The Calming Effect of Being Present

Listen without intending to respond.

Photo by Adam Chang on Unsplash

“Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.” — Deepak Chopra

The moment, the actual second, you stop your brain from continuing on its merry way — either reeling from all your to-dos listed on your big hairy monster list (that is definitely in need of a haircut) or lamenting over time wasted — you step into a soundless, emotionless bubble.

It’s quiet and expansive, like a field blanketed by falling snow, all sounds muted leaving you feeling spacious.

This is being present. It’s taking in everything around you, at that moment without thinking about the next thing you have to do while you’re doing another thing. It’s peaceful and calming. (And aren’t these the exact things we want more of in our lives?)

It may seem like being present is not a rational way to spend your time, after all, how can we get anything done if we’re lost in space all day long?

Truth is, you don’t have to be Gandhi or Buddha to integrate this into your day. You practice it like anything else you’re doing — yoga, exercise, meditation. It’s not an all or nothing endeavor.

There are numerous ways to be present.

Being present isn’t all about standing there, taking in the moment, oblivious to responsibilities. One thing I read that struck a chord was: Listen without intending to respond.

If you practice this one thing, being present in at least one conversation you have during the day, you will notice, and feel the shift. You’ll know what I mean when I said soundless and emotionless. It’s quite amazing.

The difficult part is to not allow inner dialogue while listening.

Have you ever noticed, and I do this with my kids as they’re talking to me, you’re judging, calculating, and crafting a response before they’re done speaking to you? I do this all the time, either because they’re asking for something or rambling on about some game that I don’t understand — nor care to. In those instances, I’m thinking about something completely different, perhaps even (egads!) reaching for my phone.

Aren’t we always looking to be heard, to get our point across, or to get the last word in — I’m guilty! How many times do we completely stop what we’re doing to be present and listen without intending to respond?

Never. (My hand is up!)

It’s really friggin hard to do that. When someone begins talking to us, we immediately start filtering the conversation, placing the ideas, overall theme, thoughts, and inevitable emotions in a colorfully labeled and well-organized box in our brain. We’re categorizing and calculating without even realizing it because our brains are super brains and it can do this quicker than it takes a cheetah to cross the street.

But becoming present requires a certain state of consciousness, meaning you have to want to be aware and you have to want to slow down. Not easy to do in this day and age.

There’s beauty in listening.

Perhaps the silence from not responding allows for greater understanding, or the ability to deepen a connection that needs attention (i.e. connect more with my kids!) so I can learn their thought processes, what’s important to them, and how I can engage with more intention.

See, normally I keep the conversation going, especially if it’s about something I don’t agree with. And if it’s something we’ve been over a million times, I simply regurgitate the same nonsense and we proceed with the status quo.

There is a lot of value to be had when we stop our brains from chattering away — the sky isn’t always falling and we’re better in our relationships when we stop and listen, and become present.

Opportunities can strike at any time.

So there I was yesterday, getting my younger son in and out of his snow pants for the umpteenth time and he’s going on and on about the fort he’s been building and how he can get just his head inside but the top keeps falling, and he’s going on and on and on, and I’m not there. I mean, I was there fiddling with all the snaps and buttons and frozen zippers, but I was not listening at all. I was thinking about five other things at the same time, none having to do with him.

Now, for my parents of older children, you especially know how fast this time goes with your little kids. I already have an idea because I can’t believe my baby is 6, and here he is, red-cheeked and excitedly telling me about his adventures in the snow, all decked out in his adorable mismatched snow gear from older cousins who have been through similar adventures years earlier.

But then I realized what I was doing and I stopped myself because I thought, here it is! The opportunity to stop, listen, and not respond. So I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at him. I didn’t say anything, I just listened.

It didn’t change my world in an instant, but there is beauty in slowing down and paying attention to what’s directly in front of you. I didn’t say anything to my son in response and he just kept on talking and smiling and once out of his wet clothes proceeded on to his room to change his socks.

Let’s stop, listen and be present not only for us to gain deeper value from small moments in our lives, but for those we love the most. Let’s work on finding a moment to be present today, even if it’s just for a moment.

“The more you are focused on time — past and future — the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” ― Eckhart Tolle

AM Costanzo is a wellness coach, a motivational junkie, loves a-ha moments, and loves to help people feel strong, powerful, and downright fabulous in body and mind!

I write about wellness, weight loss, and creating healthy habits. The ability to have a healthy and happy life lies within you! www.amcostanzo.com

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