Consumption, distraction & dissociation
There are a thousand million ways that we avoid being present. Many of the strategies that we use to avoid being present revolve around consumption, distraction and dissociation as these things provide relief from all of the uncomfortable sensations, feelings and experiences that come along with being human. Let’s investigate how these strategies manifest so that you can identify them in yourself when they arise.
Consumption is king when it comes to avoidance of the present. Over eating, over drinking, over shopping, over scrolling, over thinking, over watching, over looking, over searching and seeking, all provide a temporary feeling of satiation or fullness. This fullness activates the parasympathetic part of the nervous system, which gives us a sense of relaxation and the ability to check out of life (aka our thoughts) for a few moments. Just to clarify that while relaxation is integral with the development of your ability to be present, relaxation for most people is a checking out rather than a checking in, which is the opposite of presence. The goal is to be stably present which is a state of calm, steadiness wakefulness no matter what arises, which is very different than relaxation which is a temporary disengagement from stressful conscious or unconscious thoughts.
Distraction and consumption are closely related. Distractions often come in the form of consumption. This can be the busyness that we keep ourselves occupied with, constantly needing to be engaged with something or doing something and not having the ability to simply allow things to be. This can look/feel like difficulty unwinding or physically sitting still, inability to still your thoughts/mind, and not being able to pay attention or focus your awareness to be productive in ways you desire. Distraction could be summarized as giving your attention to things, activities, thoughts and doing more than your state of being.
Lastly there is dissociation. Dissociation is a disappearance of your awareness from the here now. With dissociation there is a charge or something unresolved, and instead of being with it you learn how to escape it completely. This can be seen as people who meditate into emptiness states and feel peacefully calm there yet feel unrest at all other times. Taking recreational or other types of drugs/medicines also provide the opportunity to dissociate where you experience bliss elsewhere and have resistance/charge on this earthy plane of reality. Other ways to recognize this are feeing spacey without a ground, feeling like you have no idea what is going on, or not engaging with others or certain aspects of your life. The difference between dissociation and healthy disengagement which allows you to see a bigger picture of life is that with dissociation there is resistance to the experience of now, where in healthy disengagement there is full acceptance of now.
Presence is life
What we truly desire
In order to prioritize presence you must first identify your strategies and ways that you check out of it. Only when you can identify and see your patterns can you change them. The next piece after this awareness of self is the commitment, desire and prioritization of presence. Without making this a priority you will simply fall back into your patterns as they are easy, known, somewhat comfortable and the more grooved path. Checking out takes less energy then checking in and by default we tend to take the path that requires less energy and therefore less from us. If you want to bring more energy and awareness into your system (energy & awareness are the components of life, health and vitality by the way) then you must want it more than anything else.
Presence is life. Presence is ground. Presence is being. Its components are energy and awareness. When you prioritize presence you prioritize life, ground and beingness more than all of the content and experiences that fill it up. When you turn your attention, your awareness, to the beingness rather than the stuff you will begin to experience the freedom, lightness and bliss that most people desire deep down yet struggle to find their way to. On the surface it seems that what we want are certain sensations, feelings and experiences to be a particular way, but if we dive a bit deeper into our being we will discover that its not the sensations, feelings or experiences that we truly desire to be a certain way, but instead we desire inner stillness and peace no matter what is occurring. We desire to be free from having to constantly navigate, plan and prepare our life’s trajectory attempting to prevent the “bad”. We desire to be in the mystery unafraid and in trust and faith of the magic of the moment.
Being present means you give away the control that was never yours in the first place. You let life be as it is and unfold with it rather than try to plan, fix, mange and coordinate the unfoldings. You realize that while you are in the driver’s seat of your own state of being, that is really the only thing you are in the driver’s seat of. You stop saying or thinking that anything should be different than it is. You stop insisting on rightness/wrongness thinking and perspectives. This alone bumps you up to the next stage of awareness or consciousness that is beyond simply fighting for your survival and making sure you are taken care of.
What’s beyond survival and trying to make sure you are taken care of you ask? Freedom, peace and love. All of this does not mean inaction, it doesn’t mean not standing up for yourself or causes that you feel inspired too, it doesn’t not mean you stop expressing or creating. It simply means that your actions are in direct response to an intelligence that is beyond the intelligence in your own head. It means moving beyond the person you, which you are so concerned and fused with, and that you’ve come to believe is who you are so much so that you’ve forgotten your true identity.
Your true identity lies beyond your own head, beyond the eyes that look out from this human body. You cannot know it until you prioritize it over everything else. You must make presence and a focus on your beingness more important than anything else that arises in your experience. You must be willing to let everything go and become focused on existence rather than experience. This is how/where you will come to recognize your true identity as being rather than as person or thing. This will be your shift out of a survival state of being that is full of fear, threat and insecurity into a rested, stable ground of presence that is all pervasive, doesn’t come and go and is always ever presently here.
Dr. Amanda Hessel, Chiropractor, Network Spinal Analysis & Somato-Respiratory Integration, Boulder, Colorado