Stress: Antithesis to Presence

I was in the middle of following a thought down a wandering mouse hole to its end in some other dimension when a sentence jolted me out of my dream. A woman’s sugary sweet vocals soothed out of the speakers,

Your body is always in the present.

Sparks started flying, making my hair, bleached within an inch of its life, nervous about fire and taking me further than ever from another attempt at meditation that resulted in not a single moment of mental stillness. But, despite the annoyance at not being able to stay present (I hear this does get easier… but still wonder when it will!) these jolts of connection led me to a great realization: as long as I am with my body, focusing on its feelings, position, and relation to my mind, I am in the present.

The past week or so I have been riding a thrilling roller coaster of stress. I have been high on fear and low with paralysis. I have been gorging myself on the simply heavenly, mind numbingly vacuous joy of drowning myself in sugar while trying to avoid anything that could be considered exercise the way my friend’s pug avoids any possibility of heading into the outdoors. And, most importantly, I have been holding the present moment at arms length, wishing my limbs were longer.

When this voice struck me as I lay, unwilling to still my mind, in a painfully fraught meditation, it became strikingly clear what I was doing to myself. In order to not deal with the mundane things that cause me to feel a twinge of fear or instability, I took to my favorite old behaviors: stifling every ounce of reality I could.

For me, today, this looks like eating as poorly as possible, getting lost for hours a day in my fantasy world and the internet, obsessively cleaning things (while hurumphing to Avry about it), and, above all, refusing to do the things that give me the most joy: swinging by my fingertips in the bouldering gym, giggling at the magic I find everywhere in the outdoors, and joyfully skipping into adventures with people I love.

After this woman told me what I actually knew all along, I grabbed my gear and started back in on the adventures until my body begged for a rest. Then, finally, I experienced one glorious second of blissful mental silence during meditation. Progress, not perfection, right?


I’d love to know how you stay in the present, and if you believe that focusing on your body can help keep you in the here and now.