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Seeking presence in challenging times

Updated: Apr 20, 2021

This is an extract from a full article published at A Small World Explorer by Kathy Carter. Link far below.

The pandemic has made many of us turn to self-development as a way of managing life’s challenges. Mindfulness - paying attention to our thoughts, emotions and body states - has been a buzzword for some time. But for many individuals, regular states of mind-less-ness could be closer to what we’re seeking. That ultimate presence – being in the now, away from our chattering minds, free from the ego’s past fears and future concerns – can allow us to really live our lives. While finding presence can be aligned to one’s spiritual or religious belief, it is not a religious practice – rather, one of taking time to focus on our own needs, and savour each and every experience in our lives.


There’s a reason Eckhart Tolle’s spiritual tome, The Power of Now, is an international bestseller. Now in its twentieth year, the book famously encourages us to leave our analytical mind behind.

COVID-19 has taught us so many things about the need to appreciate what we have, and for many people, this has involved spending time with the things we own now, and the people we live with. It’s very easy to project forward to the next vacation; but presence is all about finding something to savour in the current moment; even if it is mundane. (Accepting the mundane means the thrilling becomes even more enriching!)

Being present means we’re not distracted by ruminations on the past, or worries about the future. But it’s no dull, smug outlook on life. Far from requiring that we shouldn’t enjoy extravagant, fun and joyful activities, it helps us truly savour them; so for example, we’re not guzzling our lunch, but mindfully enjoying our food and the pretty dish it is served in, plus the view before us.

Book that amazing holiday, then make the most of your ‘here and now’ life; when your holiday arrives, savour every moment and try to connect with what you experience. Why? Because this attitude of ‘presence’ is said to help reduce anxiety, and also quieten negative beliefs exacerbated by chattering self-talk. It is also thought to increase our emotional intelligence, empathy and resilience – and can be achieved almost entirely for free.


Eckhart Tolle’s books and teachings, with their links to Zen Buddhism, are a good place to start when considering developing presence. With the premise that we are not our minds, and that acceptance of whatever we experience in the moment is key, Tolle has helped many individuals find inner peace and get more out of their lives. Dr Phil Parker is famed for teaching individuals how to change the way our nervous systems control our bodies. He advocates gentle movement, meditation-like techniques and mental exercises under the banner of ‘The Lightning Process’; the trainable process is said to switch on pathways in our brains that promote mental wellbeing and physical health, and snap us into the ‘now’. Deepak Chopra is a mindfulness meditation teacher, author and pioneer of integrative medicine. A doctor of endocrinology, he’s recently launched a meditation and wellbeing phone app with meditative practices that help us become present. Jon Kabat-Zinn has reimagined Buddhist contemplation practices as ‘mindfulness without eastern mysticism’. He now devotes his energy into trying to inject his theories into global politics, and offers a range of meditative, stress reduction CDs and downloads.


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