The Power of Presence

One of the readers asked me, “Why should we be present? What does that mean? How does that affect our lives?” Volumes have been written on and much talked about this subject.

In this article, I will elaborate my own understanding of the subject. What does living in this Present moment or Now mean? Aren’t we all living in the now? We say things like, “I want this now. I need to leave for an appointment now.” And, what is so special about it?

That which cannot be captured by our minds (or thoughts) is Presence, Existence or living in the Now (this word is not used in the temporal sense as we usually do). Existence or Presence is the eternal ever-flowing life itself.

Bound to the Past

In our day-to-day life we are, constantly, either guilty or reminiscent of the past—”If I had not done that…” or “If I had only done that…” or “I feel sorry or guilty that I did that.” This is mental torture. Everyone of us go through that in one way or another, some more so than others. We don’t just learn from that experience and move on. I don’t even know if there really is a lesson to learn. Or, we don’t forgive some wrongs done to us. We constantly think, “Why did he/she do this to me?” or “Why did this happen to me?” or “Why me?” We never let go. Even if we say mentally that we forgave, we really don’t. When we see the person who wronged us or when somebody reminds us of that person or situation we experience whole flood of emotions and bitterness.

Millions of years of conditioning is in action here. Can we remember the time we were being born? Can we remember the day we were born? We think we were born because our parents told us. We remember we were born on such and such date because our parents celebrated our birthday every year. So, the conditioning to wallow in the past starts soon after our birth.

Jumping to the Future

On the other extreme, we worry about future. Planning for the future and carrying out each of the steps of the plan is one thing, but constantly worrying about the outcome of the plan is completely another. It is neurotic.

From Past to the Future and Back

We constantly dilly-dally between past and future, never giving any importance to the present moment. We miss the most beautiful things that happen right before our eyes here and now.

Ever Present Children

We tell our kids, “if you study well now, you can be happy by getting a good job, having a good wife and family when you grow up,” in a way insinuating somehow happiness can be found only in the future. About a year or so ago, my (now seven year old) son was fussing about doing some reading homework. I had just started practicing Presence, then. To make him understand, I told him, as many of us do, “If you don’t read now, you are going to have tough time getting into a college, and getting a good job. If you study well now, you can get a well paying job later on and you can lead a happy life.” With one swell swoop he cleared my ignorance—He said, “I am very happy now, Daddy. Why do I have to wait? You gotta lighten up.” To my grown-ego, that was a slap in the face and brought me to a realization. My son is already in a state of presence. There I was practicing Presence myself telling my son not to be Present. Then and there I decided to start learning from him. I decided then to carefully rephrase my statements so I don’t hurt him in anyway. Instead of saying what I said above, I started saying things like, “Read books for enjoyment. Read books that bring you joy now.” Those statements make a greater impact on him now.

If you noticed your own children or other small children you will notice that they are totally functioning in the Now unless they have already been conditioned. My son may throw tantrums and fight with us at one moment, but the next moment he has forgotten all of that and is hugging and showering affection on us. When we ask him to go upstairs to the bathroom and brush his teeth, he goes upstairs. But, we don’t here any sound of running water even after a few minutes. We quietly go upstairs only to find him playing intently with a toy he found on the way up. That is being fully Present. He was walking upstairs “thinking” in his mind that he was going to go brush his teeth, but he got intensely pulled to what was right before him. What is around him and in him (desire to play triggered by the toy) was more important to him than a tooth brush yet to be visible to him. That is being totally Present. Being Present physically and “mentally” wherever you are and whatever you are doing at that moment.

For small children it comes naturally because they still haven’t been conditioned by the society through schools, and media, to behave “normally”—normality that the society wants. The normality of feeling guilty of the past and worrying about the future. Conditioning starts the moment they enter Kindergarten, if it hasn’t already started at home. Claim is made to teach the kids individuality and independent thinking, but in reality what is taught is stifling conformity through strict enforcement of rules. That is murder of innocence and natural expression of life.

Past is Dead

Past is dead. Future will never come. Even if it comes, it comes only as the present moment. However, we will never be able to capture the present moment. By the time our mind tries to capture it, it has become the past. By the time our mind labels it, it is gone. Present moment operates beyond the mind which operates entirely in the temporal dimension. That which is beyond time cannot be captured by the mind which operates in time. So, being present is more than a mental state. It is a state of Being. Our natural state. It is the eternal life itself. In this natural state of being we don’t even know we are being Present. It just is. Kids know this intuitively, they don’t even know they are Present. If you mention to them, they will ask back what you are talking about.

The Practice and Its Effects

At a mental level, it requires constant practice to be aware of everything that is happening in and around us, everything that we do, so eventually we will raise our consciousness higher and enter that state of ever present being.

For myself, I cannot say that I have fully become Present. I have had glimpses of that state. I can only say that I think much less about my past and worry much less about my future, compared to a year ago.

Techniques of yOgAsanas (postures), prANAyAma (control of life force or prAna through breathing exercises), dhyAna (techniques of meditation) all aid in bringing your racing minds to slow down, bring awareness to your bodies, breath and your thoughts.

Once you have reached a calmer mindset through these practices, you can carry that on throughout the day by keeping a part of your awareness on your breath so you keep connected to your body and surroundings. Remember the rate of your breath indicates the state of your mind. So, when your mind is calmer, your breath is slower and deeper and vice versa.

Impact on Your Day to Day Work

In this state of mind, your work will go so smoothly as if some other power is working through your body.

In the last two years, I have experienced significant increase in mental calmness and productivity. I complete work in half the time than it used to take me before I started practicing Presence. Solutions to complex problems occur in a flash; surprising me and my supervisors. I am able to handle stress with a cheery disposition. These are the benefits on the work front.

Impact on Your Body and Mind

On a physical and psychological level this brings tremendous lightness since all that mental noise, that was depleting all the vital energy, has subsided greatly. In that state of presence, everything flows through you smoothly, like this article through me.

May you be fully Present in the ever shining light of life.

10 Responses

  1. Sumathi says:

    Hi Desika, This is a very nice article, it is so true that dwelling in the past and thinking way ahead in the future, we miss out on the little happiness that is NOW. As the saying goes “Past is history, future is mystery, present is a gift so enjoy it”

  2. Chris Cade says:

    Leave it to kids’ brutal honesty to show us how life *really* is! I’m often amazed at how much I learn from my 9 month old son – about being present. He’s always present and doesn’t know any different… he can be screaming his head off one second, and laughing hysterically the next. Fortunately, the screaming is only minor otherwise he’d also be teaching me extra lessons in patience!

  3. Hi Chris,

    You are absolutely right! My 8.5 year old is the same way. Kids know how to live. They don’t censure their thoughts as adults are conditioned to do. They just say what they feel like and expect the same kind of brutal honesty from adults as well.

    Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts. I hope to see you more often on this site. You have a very nice site. I am looking forward to reading the short stories on your site. BTW, you had misspelled your website address, I fixed it.


  4. Bev says:

    You really need to write a book! I would be the first in line to buy it. Sooooooo, until that day I just continue to print out your articles. And Oh how I wish you would return to your blog 🙂

  5. Hi Bev,

    I guess life is telling me to write a book through you. 🙂 We will see when that happens. As you may have seen from my latest entry, I never really left my blog, just hibernating, 🙂


  6. Gruf says:

    Hi Desika,

    Happy New Year for 2010, I am gradually re reading your excellent blog, and the paragraph which begins “The Past is Dead” resonated with me, but also confused me! I realise I am “grasping” for understanding, and perhaps should be listerning or living more instead, but if you could expand a little about ” beyond the mindl” I would be grateful. Keep shining the light.

  7. ravi says:

    hai desika,
    I have seen your blog and realised the essence of presence. some fear crippled my mind and unable to concentrate in my routine. Now I am also practising the presence to eradicate all past and future.

    with regards.

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