Presence and Mindfulness are Necessary to Your Happiness, Fulfillment and Success
This video will focus on what I believe to be the single most important skill and habit for you and me if we are committed to:
- positive psychological health
- great physiological health
- peak performance, that is: exceptional performance in activities of importance to us.
This is also imperative to a healthy connection, as well as communication, with ourselves and with others. And, its imperative for those other things you and I desire:
- and fulfillment.
A Lot of Good Stuff
That's an awful lot to achieve with one skill and habit, isn't it? An awful lot of really good stuff. Joy, happiness, fulfillment, and peak performance – exceptional performance – in work and hobbies.
I would argue that this skill is integral to us performing and living in our highest ranges of positive experience, results and success in anything we hold important - so, what is this skill and habit?
If You Learn Only One More Skill – Make it Presence / Mindfulness
In fact, if I could recommend only one skill or mindset to aspire to and master, it would be this one thing: Presence; and its sister, mindfulness.
I imagine you probably know what I mean by mindfulness and presence. But for those of you who might not be familiar with this... Presence is being wholly present in the moment. Stilling or quieting the mind so our entire focus is in the now.
Mindfulness is taking the process one step further and – while being wholly present in the here and now – also becoming deeply, but simply, aware of our mind, our thoughts. That is, becoming so aware of our thinking itself – that thinking is as if it is something totally separate from self. Becoming, as they say, aware not just of our thoughts, but aware of the thinker of the thoughts - that is, focusing our awareness on the thinker behind the thoughts. Awareness of true self as being separate from the thoughts that flow through our minds. As opposed to doing what we naturally do, which is to identify self with or as our thoughts. Let our thoughts dictate awareness, self and perception of what is.
Step Back from Your Thoughts
Mindfulness is to separate ourselves from our thoughts. To stand back and observe our thoughts without feeling, personalization, judgement, attachment or association.
Detaching, observing and maintaining awareness that our mind, our thoughts and feelings, are totally separate phenomenon from who we are as living beings.
Presence and Mindfulness: Stilling Our Habitual, Chattering Mind
People, including you and I, naturally associate ourselves with and to our thoughts and our feelings.
But in mindfulness, we detach from being one with our thoughts and we observe our mind. Including disengagement from personalizing or having a personal or emotional stake in our thoughts so we remain an observer of what we habitually think of as self.
Presence also describes that state we experience when we are completely focused and engaged in the moment on an activity that has considerable meaning to us, such as a hobby, a sport or work. That is, an activity that is particularly important and meaningful to us -- one where we are committed to perform at a high level. We are focused intently on the activity. Highly purposeful and focused. We are in that state where a half hour can pass and it seems like minutes because we are so consumed in concentration and a meaningful sense of purpose.
Presence – A Component of Peak Performance and Success
Studies of peak performers -- those people throughout the world who habitually live their lives and perform their work at exceptionally high levels of quality and exuberance -- show that being fully present in the moment is one of the hallmarks of peak performers.
It kind of makes sense... right? In order to either live or to perform to our ultimate capacity, we would have to be 100% focused and engaged in the moment. Otherwise our mental energy, and probably our physical energy, are dissipated and or dispersed. Our focus and abilities aren't concentrated into the single activity at hand.
Presence Takes Practice – It Goes Against Our Brains’ Nature
Presence doesn’t come naturally or easily to the human mind. The human mind is habitually busy. It also inherently concerns itself with “self.” And it wanders from thought to thought constantly.
Experts estimate we have tens of thousands of thoughts per day, every day. They also say the vast majority of our thoughts repeat themselves each day. So virtually all of what we think about today we thought about yesterday and we will think tomorrow.
Your Greatest Presence Tool is Meditation
The way to practice stilling the mind – the way to practice mindfulness and presence – is through meditation.
Meditation is the practice of stilling the mind. The practice of presence and mindfulness.
In meditation, we focus our attention on one sensory image, sensation or sound, the visual, auditory or kinesthetic sensory stimulus we focus on can be either actual, in our current environment, or it can be imagined.
For example, we might stare at a spot on the wall or the floor. If we are outside, we might stare at a spot on a tree or stream. Or we might close our eyes and imagine staring at a spot within our imagination. A common way to meditate is to focus on the sound and feeling of our breathing.
We also might focus on music. Music that is actually playing or music we are simply imagining.
Our mind will naturally wander away from the single focus. As our mind wanders, we gently bring our focus back to the single awareness, the actual sensory stimulus or our imagined stimulus.
Mindfulness and Presence are Great for Your Health and Human Potential
When we are present, we are centered, calm and focused - and this is our optimal state for health and productivity.
As we practice and improve on this, our blood pressure and heart rate will decrease, as our mind and body cleanse and relax.
Within this state can we achieve our greatest potential in focus, performance and health.
If you have presence and nothing else, you at least have peace and the foundation for joy and health.
Presence and Mindfulness Bring Us to Where Our Only Power Is
Everything happens now. One minute ago is forever relegated to the ash heap of history. One minute from now does not exist. In fact, it might never exist.
A lack of presence can only lead to undesirable things, including stress, poor mental, emotional and physical health, substandard relationships, substandard work, dissatisfaction... and more.
Think of a time when you were completely absorbed in what you were doing – and for a prolonged period of time. Your complete mind, energy, intention and attention were all consumed with this singular thing? You lost track of time and all other concern. You probably felt a relative absence of emotion, but looking back after the fact, the experience was very cathartic and meaningful.
In fact, you may look back and remember that moment as euphoric. It could have been the enjoyment of a beautiful day, the sea, a mountain or a new city. It could have been work, a hobby or a fascinating person. Or it could have been a peaceful moment alone, simply being, virtually free from thought, unaware of the past, the future or anything other than simply being in the moment.
Presence - Your Power is Now
Each of these examples represents presence. Presence is to live completely focused, intent; being and acting in the now; without awareness, concern or consideration for anything outside of this singular moment.
There are many people who are worldly successful because they are present when engaged in their work—that is, they focus clearly, wholly and intently on their work—yet they often, or always, lack presence when dealing with themselves and other people. Their mind, attention and intention can never seem to focus completely on another human being or on simply and wholly experiencing and being who they truly are, as opposed to who they wish they were, what they are after in life.
Presence is our simplest, healthiest and our most powerful and resourceful, state of being and doing.
Peak Performance and Human Potential Actualized and Optimized
When we are able to rest into the still core of the life force that we are, quiet our mind and center in the moment, we access our most energetic, creative and aware capacity as a human being.
In a state of presence, we are most aware of the internal and external variables in our environment. We are also most in control of ourselves and our mental and emotional facilities.
Presence is the state of optimal awareness and personal power.
Presence and Mindfulness – Scientifically Studied
Meditation and mindfulness have been extensively studied at numerous universities.
In one study, Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical School did a study with subjects from a biotech company. Kabat-Sinn randomly split a large group of employees into two groups. Group one participated in an eight-week mindfulness based, stress reduction course. Group two participated in no courses or training.
All participants from both groups had their brain electrical activity studied both before and after the eight weeks. At the end of the eight weeks, the members from group one, the group that participated in the eight-week mindfulness course, had greater activation in their left prefrontal cortex, the part of brain associated with positive emotions, wellbeing and acceptance of experience.
Left prefrontal cortex activated people typically describe themselves as being interested, excited, strong, active, alert and enthusiastic. (On the other hand, right prefrontal cortex activated people describe themselves as afraid, nervous, upset or distressed).
The subjects in the second group, those that did not participate in the mindfulness based course, saw no change in their general brain activity.
Presence and Acceptance of What is Makes Us More Powerful, Not Less
Being present in the moment and accepting what is, without resistance or judgment, doesn’t mean that you and I become passive victims of events and circumstances or attempts by others to control us.
You and I can be present, accepting and non-judgmental, yet aware and engaging of outside forces that act around or upon us.
Presence and non-resistance does not equate with passivity. Rather, we simply accept what is and direct our attention, intention and behavior towards where we genuinely have power to affect our internal and external environments to everyone’s highest benefit. Our ability to affect our life, our career, our family, anything and everything occurs in this moment and only in this moment. We cannot act five minutes ago or yesterday. Nor can we act five minutes from now or tomorrow, at least not until those times come.
This Moment, is the Only Time We Can Ever Affect or Live our Lives.
If we own this moment and act in our highest interest and potential, then and only then do we inhabit and own our greatest potential, self and life.
It’s a personal choice that is always within our control.
This my friends is power. Our circumstances are what they are. We cannot control them all. We can control what meaning we find in them and what we choose to do with them.
ZoneFlow™ – Ultimate Reward for Habitual Presence and Mindfulness
Imagine a young child playing their favorite make believe game. In their mind, they are not an inexperienced, little kid. They are whatever they play: an athlete, an astronaut, a princess.
Now imagine a world-class athlete after much training, finally pushing themselves past their previous barrier of performance, sustaining this for an extended period of time.
Now an entrepreneur working into the wee hours of the night, passionately fixated on their project, losing all sense of time and space, while passionately creating their business.
This child, this athlete and this entrepreneur are all in their “zone.” They are in “flow.”
“Zone” or Flow is that state where we perform to our highest ability. It is also the state which, studies show, produces the greatest fulfillment.
We must be wholly present to reach this state. The state of zone or flow.
Peak Performance and Optimal Human Potential Occur in Zone or Flow State
Zone is that state that occurs concurrent with and because we have singular focus and intention on an important activity in the moment; an activity that is challenging and flows from impassioned intention of our desire to perform and succeed at a high level; an activity that makes us a more complex, capable and fulfilled organism; an activity for which we have skill, receive immediate feedback on our performance and we have the structure of rules which allow us to identify and experience an exhilarating level of accomplishment; we completely lose ourselves in a goal or activity and time seems to stand still.
I like to combine the two terms and speak of ZoneFlow™ (the title of an upcoming book I am writing).
ZoneFlow™ is when we create and experience these zone moments habitually and routinely.
We habitually focus our intention and energy such that we regularly enter this state and it flows as a frequent life experience. (As opposed to having few zone moments that happen serendipitously or infrequently).
In order to be in Zone, we must be completely present. But being present does not necessarily lead to being in zone.
Being in zone is to live fully in the moment, but with intention and action to perform in a meaningful challenge, to stretch to reach our highest potential; possibly into a new range of performance or actualization.
While we might purposefully focus with the intention of being mindful or present…we don’t purposefully create a state of zone.
Zone is a state that occurs as a result of total attention and intention to excel at an activity for which we have an aptitude and for which there are defined rules.
One of the founders of Positive Psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, authored the best known study and book on FLOW. Called, interestingly enough, FLOW. I suggest you buy it and read it.