.

Of course, there are various ways to train against this tendency of our minds, which is why we’re all doing this, I guess. One of the most powerful ways is going back to our bodies, because the body can only exist in present time. This is one of the reasons why most meditation exercises and training involve at least partially placing our attention on our breath. Placing our attention on our breathing (which tends to be automatic unless we do this) creates a shift—a very quick and notable shift—because we not only change the way we exchange oxygen with our environment, but also how much of it enters our body, organs, tissues, etc. This tends to be a very distinct and tangible way of shifting our state. When we’re anxious, for example, we tend to naturally do shallow chest breathing, whereas when we relax, we tend to enter abdominal breathing patterns, which creates a whole body-mind shift towards relaxation and feeling peaceful.

So there are tools we can use to become present. One is body, because it can only exist in the present, and another one, that I really like and want to base today’s teleseminar on, is gratitude. Some of you may be wondering why I find it so useful and important—it’s because with gratitude, you can ground yourself in the present moment as well. It allows you to acknowledge and be thankful for the many things that you already are, and for the many things that you already have.

The Way of Gratitude

I think gratitude is quite interesting, because when you are experiencing a really negative state, it’s actually very hard to acknowledge that gratitude might help. In a way, your whole body-mind is immersed in the negative state, and remembering about gratitude, or even trying to shift your state towards it, is quite difficult. At that point, you might think, “Easier said than done,” it might even sound stupid to just be thankful for the many things that one is or has. Some might think, “I don’t really feel that way,” or maybe, “I’m hurting right now,” or, “I might be going through what I consider hell,” or “My whole life doesn’t make any sense.” There are many possible reasons why this might not feel easy, or even be at all interesting. Of course, we all go through phases like that, but having a regular practice can counteract all that negativity that we sometimes experience for whatever reason. 

I find practicing gratitude to be an amazing tool, and it can shift things from orbiting around the negative to, if not the positive, a more neutral state that naturally biases the pain or suffering that we might be going through. It’s very simple, and so beautiful.

Plus, feeling positive is not just nice for the sake of it, but it feels good. It feels great! We all like feeling positive and, in a way, it encourages positive feedback loops as well, which often end up in useful transformation and growth. With what might seem like a stupid or unnecessary exercise like practicing gratitude, you might end up surprising yourself, because you might unexpectedly start being grateful for things that are happening throughout the day that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. I think this is basically what practicing gratitude is about: it’s about reducing the things that we take for granted and, at the same time, increasing the things that we feel lucky about. This includes life itself, of course.

Practicing gratitude

In my personal experience, this little thing of practicing gratitude allows anyone to start or perhaps continue getting rid of the things we’re not—which tend to be quite many. It also encourages one to learn how to be more present to each moment. Being present to what life presents us is quite a thing as well. It’s truly a lifetime job. It’s not always easy, because we all have plans and expectations; likes and aversions. However, practicing gratitude is a very spiritual take on being alive, and I find it very easy, practical, and down-to-earth. When we take things for granted, we tend (or at least I do) to forget that life is a gift. So, yes, gratitude is the way forward!

Stay tuned for Part II of Javi’s discussion on the power and the way of gratitude.

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Javi Otero of iAwake TechnologiesJavi Otero is an Alpha Tester and Experiential Customer Support at iAwake Technologies. His work as an artist and acoustic stimulation researcher is currently shaped by his interest in the practical applications of biofield entrainment and energy medicine. He likes to explore and practice creativity in its widest possible sense and is passionate about anything that might help us further experience the wonder of being alive.

Photography by Javi Otero

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Adapted from iAwake Technologies’ free, weekly teleconference call on July 23, 2014.

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