What does it mean to “just be?”
When I think of “just being,” I think of being here now, in the present moment. Being present is sitting with my feelings, connecting with my inner self, and experiencing the world as it happens right now. I’m not thinking about the past, tomorrow, or the next task, or the next person to connect with. I’m just completely focusing on either who I’m with virtually or in person, or what I’m doing or not doing.
Right now, during this pandemic, I find it harder and harder to be in the present moment. My clients are feeling the effects of this crisis, my friends are struggling, my family still needs my attention, and I sometimes feel pulled in many directions. When I have a moment alone, I sometimes find myself thinking about the past or the future, and not focusing on the present in an intentional way, despite how much I want to. One valuable thing I learned many years ago when I worked with oncology patients and their families was a saying from a client: “When I find that my mind is fly fishing for phantoms, I ask myself, ‘Where are my feet right now?’” I have used this as my mantra many times over the course of my lifetime, and I am definitely using it now.
Lately I’ve been feeling that my level of communication has skyrocketed. Emails, texts, calls, and virtual meetings have always been a huge part of my personal life and business. During COVID, my innate desire to help my clients successfully navigate the challenges in their lives, as we all experience challenges, has meant more sessions and groups than I’ve ever had before.
Additionally, in an attempt to stay connected with family and friends, I’m constantly in touch with them, even more than our pre-pandemic relationships. Keeping up with national and world current events means constant scrolling on my phone. And I would be remiss not to mention the time I spend on social media, for fun or information seeking purposes. Sometimes, these things are happening simultaneously. Recently, I was in a marketing strategy meeting and also texting with a friend, while trying to triage an emergency situation. I became aware of how being in multiple places at once, even when it’s all virtual, can be exhausting.
I’ve recently written about compassion (here), and how self-compassion is an act of service. Taking care of yourself enables you to be more present wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. For many of us, inner reflection and finding what we’d like to change about ourselves is an annual ritual at the new year. Using this introspection, observing what is happening in your world, and making mindful adjustments to remove what no longer serves you is an act of compassion. Resolutions aren’t always necessary and often forgotten. Instead, consider making one small change to improve your life. It’s not a resolution, it’s more of an intention. Moving through the world with intention is a mindful act of self-compassion.
My intention this year is to continue to serve and be present. I want to help my clients and be there for my friends. I want to keep my connection with my family, immediate and other relatives, as strong as ever. Naturally, I want to give my best self to all of these people.
The way that I try to do that is to give myself the compassion to step back, take care of myself by mindfully moving away from distractions, and ground myself by intentionally being present. Distractions are not inherently negative! However, when you commit to being present, items such as phones, tablets, laptops, or television are considered distractions. Parents, how many times have you caught yourself “listening” to your child or teen tell you something while simultaneously answering a text? What might that interaction look and feel like for both of you if you simply focused on just being present?
Impact of Being Present
In “Oprah’s Master Class,” actor Jeff Bridges recalled the impact of his mother’s “Time” they spent together. He said, “Every day, for an hour I could count on my mom having ‘Time’ with me. ‘Time’ would be anything I wanted to do with her. She wouldn’t take any calls from her friends. If her friends called, she said, No, I’ll have to call you back. I’m having “Time” with Jeff,’” Bridges said. “We had such a wonderful relationship,” he said.
Think about a moment you could have been more present. Maybe it was with your own children, or perhaps it was at work with a client or on a project. What impact could your dedicated presence have had on that moment? Who or what could have benefited from your undivided attention?
Just Be In the Present
Research shows the benefits of being present are numerous. In addition to better concentration, focus, and attention to detail, being present will also improve your memory, social skills, and relationships.
Here are 4 easy ways to be present and “just be”:
1. Consciously observe your thoughts and activities. Stop and take notice of what you’re doing.
2. Determine where you are. Ask yourself, “Where are my feet right now?” Where your feet are may not be where you are.
3. Commit to setting aside distractions. Give yourself a 10 minute break from your computer screen. Set down your phone. Whatever distraction you set aside does not need to be for a long time. You can set reasonable goals for yourself that are appropriate for you.
4. Breathe. For one minute, focus only on your breath. Breathwork can center and ground you, calming your mind and body and helping you focus.
Being Instead of Doing
Once you’ve grounded yourself physically, help guide yourself to be there mentally as well. Being fully present with whoever you’re with or wherever you are serves you and others around you well. Sometimes it’s necessary to pause the “doing” and sit with the “being” to really build and strengthen the connections with yourself and others in your world.
Consider using this time to get really curious about who you want to be right now and what is yours to do. Remain curious about any feelings that arise during these uncertain times. Now is the perfect time to work with a life coach who can help you strengthen the connections to yourself and others in your world. If you know a teen or a college-aged young woman who could use some guidance and support, visit my website WillseyConnections.com for more information and let’s connect.
As posted on Psychology Today.