As life accelerates exponentially, presence will be essential. The 2010’s were the age of ‘Disruption’, when technology enabled economic and social changes that were thrilling to some, and anxiety-producing for most. Life is now speeding up in so many ways, all at once, that the 2020’s will take us beyond disruption into dislocation. The global pandemic we are currently experiencing is a perfect example of this dislocation; the status quo in our politics, economy, and society that has been slowly eroding has now broken down entirely, and we are left having to adjust to a ‘new normal’ day by day.
So many things changing all at once can be a fearful experience. If you choose anxiety, panic, and fear, research shows that your immune system weakens, making you more susceptible to disease, and negatively impacting you, your family, and community. Now more than ever, being responsible for your response to a rapidly-changing reality is essential. The Taylor Group has been grappling with how to accomplish exactly that for decades, and we can suggest some new practices for you to try out during the dislocations of the current coronavirus situation. Since you might be working from home, or your work has closed the doors temporarily, this is a great opportunity to try these out.
First, we must accept that we cannot change the current situation. It is what it is. There are public health practices that can support and potentially protect you and others, and we obviously advocate following those. Once you’ve accepted the new ‘what is’ however, then what? We believe that the skill of developing presence is essential. Presence is a dynamic relationship with ‘what is’. It is cultivating a quality of awareness that accepts things the way that they are without judging or even categorizing.
Our initial responses to change are always rooted in our past experiences. These old habits, or old fears can set us up for confirmation bias, tunnel vision, and other mental mistakes that prevent us from effectively responding. We have all kinds of conditioning that prevents us from getting closer to what’s actually happening, and all of it has been on display over the past few weeks. Depending on personality, life experience, and other factors we can observe people being afraid, stoic, risky, avoidant – the whole range of human emotion. With presence, we have the ability to gently let go of those projections so that they don’t intrude on our full experience. Choosing to be response-able means you can choose how you will creatively respond to the ‘what is’ of any situation.
So, here are a few practices in the flow of cultivating presence:
- Stop multitasking. Untask.
- Put down the screens and fully enjoy your favorite beverage, or your favorite spot in nature.
- Breathe, and observe your breath. Notice the space between the inhale and the exhale without holding your breath.
- Step into another person’s situation, and be present to their world… without judging. Allow for caring to just be there.
- If you’re sick, stop judging and overwhelming yourself. Allow yourself to heal. It’s what your body is designed to do.
- Know when you need support, and give yourself the grace to ask for it.
Presence is that place in the middle, where we are neither consumed by, nor reject, what is going on. It’s about observing the quality of our attention, and where we put it. We have the ability to be fully present such that we’re interested in what’s going on, but we’re not forming judgements or dashing off into a proliferation of thoughts. We can then create a space where creativity arises, where your heart mind can be available for imagining vs. figuring it out. This will have us inhabit our lives, being present to our experiences rather than getting caught up in addictive spirals, needing more and more stimulation, living in a frantic simulacrum of life without being fully alive. Cultivating presence has a healing effect on our mind, helping us to develop wisdom, while being open to insight and epiphany in profound ways.
We know that practicing presence will have us navigate these unexpected and surprising exponential changes that are now happening around us. We can be overwhelmed. We can be reactive. We can lament the dislocation. Or we can choose a different path with new practices, helping us staying grounded in the present place and moment. By staying in that place, we will find a new openness that allows us to continually create, discover, and feel. Creating this space will give us access to the imagination required to navigate any changes we experience, while continually discovering the underlying truths of our lives.