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How To Be Present in a Crazy World

A TANGIBLE INVITATION TO AWARENESS

The “Bump” … A tangible interruption, gently inviting us to return to the present from whatever habitual state of thinking or doing that has taken us out of the here and now.

The “Bump” ….

While we may all be able to appreciate the substantial rewards of being “Right Here, Right Now,” for most of us, the gap between our goal of being truly Present and the reality of our daily lives is often far greater than we would like. Why do even our most sincere intentions so often lead to so little sustainable change? And why can it seem to be so very difficult to live in the moment no matter how much we know we can gain from being present?

As human beings, we are bombarded with a nearly infinite amount of stimulation at any given moment. Our physical senses and brains simply cannot take in and process all that is coming at us in any given moment.  In order to avoid being completely overwhelmed, we automatically seek to reduce all of this complexity to something “physiologically manageable.” We adapt.

What we do to adapt involves a 4-step: 

  1. First, we selectively attend to those things in our “field” that matter most to our well-being,
  2. Next, we find patterns and arrange what we have attended to into what we can think of as “rules” regarding how life works. (It is important to note that these “rules” are most often not in our conscious awareness).
  3. Over time, we responds in our own personal ways to all we encounter, applying “rules” we have created.
  4. Eventually, over time, we develop strongly practiced but generally, completely unconscious habits around how to best make our way in a complex world.

These habits are not inherently negative. Quite the contrary, they are the way we are able to function at all in an impossibly complex environment. However, the price we pay is that we develop such deeply ingrained ways of thinking and acting that much of our functioning takes place completely out of our own awareness.

We have a strong tendency to do what we have always done

Interestingly, we have a strong tendency to do what we have always done, to “follow our own rules,” even when the context in which we find ourselves changes. We continue to respond to the world through the lens of our “simplifications” even when it might be best met with some new responses. In fact, a great deal of scientific data demonstrates that we actually resist “seeing” that our environments have changed because we have so much invested, knowingly or not, in the rules, shortcuts and habits that we have unconsciously constructed.

So, what does this all have to do with our difficulty in being “Right Here, Right Now”? In a nutshell, the challenge is that we humans develop some very powerful mental habits.

Specifically, both individually, and culturally, the vast majority of us human beings have long-standing habits of spending our mental energies either rehashing the past or anticipating the future. These habits are so powerfully rooted in our biochemistry that despite our sincere desire to be more present, over and over, we fall back into our well-rehearsed ways of thinking and thus, of behaving. In short, we have a lot of practice being “there and then” and relatively little being “here and now.”

The Value of the RHRN Bump

Thus, the value of a “Bump.” I am defining a “Bump” as a tangible interruption, gently inviting us to return to the present from whatever habitual state of thinking or doing that has taken us out of the here and now.

Whether it is getting an alarm on our phones or having a “reminder symbol” catch our eye as we go through our daily lives, a “Bump” offers us the chance to “wake up.” We are momentarily interrupted from our deeply ingrained habits of being anywhere but in the present moment.  We are invited to be aware.  And with this small but powerful wake-up call, we have the opportunity to consciously choose what we want to do with our thoughts and actions. We can notice what about the moment we are in has gone to the background. We can experience sensations and information about ourselves and our environment that have been blurred in the wake of our habitual “shortcuts” of perception. And as a result, we can truly be in the present.

~ Dr. Mary Jen Meerdink Ph.D