“The only place you can really love another person is in the present. Love in the past is a memory. Love in the future is a fantasy. To be truly alive, love – or any other experience – must take place in the present moment.” – Anonymous
Long before the publication of The Power of Now, mystics and sages of old have spoken about the power and practicality of presence.
To be fully present is to be fully aware of the sensations, emotions, and experiences occurring in your life in that moment. It means being attuned to the people around you.
Though this may sound simple, easy, and common sense. You may even be thinking, well of course I am aware of my surroundings, what else would I be doing? What happens more often than not, is human beings get lost in their imagination, worries, and repetitive thinking patterns (1). This in turn, absolutely impairs our ability to experience the world as it is actually unfolding around us moment-to-moment.
This is due to the fact that we are limited by our own physiology. We have only a limited amount of brain cells after all and thus can only focus on a limited amount of information at any given time (2). Furthermore, whatever we do focus on, we can't help but experience sensations relating to those focused thoughts…regardless of what the actual circumstance is at that time (3).
For instance, we have all had the experience of craving our favorite food. Let's say yours is chocolate ice cream. The mind is so powerful that even when we are nowhere near an ice cream shop, our stomach may begin to rumble and our mouths will salvate. You swear you can almost taste the cool surface of the ice cream on the tip of your tongue.
In contrast, there may be a moment when you in fact have chocolate ice cream in your mouth. However, you are feeling really stressed and worried about how late you are to pick up your daughter at soccer practice. Remarkably, even though the ice cream is in your mouth, you will likely not even taste or consciously experience the flavor of this delicious treat.
Let's highlight an example of how setting an intention for and cultivating greater presence also markedly improves our capacity for connection and love with others.
Let's say your best friend is going through a hard time at work. She is confiding to you her fears and frustrations, as well as her deep desire to change to a career that is more satisfying for her. Instead of listening deeply and providing a safe space for her to reflect in order to gain insights into her problem, you are still reeling in your head from an argument you had with your boyfriend the night before. You are replaying the conversation in your head and planning all the things you are going to tell him tonight.
We have all been guilty of this. This happens all of the time. In this example, you are “in your head”…not in the present moment. Imagination is powerful distraction from the present moment. Your boyfriend isn't even physically there, your best friend is!
Cultivating the ability to allow your personal thoughts to pass through and return to presence is a true demonstration of altruism and care. You are showing up for another human being in a way that is honest. It encourages the other person to feel safe and really be able to open up. And the best news of all, is that living life with more presence can be learned. We can create new neural pathways (4). Just google Dr. Norman Doidge's work or watch this video on neuroplasticity!
Human beings deeply desire to be heard, to be valued. Being present is a natural proponent of this because being present allows the opportunity for you to listen on a deeper level. Not just listening with the focus of what advice to give or whether you agree with your friends opinions, but listening without an agenda.
This deep listening is easiest to attain physiologically when we are present. Sensations of love and connectedness are what exist when our personal and habitual thought storms (our worries, fears, desires, motivations, personal needs) drop away.
Presence is the most direct route to love.
“It isn't the absence of people in our lives that cause us pain, but rather what we do with them when they're there…Pure love of another person is the restoration of our heartline. The ego, therefore, is marshaled against it. It will do everything it can to block the experience of love in any form.” – Marianne Williamson
And what is one way we all block the natural capacity for love and connection with another person?
By being up in our head. By indulging our fantasies, reliving past hurts, or any other myriad of ways we indulge our inner world, we are unable to be present, aware, or listen to others in the real world.
Now, you don't have to get perfectionist with this. No human being will be present all the time. It is natural to have thoughts about the past and future, but the continual waking up to the present moment is possible for human beings and can serve as much-needed nourishment for our own souls and our relationships.
When we experience greater awareness, i.e. presence. When this becomes our new norm for how we show up for others, there is a freedom, a lightness, and a deeply connecting potential that exists.
In the now, we are able to drop our “rules” for living and habitual ways of doing things. Instead of looking to constantly fill the silence in conversations, we relish in it. We are able to soak in the moment of connection with and love for another person. We have time to truly empathize. We also know that from the silence and unknown, previously unseen potentials and loving possibilities can emerge.
That is because presence also clears up enough mental bandwidth so that new, inspired ideas can come through (5). Perhaps a question we never would have thought of asking may occur for us to ask our friend? From this open-minded inquiry, she may reflect on and come to her own inspired solution to her problem. How incredibly loving and supportive is that?
In closing, meditative states, or states of being present, affect our brains in measureable ways via greater focus, more creativity, and enhancing our ability to be compassionate (6).
Cultivating a lifestyle of greater presence (or finding yourself “in the now”) creates a beautiful platform from which to not only improve our relationship with ourselves and experience a host of benefits such as stress reduction, but also a way to deepen our connection with others.
Being more present with others allows us to be love in action.
Read this next —-> 13 Reasons Why You Are Enough