Being Present is being here now
Human beings are time travellers of sorts; we are rarely present. Instead we travel to the future and back to the past and then back to the future and back to the past, all the while the present moment is squandered. This happens in part because human beings are uniquely aware of the past, present and future, simultaneously. In truth, all that really exist is the eternal now. It’s also where your power lies. The only time you can act is in the now which is why the power is only ever in the present moment. Then of course there is being present to your surroundings, which is a particularly beautiful experience, especially at the beach.
Come in the water is fine
Looks can be deceiving. I live on the eastern seaboard of Australia and am no stranger to the water. That doesn’t make me a confident swimmer. It does however, make me a conscious and cautious one. I know what to look for in terms of a rip; the deceptively smooth patches of water are a tell tale sign of one and swimming against a rip will exhaust you. I also know that it is best to swim at a patrolled beach and to swim between the flags. The average number of drownings in Australia for the last 10 years is 279. A staggering 30 people died in Australia this summer holiday season alone. So, it pays to be safe. It was a particularly hot day, the waves were up and there was barely a cloud in the sky. The water was beckoning as a welcome respite from the 36 degree heat. So in we went.
Ducking under the waves
The waves were coming thick and fast and they were rather large on this particular day. I don’t like to be battered by waves especially when there is very little time between the crests. I learned a long time ago that a good way to avoid getting buffeted around by waves is to duck-dive under the waves to re-emerge in the calm of it all. That has always worked really well. On this occasion it was my undoing. Things have a habit of changing very quickly. Especially when it comes to the water. It is as simple as you are duck-diving waves one minute and being swept out far from shore the next. Clearly, I had overestimated my abilities and underestimated the water. Now although I did not panic I knew without a doubt I was out of my depth.
Stay calm and relaxed
It is not that long ago, presented with the same set of circumstances I would have been panicking and feeling quite distressed. I bring a different me to the present moment these days. I would be triggered and slip straight into fear, expecting the worst and exhausting valuable energy trying to swim back to shore in vain. Now, I am aware that in order for me to prevail in any situation it is essential I stay calm and relaxed and above all present. Not being so means that my valuable attention is directed elsewhere.
Focus determines your reality and results
Simply put, your focus determines your reality and what is possible for you in any given moment. I could have focused on the waves, how many there were and the fact that I was now well passed them and the distance between me and the shore was ever increasing. I could have focused on the current and how poor of a swimmer I am…. At best what I had was a potentiality requiring my input to become reality. We literally decide how things are and if this happens in the negative we embark on a downward spiral it can really get away from you as what you focus on grows. The more you focus a particular way the more triggers you build and the more reactive you become. Creating an upward spiral requires that you are not invested in your point of view, even if things do not look great… in the moment. Take things moment by moment. It comes down to HOW you are perceiving reality.
Shape your point of view
Perception is a discipline; it takes discipline to shape your point of view and what you are perceiving. This creates the space that allows for mindfulness. To be mindful is to notice the difference between what is in your mental models and what is physically in front of you. Mental models are always based in the past. By definition, your mental models short-cut what you see based on a past ‘reality’ / perception or story ie. “I’m a poor swimmer” in this instance. Not a story that was going to help me at all, regardless of how true that was.
See what is in front of you
What I have described above now happens in milli-seconds. Why? Because I have trained myself to stay present and take proactive control of my attention. This allowed me to put all of my attention on the job at hand, which was getting back to shore as quickly and safely as possible. Here is what I ‘knew’.
1. I had deliberately chosen to swim between the flags so it follows that the beach patrol had eyes on.
2. Stay calm and afloat.
3. Raise my arm and keep it raised to signal that I was definitely in trouble and in need of help to get back to shore.
4. Wait until help came.
That is exactly what I did and with in moments I had a Surf Life Saver on a jet ski on his way to me and all I had to do was grab on to the handle on the large board on the back and get a tow back to safety. And that is exactly what happened.
No drama. No embellishment of what happened and certainly no story about it. Any continued story about would have simply robbed me of my present.