Do you remember the first time your school teacher called out your name and pleadingly, maybe even forcefully said "Pay attention!"? Now, if you had the cheek on you then, wouldn't you want to exclaim "But I am paying attention! It's just not on what YOU want me to be!" Indeed we don't always share the same interests, but isn't it interesting that it is much easier to keep our attention on something that we are interested in? It's called natural focus. Kids at play, artists at creation, and every person that engages in his or her topic of passion can go on for hours and hours of complete involvement without noticing time go by or things occurring outside their area of concentration. This state of being is often referred to as "being present" and even though it seems to occur spontaneously in the case of natural focuses, the good new is that it is reproducible and self-inducible at times where there is no inborn interest and without the use of drugs. This is particularly handy when our natural focuses are not necessarily healthy ones but we still want to experience "being present".

What does "being present" really mean? Different individuals experience this in their own unique way, but there are some common threads:

Being present - experiencing a sense of NO TIME. Where nothing else is pressing, nothing else needs to be done, and you are not concerned with monitoring the passing of time.

Being present - you cannot hear the voices, the usual chatter in your mind.

Being present - you are concentrating completely on one thing only and your mind is remarkably clear.

Being present - a space of existence that is stress free.

An antidote for Stress

Stress always keeps us thinking about the next thing that needs to be done, or the next thing that could happen to us. living in the future, depriving ourselves of the now. Stress is also a major contributor to body ailments and diseases. Stress stiffens our muscle tissue and inhibits optimum function of internal processes (the digestive and cardio systems being extremely vulnerable). Treating stress symptoms alone is a very temporary and unintuitive approach. Stress related diseases originate in a stress-filled mind - therein lies the cause and the cure. Only by putting a stop to the stress cycle can we get relief!

The advantages of being in the present moment:

*You cannot WORRY while being present. If you've ever observed children after a fall or scare they begin to cry, but if you are able to distract them with something then in a moment they stop crying and give their complete attention to that thing. A complete shift in their state of being occurs within seconds and they can be laughing and out exploring again with their face still wet with tears. They don't keep thinking about the fall - they are present with the next thing already. The same thing happens to us when we are present. Find something to be present with and your worries vanish.

*Increased awareness, possibilities and solutions present themselves. You start to notice things right in front of you that you normally wouldn't see at all. It's like crossing the park on the way to work when you are running late, verses taking a leisurely hike in the park on a Sunday. Genius is often as simple as perceiving something in a new light, a new awareness.

*Joy. The State of Shamhadi, is a state of consciousness that occurs in the present moment. If there is ever a moment that is worthwhile, it is a moment spent in Joy.

So how do we get there?
Use Yoga.

One of the most effective ways of getting present is using physical action to direct your thoughts. All acts of stretching will direct awareness to the area of sensation in the body and away from thoughts of the future (stress/worry/fear) and of the past (regret/guilt/longing). Stretching, besides being beneficial to our muscles, gives us a sense of high intensity. The more intense the stretch, the closer it comes to being potentially painful. As we well know, pain grabs our full and immediate attention, so while the body stretches the mind is very aware, very mindful of what's going on. Getting your mind involved in what you're doing is precisely the quality of being present. Your thoughts are drawn into your own body, to your own breath; you are here now (as Ram Dass calls it). This is the right time to introduce concepts of your choice to your mind for contemplation, while the mind is clear and objective.

If you are familiar with Yoga and you find that your mind still chatters while engaging in Yoga, it's time to up the intensity. Still be attentive to your limits, but take it to the next level.

I like this declaration by Og Mandino from "The Greatest Salesman in the World", "Weak is he who permits his thoughts to control his actions; strong is he who forces his actions to control his thoughts."

So we're changing states of mind, through changing states of body.

After some active Yoga, when you go into Shavasana, you may have major realizations about things that concern you. Realization comes when you make yourself available to it.

The present moment holds in it an infinity of Joy. The more we practice, the longer we can hold our presence in the present.

Dedicated to Your Joy,