Presence: A Foundation of Mindful Living

We can’t talk about it without addressing the elephant in the room.
young monks sweeping the dirt yard

Most of us are stressed beyond capacity. The thought of adding something else to our plates, like mindfulness, is overwhelming. Not only do we have predictable stress like getting the kids to school, working high-demand jobs, maintaining a household, and financial woes, but we also have unexpected stress like the tire going flat, a child getting ill, or the boss demanding more from us to meet a deadline. Rinse and repeat.

Experiences like that are enough to turn even the most ardent mindfulness devotee off the practice altogether. Today, I want to introduce a new idea related to mindfulness.

It’s not so much about what we’re doing as how we’re doing it.

So, we could practice mindfulness anytime. While washing the dishes. When taking a shower. In a frustrating meeting with the boss. Let me explain.

Components of Mindfulness

There are three commonly accepted components to being mindful. They are:

Paying attention — with intention — without judgment.

  • Attention

    Attention is something we learn from the youngest of ages. Most of us remember our parents, teachers, coaches, and others redirecting our attention as children. Our minds would wander off our chores, homework, or listening to directions and we needed to be brought back to what we were supposed to be doing.

    As we got older, we often required less cuing. That is, until we were on cell phones, computers, and tablets. The constant ringing and pinging along with the tendency to use all these devices at one time, destroys any training or habit of focus. (If you haven’t read the book Stolen Focus, Why you can’t pay attention by Johann Hari, I highly recommend it.)

  • Intention

    Intention is a little less generally understood. Intention requires a certain frame of mind and a knowing. This knowing concerns what we hope to embody or cultivate in any given situation. This is personal to each of us and typically encompasses our values and goals. Intent is an internal determination that influences how we show up in the world.

    Intention is the guiding motivation that keeps us focused with whatever we engage with in each moment.

  • Judgement

    Judgement is a million-dollar word. We’ve all done it, been a target of it, and universally are emotional about it. Judgement is pervasive, may be harmful, and stifles our worldview. And the irony is, as much as we do not like being judged, we judge ourselves just as harshly as others at times.

    Negativity Bias

    The reason we often judge things as wrong is because of something called negativity bias. The negativity bias is simply “…the propensity to attend to, learn from, and use negative information far more than positive information…” per this research. This means that we label things as “good” or “bad” based on a default negative view despite contrary evidence. This is self-defeating. If we engage in labeling and judgments, whether of ourselves or others, we will have a distorted view.

Living Mindfully

To begin our journey to mindful living, I suggest the following:

  • Be present with what is in each moment. Exactly as it is.
  • Connect to how you want to be in that moment.
  • Avoid labeling anything as “good’ or “bad.”

Simple does not always mean easy. What this might look like:

  • The next time you wash the dishes:
    • Notice the sight of the bubbles and the warmth of the water as it softens the skin of your hands.
    • Reflect on the value you place on having a clean space and your commitment to it.
    • Ignore thoughts that the chore is ridiculous or never ending.
  • While taking your next shower:
    • Notice the feel of the water on your skin as it soothes the muscles.
    • Take the time to connect with the importance of self-care and the way you present yourself to others.
    • Challenge yourself when you deem it to be something you need to rush through and savor the time to yourself.
  • If you find yourself in a tense meeting with your boss:
    • Pay attention to each word he/she says as if it is highly important to your success.
    • Remember the reason you get up and go to work each day, the purpose behind the action whether it’s a calling, a necessity for financial security, or even it’s just close to home.

Remember this quote:

Whether you think you can or can’t, you are correct.
Henry Ford


Alyson Phelan

Alyson Phelan founded Present Moment Mindfulness and Yoga to transform lives.

She teaches science-based mindfulness solutions to individuals and organizations. She holds various degrees and certifications that support her work in the community to help build practical, accessible, and sustainable methods that work. She is a Certified Yoga Teacher, Certified Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher, and Trauma Responsive Care Certified. Visit her blog or try an online class.