In working with both my clients and my shamanic apprentice students, one of the things that I talk about most often is presence. It is one of the single most important things you need to learn to live a conscious life. In this article about how to be a shaman, we’ll be discussing what takes us out of practice and how to get back into it whenever we want.
Where We Live
The truth is that most of us spend our lives in our heads; thinking about today, wondering about tomorrow, lamenting about yesterday. Very few of us are really in the present moment, noticing what is happening around us. Did you notice the lawn people buzzing the lawn next door? Did you notice the sirens going by down the street? Did you notice that your butt is sore from sitting in front of the computer for too long? If not, then you’re not present.
What Takes Us Out of Presence
The world of computers and other media has eroded our ability to stay present. The constant distractions keep our attentions from focusing on the important things in life. Instead we are planning the optimal path to the supermarket from work, or making a “To Do” list in our heads that is so long that if we ever wrote it down, we’d shut down just thinking about it all. We even get caught up in the drama of “what ifs”. creating elaborate plans to handle any scenario that might occur – most of which won’t and so that time spent planning for it is an insane waste of bandwidth in an already overtaxed brain. Worry, dread, fear, regret, these are all wastes of bandwidth that not only rob valuable time, they also drain our energy.
Here’s what you can do to cultivate your presence practice today.
- Become intensely aware of your surroundings.
- What do you hear? (Just now the universe decided to help me and had the guys on my street start jack-hammering.)
- What do you see? Pay attention not only to what is around you, but also to your own body.
- What do you smell? This is a sense that we often overlook – what do you smell right now? Perhaps you might want to go open something in your refrigerator and sniff it just to experience smelling something. I recommend lemon or lime juice, those scents also awaken your senses in general.
- What do you taste? Are you drinking coffee or tea? Do you have the leftover flavor from your last meal still dancing on your taste buds? What are you tasting?
- What do you feel? How does your butt feel against the chair, your hands against the keyboard, your feet against the floor. Is anything in your body in pain? Are you uncomfortable in any way?
Now that you have your awareness tuned in, look around you at the other people in your purview. How are they being in the world? Do they seem happy, or rushed, or excited, or harried? What can you garner about their state of being without opening your mouth to ask them. If you’re an empath, be careful in this part of the exercise. The goal is to keep your own awareness within yourself, not to sublimate yourself into the other person – that’s just an energetic form of codependency. So keep your own awareness and touch into the other person too.
They Call It a Practice for a Reason
This is not easy. It takes practice. Much like meditation, it’s easy to get stuck in your head thinking about whether you are “doing it right”. Don’t ask the question. Instead, bring your attention back to your surroundings, back to your body, back to your breathing. Call yourself back to the present moment over and over again until it becomes second nature to live there.
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