By Kris Kile
Practicing presence (aka mindfulness) is one of the foundational disciplines when it comes to taming the brain. As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “Mindfulness is moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness, cultivated by paying attention.”
Sounds easy, but runs completely contrary to our normal mental/emotional/instinctual ways of relating. It never ceases to amaze me how much my history and assumptions dictate what I see possible in the moment.
To be present starts with releasing the felt need to have things look a certain way–interpreting the present moment through your historically determined filters.
Our preference for how things should be (which tends to tie my present experience to our interpretations, assumptions and judgments from our past) ends up drastically limiting the expanse of what’s possible in the moment.
We love to think that the way we think things are is the “official” version.
For example. I love high quality cocoa in my coffee. Just pure cocoa. And, I am a coffee snob of sorts in that I very much prefer fresh ground high quality beans, brewed in a French press. Then I pour and add cocoa. For years, I bought my cocoa from Peet’s Coffee, because they had cocoa that was better than anything you could buy in a grocery store.
Then Peet’s starting not having their cocoa available. I talked to the Peet’s store employees about it, then the manager, then I called Peet’s national customer service people, then back to another store’s manager. I got different answers from all of them—they ran out of containers, then they lost their container supplier (seriously?), the store ran out of inventory, the store can’t get more inventory, etc., etc. This went on literally for months. I was getting frustrated, because their cocoa was the best! I really wanted it.
Then, one day, after months and months of this, it finally occurred to me that there might—just might—be an alternate source of great cocoa that I hadn’t considered. So, I went on Amazon, which is my absolute favorite shopping place, and looked up high quality cocoa. I spent hours reading the reviews about all the cocoas they listed. Then I picked the top five reviewed cocoas, ordered and tested them for the next six months.
As it turns out, I found a smashingly decisive winner. It is Valrhona Chocolate Cocoa Powder 100% cacao. And, to me, that brand is significantly better than Peet’s cocoa! I had reached cocoa nirvana. And my morning coffee experience has never been better.
So, what’s the moral to the story?
I had become so fixated on “the way it needed to be” and “what I needed” for my coffee to be optimum (i.e. Peet’s Cocoa) that I wasted hours of time and months of effort and generated an increasingly frustrating experience. When we do this, it universally shrinks down our awareness of what is possible. It ties our expectations exclusively to our past/history. So, rather than being present, we live in the present based on expectations and assumptions from our past.
Once I released my need to have it the way I preferred, based on my past, I freed myself up to explore new options I had not considered or ignored in the present. And, as it turned out, I actually discovered an even better possibility. But, I was so glued to the way it needed to be that it took me months to even consider that as a possibility.
We normally only see a small fraction of the real possibilities to us in any given moment, due to our reliance on assumptions, expectations and experiences from the past. This is human nature. It is a survival instinct. But, in any given moment, there actually are many, many other possibilities to discover, if we discipline ourselves to be present:
- Moment to moment (attending to breath helps you get to this)
- Non Judgmentally (this is huge. Judgments nuclear-weld you to the past)
- Cultivate paying attention (to the reality of that moment, not my interpretation of it based on my history)
This pays dividends far beyond finding good cocoa. It can transform your experience of living and what you see possible in relationships and in every arena of your life.
One thing is for sure. In any situation, there are always many more possibilities than you are currently seeing. To access what you don’t see, first release your need for it to look the way you think it should (based on your past) and practice being in the present moment with curiosity.
What do you think?
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