Being Present, Being Mindful

Being fully present to any single moment, truly being here now, is as easy as being aware of the next breath, and as difficult. Try a small experiment. While you are reading this paragraph, watch your breath coming into and going out of your body for several minutes. You may want to focus on the air as it passes through your nostrils, or on the rise and fall of your chest, or on the expansion and contraction of your belly—whichever feels most natural. Be fully present to and aware of your breath in any moment. Start now.

How long before your attention is distracted by a sound, a sight, a memory, a body sensation, a thought? Now imagine (or perhaps it is your experience) that you are also in pain—physical, emotional, and/or mental. This really challenges your ability to be present to the totality of each moment. It may seem that all that exists is the pain and that it will last forever. I know this from my own experience with bodily ailments and mental/emotional anguish. Such maladies can feel all-consuming and they don’t seem to allow for much peace.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “What you resist persists?” That seems to be particularly true of pain—it won’t be suppressed or ignored without intensifying or maybe popping up at some other time or in some other place in the body. The next time you are in pain in some way, try another experiment. Instead of focusing on the breath, focus on the unpleasant sensation, whatever it may be. As you breathe your way through it one moment to the next, you may notice that the sensation changes. You may realize that it rises and subsides, appears and disappears, just like the breath. And you may notice that it is not the totality of what is present. A moment of experiencing pain can also be a moment in which there is much else to enjoy—the breeze on your skin, the warmth of the sun, the smell of a flower, the song of a bird, the companionship of a loved one.

My own goal is to be as mindful as I possibly can of the totality of what every moment of my life offers. I may not be able to get rid of my pain, but I can work with it, accept it, become friends with it, know that it is only a small part of my life experience.