20 Presence Hacks: A Guide to ‘Right Now’

Written by Scott October 5, 2010

20 Presence Hacks Reclaim the Now

“Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents.”

Eckhart Tolle

Written by: Scott Dinsmore

Average Read Time: 3 Minutes

When was the last time your mind was clear, calm and empty? Completely absorbed in the present moment? For many, it’s tough to remember.

Of all the things I’ve tried to do over the years from starting businesses to running super long distances or helping others find freedom, by far the most challenging has been staying present. For most of us it’s not natural. We’ve been trained almost since birth to constantly be multitasking and getting as much done as possibile in the littlest amount of time.

It’s easy to forget that life is not only about accomplishments, tasks and goals. Those are all great but too much focus on the past or future leaves little to be enjoyed right now. And now is all we really have.

This constant focus on getting things done and what’s next is where most stress comes from.

It is ok to not be busy all the time.

Ever since Eckart Tolle made presence famous, I’ve been compiling shortcuts to the Now. (His book The Power of Now had a mind blowing effect on my thinking. Very worth the read).

Most of these are available no matter where you are. All you need is your mind. Experiment with them and adopt a few routines to reclaim your moments.

20 Presence Hacks

1. Breathe. Presence starts with the breath. Feel it coming into your body and out. What temperature is the air? Feel your stomach expanding and contracting. Picture air filling your lungs.

2. Enjoy breezes. I read about a man who’s favorite thing in the world was breezes. Every time he felt one, he stopped everything and just enjoyed it for a few moments. Imagine how amazing his life must have been. The more triggers we can have to bring us back to the present, the better. They could be breezes, smiles, running water, clouds, anything. What are yours?

3. Savor your food. For most of us eating simply means chewing. Usually done while rushing to the next task. When was the last time you consciously paid attention to each bite? How the food tasted and how it felt against your teeth and mouth? It’s almost impossible if you eat on the go or while you do other things. Sit down and just be with each bite.

4. Smell. Deep focus on any of the senses will naturally bring presence. Next time a smell catches your nose, stop and enjoy it. Let it be one of your presence triggers. Close your eyes and let the aroma take over.

5. Be extreme. Do a wild and crazy extreme sport, where your life depends on your focus. Presence is a requirement. That’s why rock climbers, sky divers, downhill skiers or competitive martial artists are often addicted to their adventures. It provides the exhilarating feeling that nothing else in the world matters.

6. Marvel at your body. Be in awe of how it works. While exercising give intent attention to each muscle group, joint and bone and how it functions to make your movements possible. Yoga is a great practice because it’s based around this awareness. But any sport gives you a reason to marvel.

7. Do some yoga. On that note, let’s get flexible. Yoga gives focused attention on your breath and body movements while getting a kick-ass workout. Ultimate mind clearing.

8. Get into nature. Observe the colors, notice the life in every direction, breathe in the air. Nothing beats some intimate time with nature. Even a short walk can be all it takes.

9. Count. If our mind is racing with ideas, one technical method is to push the chatter out with another mental task like counting. You can count your breath or nothing at all. Close your eyes and see how high you can get before your mind wanders. Make it a game.

10. Unplug. Technology is the killer of presence. Shut off the phones, social networks, email notifications, computers and anything else that needs power. They all distract us from our moments.

11. Give a toast. Or anything that makes you super nervous. I consider things like speeches to be extreme mental activities that have a similar effect as extreme sports. When addressing an audience, you’re forced to be right there. Being scared helps with presence too and speaking is most of our biggest fear.

12. Listen. Hear what the person with you is saying. Listen intently and actively respond. Be engaged.

13. Be captivated. Sunsets are my favorite way, and recently I’ve found the same in sunrises. Allow yourself to be in amazement of something around you.

14. Watch a movie. This isn’t permission to become a couch zombie, but movies can draw your focus like nothing else. I make them a weekly or biweekly treat. Much better than TV with distracting commercials and sometimes shallow story lines. Get absorbed in a good plot and for a couple hours everything else  disappears. For extra credit pick something inspiring or emotion-provoking.

15. Observe the world. Notice the people walking down the street or a man mowing his lawn or a dog being walked. Simple everyday things, in isolation, can offer awesome calm.

16. Be alone. No distractions. No people. Just you and your thoughts. Try it out in nature. Makes a great setting to try any of the other twenty on this list.

17. Change your environment. When things are overwhelming or your thoughts are going wild, leave the room. Go outside, talk to someone new. Simple way to break a challenging pattern.

18. Get some help. Guided breathing and meditation can be enormously powerful. I carry a number them on my iPhone to throw on in if I ever need to slow down. Jon Kabat-Zinn has some great CD’s. Can be a useful before bed and after waking up routine.

19. Realize you’re not present. As soon as you realize you’re not present, you’re present. Might only last for a second, but it’s a start.

20. Have nothing to do. Give yourself permission to do nothing. Clear away the clutter and just be. You might get more done than you think.

And a Bonus (and the most important of all):

Do one thing.

Presence in it’s simplest form comes down to doing one thing at a time. That’s it. This goes for anything in life, not just the above. If you’re running, then focus on running. If you’re eating then savor the food. If you’re brushing your teeth then feel the brush moving back and forth. If you’re reading an article online then tune everything else out (especially if it’s this one…).

If something is important enough for you to do then it’s important enough to deserve every ounce of your attention. Leo Babauta at ZenHabits calls this Single-Tasking. If it doesn’t have your full attention, it’s likely a waste of time.

Being Present Takes Work

For most, there is nothing more challenging than tuning out the world and being right here. Don’t be hard on yourself. Just be conscious of it and slowly incorporate the above or whatever works for you.

I used to think people who sat around or traveled without a book or journal were missing out on so much.

Now I realize that perhaps I was the one missing the action as I had my nose buried in a book when I could have been breathing in the scene or making a connection with the person right next to me. Reading, learning, writing and accomplishments have a very important place. But so does the opposite.

Schedule some time to do nothing today. Just be. Without it, you could be missing your most valuable experience of the day.

What are you best Presence Hacks? Please join the conversation in the comments section below. Even a few words or one sentence goes a long way.

If you liked this article, please Tweet about it or tell your friends on Facebook using the links below. And It’d be awesome if you’d forward it to anyone you know it could benefit. Thanks!

Other Resources to Help You Along the Way:

The Art of Slowing Down: 12 Simple Steps

Find Peace in a Busy Life

The Power of Now

Learn to Meditate

Photo Courtesy of: vramak

Title Credit: Leo Babauta’s post Top 10 Productivity Hacks of ZenHabits inspired the title of this post. Thanks Leo.

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“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” - Jim Rohn