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The Fourth Pivot: Presence

"Requires pivoting from rigid attention driven by past and future to flexible attention in the now; redirects the yearning for orientation. Process of rigid attention show up as ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, or mindlessly disappearing into our current experience the way teenagers disappear into video games....

As we struggle with life's challenges, we often fear becoming lost, and we tend to look to the past and future to become oriented. But instead we find ourselves in a mental fog of what was or will be, when there is really only what is. Flexible attention in the now, or being present, means choosing to pay attention to experiences here and now that are helpful or meaningful - and if they are not, then choosing to move on to other useful events in the now, rather than being caught up in mindless attraction or revulsion.... It's important to understand that the pull into the past or future comes not only from the impulse to avoid suffering but also from a positive yearning - the deep desire to know where we are in our life journey.

Yearning for orientation makes sense. No one wants to be lost. If you suddenly found yourself in a strange place, you'd look around hard, trying to figure out how to get back. The problem is that instead of orienting us to where we actually are and the opportunities we have, our problem-solving mind tries to orient us by ruminating about what's happened in our past and worrying about what will happen in our future. We get fixated on questions like, 'Why am I here?' and 'How can I get somewhere else?' and 'What's going to happen? How can I control it?' We are mired in the cognitive weeds of our minds....

Mindfulness is that our awareness should be directed toward being here and now so as to live the life we intended. Mindfulness is in no way an escape from the pressures and worries, hopes and fears of our lives. Traditional mindfulness methods are used to empower 'right action' - being present in a way that helps us live in accordance with our chosen values.

Try it on.

Simple Meditation: A wonderfully simple method of meditating was laid out by...Raymond Reed Hardy, in his book Zen Master. What he suggests is not new - it is just the simplest possible beginning. Here are the instructions:

Sit down, back straight, eyes slightly open. Cast your eyes downward at a forty-five degree angle, and maintain a soft focus (don't sharpen your visual attention to any particular point). If you are uncomfortable sitting cross-legged, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Allow your mind to come and rest on your breath. Each time you find your mind has drifted away, release it from that train of thought and then allow it to settle again on the breath.

That's it. Do it for a few minutes a day....It builds your attentional muscles. Each time you notice that your mind has wandered, you are strengthening your ability to notice and regain focus."

From A Liberated Mind by Steven C. Hayes

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