Let's be completely honest- staying present when things are hard is fucking painful. Presence means we are aware and awareness means paying attention and paying attention means we are responsible for how we are with ourselves and others and that is scary and exhausting.
I had a therapist tell me once "Angie, it is not possible or healthy to be present 100% of the time" And I took it to heart. It's true for many reasons but the two biggies for me are, I can slip quite quickly into obsessing about what is going on in and around me and if I'm handling what's happening in the best way possible. Also, I have to live in the real world with real problems and other people with real problems, and these relationships need my attention too.
We have to be present not only with ourselves but with others too.
So my practice with presence is to check in with myself throughout the day. Build a way of being where this happens frequently. Some days are very fluid and I don't even think about it I'm just with myself and feeling what needs feeling and seeing to what needs attention. And other days I really have to make a concerted effort to check in with myself. At these times whether I am aware of it or not there is usually some pain I don't want to look at or am not ready to look at. Or that I am protecting myself from that I'm not ready for. Neither is bad or good- it just is.
If we create safety with ourselves we can trust the ebb and flow of presence. We can trust that we will feel what needs to be felt when it needs to be felt. This trust in our inner voice/inner wisdom is the foundation of which so much more than just presence is built. It is the wisdom to trust your No and your Yes, to honor and listen to your feelings, and giving those feeling space to be felt when we are ready to feel them, it is the gauge that says something isn't right here and trusting it. It is fucking amazing is what it is!
You may be thinking- I don't know how to do this. Or it's too late to even try. But it's never too late to build trust with yourself. It is something humans that want to keep growing, evolving, and changing will be doing until they die.
How do I start? You might be asking. Well, I a firm believer in starting small and building from there. I don't like systems that lead with shame and bank on my failure. I like baby steps forward that get me somewhere that somewhere being closer to myself.
If I were you I would start by taking baby steps forward by...
*practicing listening to yourself first thing in the morning for 3 minutes. How are you feeling physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally? Listening and not judging or doing anything about what you hear. You can build up to more time the following week or stay with 3 minutes because anytime spent listening is good time.
*You can also do this in the form of a body scan. Lay down, get comfortable, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowing and calming down your body and mind (thoughts are just thoughts notice them and let them pass by). Once you are breathing gently and calmly notice your hands. What is the surface your hands are resting on? Is it scratchy, smooth, or soft? Can you feel the hairs on your hands? Now notice your back and the surface it is resting against and how it's supporting you? Try this with other areas of your body. Notice. Feel the breath go in through your nose and out your mouth. Is it warm or cold? What does it feel like? What are the sensations?
Maybe the next time you try this you practice noticing where your body is holding tension. Maybe it's in your jaw-notice. Maybe it's in your skull-notice. Maybe it's in your legs, buttocks, feet, hands, belly-notice. All you have to do is notice.
The third time you try this you can practice the above two and then add practicing letting go of the tension in each area where it's being held in your body. This helps you build a container that is safe to work with and is trustworthy.
*Take yourself on a walk with the purpose of noticing. Noticing what is around you. How do you feel? How does your body moving feel? As you move pay attention to your surroundings, to people, to the places you walk what do you notice in your body? Are there any physical reactions- scared, happy, anxious, angry? Try not to have any judgments just feel what you feel and notice if it shows up in any particular place in your body. If you feel nervous or scared trust it and go to a different area or go home and try again on another day. Building trust with ourselves means we have to be trustworthy and we do this by listening to ourselves. It doesn't really matter if you are right it just matters that you listen to yourself.
You can do all or none of these or you can create your own. Just begin. You are worth knowing. And you are worth taking the time to know.
Remember that built into the very word practicing is the notion that it's not possible to be perfect from the beginning- we have to practice and practice and pratice.