There are many tips and tricks for improving your relationships and I will share many that have been helpful to me. But if I had one last breath and could only share with you one thing it would be this. Practice being fully present.
It sounds simple but in our world of constant stimuli and busy lives, it is a difficult skill to develop. And yet if we are going to really live well, holding nothing back, we need to develop this skill. To live life to the full, you need to be fully present for your life. Our time on this planet is finite. Our days are numbered, so make the most of them. We often waste so much time thinking about the past or the future. But living in the present is a balancing act like walking the ridge of a roof. Thoughts of the past, or worries of the future pull us to the left or to the right, but the experience of living happens when we balance and walk forward in the present moment.
Being fully present is a skill set that you can learn and practice like anything else in your life.
Indeed, many spiritual teachers have written on this topic over the centuries. There is great personal power in being fully present in your own life and I believe it greatly impacts those around you with a side effect is that people are drawn toward you. I think this was one big reason Jesus had such an affect on people. When you are fully present in the moment, it communicates so many positive things. It says you’re confident, not fearful of the future, worried about the past, nor thinking about what everyone might be thinking about you. All that is dropped as you learn to just simply be with yourself and with others. Sounds easier than it is, so let me explain and give some practical tips.
You already know how to do this at certain times. Think about activities that make you feel really alive. What do you do that really heights your senses? It might be a hobby that you enjoy. Time seems to suspend as you get lost in your art. Perhaps you are an artist, musician, or a wine aficionado. Maybe you are a dancer, or a long distance runner or cyclist. It can involve a chemical rush of endorphins, but it doesn’t have to. Other ideas may be social in nature such as laughing with friends, eating a special meal with family, or hosting parties. When you are fully present for an activity like this, your senses are fully open and engaged, drinking in the moments like having all your pores wide open. These activities are exciting and give you the feeling of really living.
So now that you’ve identified a feeling of full presence, let’s talk about how to develop that in the rest of your life, not just in certain activities. Here are some ways I have learned from others how to practice full presence.
Practicing any of the above will give you some experience being fully present in your own life. You have to know, and feel what that is like in your own life before you can give your full presence to others in a powerful way. Once you have done this a few times, it is time to move on to sharing your full presence with others.
I have just one tip for practicing your full presence with others: active listening! Listening is a skill set that I am constantly practicing. I feel like I am naturally terrible at this and have to practice and be aware of it all the time. Actively listening to another person is similar to numbers 1 and 2 above. Much like getting interested in my environment, I practice getting interested in what the person in front of me is saying. Like a good novel, I allow myself to get taken by the story they are telling me, emotions and all. By the way, the speaker can feel when someone is fully engaged in this way and it is very empowering. If you have felt this as the speaker, you know how great this feels to have someone fully listening. Now add more value to the conversation by asking clarifying questions. Think of the sensory exercise above. What does this story feel like, sound like, etc?
The principle of controlling your mind (#2 above) comes into play with active listening. When the other person is talking, what are you thinking about? Are you thinking about what you are going to say when they stop talking? Are you off thinking about something else? I have done this many times and usually catch myself. About the time I do, it feels like the other person has already noticed that I’m not fully engaged. So I try and reengage my mind with a question. I try to be kind to myself and not internally berate myself for messing this up, because if I do, it’s very negative and is another example of my mind being off somewhere else. So I find it best to admit my distracted mind, and jump right back in with a question.
I cannot over emphasize the importance of developing the skill of being fully present. I work on this all the time. If you did nothing else, this one skill would radically change and improve your relationships and your enjoyment of life. I also recommend being gracious with yourself as you learn new skills. Berating yourself as I shared above is counter productive and also has a negative affect on those around you. For the way you treat others is an overflow of how you treat yourself. You have an amazing life, so practice the art of being here for it!
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Joel is a husband, father, musician, and lover of life; especially life that is shared with the wealth of amazing friends and family he is blessed to have near.