This video is a wonderful example of the power of presence, and demonstrates just how self-consumed and overly distracted most of us are in life.
How many of us are present enough to notice the beauty that surrounds us? Not just the spectacular sunset on a tropical beach holiday, but the everyday beauty that exists in mundane situations such as on our journey to work. How many of us stop to smell the roses?
For 10 years of my life, my daily commute to work consisted of five arduous hours on various trains. I found that cultivating a sense of presence was my only solace, a state of mind which seemed to spare my sanity! I was always astounded to noticed how few (if any) fellow commuters would stop to notice the natural beauty outside the windows. The vast herds of deer that lingered in the same place most days, the sunsets and the ever changing wild flowers that followed the changing seasons. Most people were too busy buried in newspapers or phones to notice these things even existed. Yet these seemingly small things, became my saving grace – that shifted me out of a state of mundane boredom to a sense of immense appreciation and wonderment at the beauty of life. Each year I would notice more and more subtle nuances like the transitions of leaf colours throughout the seasons. Although commuting was never my favourite past time (to say the least), by cultivating gratitude for the world around me, I learned to make peace with it, and sometimes even enjoy it.
I didn’t always see the world in this way. I was just as self-consumed and easily distracted as everyone else up until my mid 20’s. It took a rude awakening to catapult me out of my sleep-walking state, something I knew intuitively to be divinely orchestrated by the universe in order to wake me up! Up until that fateful point, I lived my life totally lost in my thoughts, phone or iPod. My monkey-mind was on overdrive like a washing machine on an eternally fast spin. My thoughts were consumed with ruminating over my past or fearing for my future. My mind was overrun by ‘if only’ and ‘what if” thoughts as I stressed about my past woes; my failures, my struggles, my unhappy school years, past relationships, which I seemed unable to move on from. As a consequence of my negative mindset, I feared the future – afraid of the unknown, and of living a life of unfulfilled potential. My head was not a happy place to reside, so silence and alone time became my nemesis. In every waking moment, I therefore distracted myself through music, phone, friends or TV. My iPod would accompany my every step – so much so that my life became a walking music video!
It wasn’t until my iPod and I parted company thanks to two muggings within the space of a month (thanks universe – I finally got the hint!), that I began to wake from my eternal slumber. Being forced to travel to work in silence, devoid of distraction, opened my eyes and ears to the world around me – as if I was seeing the world a’fresh for the very first time. It really highlighted just how much of life I had missed up until that point, imprisoned by my own mind. I felt like I’d just awoken from a deep sleep and in my newly found openness, I began receiving affirmative messages in the form of signs and synchronicities such as conversations overheard, written messages on shop signs, or shapes formed in the clouds. Only in the silence could I be in a receptive state enough to hear the whispers of the universe, and of my soul that was rejoicing the fact I’d finally started listening.
If the above video awakened in you the notion that perhaps you, like I once was, are not quite as present as you would like to be to life, then I highly recommend reading this book; ‘The Power of the Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. A book of timeless wisdom that teaches how our point of power lies within the NOW moment, and when we learn to live from that place, our lives begin to flow with greater ease and grace. It also suggests that our minds and emotions create our suffering, and that we are far more than our unconscious mind. We learn how to transcend the limited ego mind – and view life from a detached perspective. Also how we can easily live from a more mindful state of being – and as a consequence, experience far greater levels of joy and peace in our life. Having lived much of my life under the harsh reign of my anxious, un-checked mind, I welcomed the opportunity to view life differently. To realise there is another way of living that will bring that much needed inner peace brought me great comfort.
That way involved harnessing the power of the presence, or the NOW as Tolle explains it. All that ever exists is an eternal sequence of now moments. If we can reside in this timeless place, where past and future cease to exist – or rather – cease to control our mind, then we can find true happiness. Since reading this book my life improved dramatically. I now see the beauty in everything, from the wildflower poking through the pavement to birds serenading me from the trees. And no matter where I am or whoever I’m with, I never fail to stop and smell the roses, and this gives me an endless supply of joy.
The book encouraged me to embark on a 9 week Mindfulness course, which I found immensely transformative. It really drummed home that although I was consciously aware of the state of my mind, and its inner workings – I would easily fall into the trap of the ego mind and its relentless rantings. The course really helped anchor the wisdom of mindfulness and embody the state of presence in my every day reality. It’s not a quick fix pill however, rather the beginning of a life long journey of expanded awareness and a welcome reminder to come back ‘home’ to the present moment more often. It helped me realise that true happiness can not be found in external accumulations, such as the job, relationship, house, money, status etc. Happiness is in fact an inside job, so although these things bring temporary highs, lasting happiness can only be achieved from the inside out.
By looking at our state of minds and cultivating presence will help develop gratitude for the small things in life, no matter what our external circumstances look like. Some of the happiest people alive have absolutely nothing materially, and have experienced the greatest adversity. A recent study on wellbeing was conducted across the globe that found people living in an Indian slum surrounded by poverty, were found to be amongst the happiest people alive. Far happier than many with amassed wealth. It goes to show the power of the mind to affect our mood, and therefore highlights our ability to change it.
I hope this post inspires you to put down the smart phone, turn off the TV and realise that life really is much richer with eyes and ears wide open!