Be present so you can own your attention
When I first heard of presence I immediately thought of an old monk on a mountain top in deep meditation with feet crossed and fingers touching.
But in reality, presence is both intricate and yet more attainable than what I used to think.
My first taste of presence was within my baseball training, I have always understood the prioritization of one's craft (or sport) by deliberate practice and discipline. I got so good at this that I would leave the world behind and enter my zone.
Presence as defined by Stulberg, is a concentrated quality of mind that lends itself to strength and stability.
We don’t just stumble into being present. We have to consistently practice, focus, and prioritize our attention.
With the mountain of responsibilities , overflowing external input, and influx of stress it has become increasingly hard to find presence.
One thing is for sure, our responsibilities aren’t going away and actually stacking up. But, we can control the responsibilities we take on and how we prioritize them.
I’ve learned this the hard way. I used to say yes to everything. Friends needed help, someone needed me to do extra work, family needed a favor etc. I would pretty much always say yes to each one. But in recent times I have learned that in taking on too much , I overextend myself. The favor was made and the help was given but at the end of the day it put more stress on me.
So, choosing what responsibilities I add on to my plate have helped me gain control over my attention and energy. Don’t get me wrong, I still lend the helping hand, but not at the expense of my well being or stability. (Practice saying no, nicely and respectfully)
Put your phone down and leave the notifications alone.
I am very guilty of this myself. Which is why I created the social media reset challenge. We have been conditioned to be addicted to our devices. Notifications and light speed gratification have consumed our attention and shattered our presence.
It feels great to receive a text , IG notifications, and emails. But like any shiny object it quickly fades and life continues.
Entering the matrix of our devices usually leads to a time warping endeavor. “ I’ll just check my feed really quick “ but 15 minutes later and you’re still scrolling.
The feel good rush of notifications is a real thing. It helps us feel needed and important. It's a great feeling but without any true meaning or nourishment. As we return to reality we feel uncomfortable and unproductive. A vicious cycle if left unchecked.
A habit I am all too familiar with. I felt as if I wasn't busy doing something (creating content , posting on social, checking emails, recording videos, creating workshops etc) I was being unproductive or lazy. In the same token, at times of rest I felt myself slipping away into the abyss of social media.
I was busy but not productive. A lesson that was not clear to me until now
I constantly felt scattered brained. Focusing on multiple things at the same time making sure I didn't miss any chance of success. (FOMO to the max)
On my down time, I would unknowingly check my phone for any notification or update. At times, even feeling my phone without having received a vibration or notification. (Phantom vibration ?)
Stulberg references the work of Erich Fromm, among many things he is a psychologist and philosopher who coined the term productive activity.
This term reached deep into my soul. I knew exactly what he was referring to because I was doing the exact opposite .
Fromm mentions that in order for us to do our best work and reach our highest self, we must cultivate presence and direct the presence toward meaningful and productive activities .
Its not about doing more, faster but about making the choice to direct your attention to doing your best where and how you want consistently.
I now practice doing a specific activity ( ie. writing this blog, working on client programs, spending time with family, training etc ) deliberately without the need to be busy or distracted. Just deep in the work or activity.
I am working on less items on my to do list, but with way more proficiency, depth, and contentment. With presence :)
Today, I silence notifications and remove distractions when I want to be present. It has not been easy especially in the beginning of the social media reset challenge where you are literally itching to check your phone. With practice, the cravings lessen and naturally I stay away from the distractions. I also make it a point to set up my environment in favor of minimal distractions. That may be setting my phone on the table away from me, switching Pandora stations ( currently listening to Beautiful Chorus), or training with no music ( my most preferred method).
Recently, I have been using the teachings of Scott Sonnon to harness my presence through training and building better resilience to stress ( and anxiety).
Scott Sonnon and his circular strength training system centralize the idea of honoring our bodies natural recovery mechanism and resilience to stress. What I have learned is that when you practice the skill of properly recovering from strenuous exercise your body and mind manage stress (external and internal) more efficiently.
Similar to Fromm’s productive activity, Scott Sonnon discovered that it's not about doing more work and breaking your body down in training (what most fitness teaches), instead it's about maximizing our ability to recover and produce higher quality work. Scott refers to this as achieving health-first fitness through flow.
Building presence (flow) in your training, in your movement, and ultimately in your recovery yields higher resilience to stress physically, mentally and even emotionally.
Although not simple or easy, presence can be attained through deliberate practice , shifting of one's environment, and harnessing resilience.