When my girlfriend and I go on walks in the New Forest we regularly talk about the sense of presence we have.
We note the colour of flowers and the different types of tree. We comment on the smell of sap. We see birds dart across our path and listen for each of their distinct calls. We keep our eyes peeled for deer, taking care not to step on any dry twigs, the crack of which would reverberate through the forest.
I feel the warmth of her hand in mine.
When I am present I’m most receptive to the world immediately around me. While I find it possible to be present in my own thoughts I think I am most present when feel part of the environment I’m in, like a character within a scene in a play.
Being present requires focus; It is almost meditative but not tranquil; Instead of clearing my mind I open it to everything. Sometimes it’s hard to speak at the same time.
The thoughts I have in this state of mind are likely to be only temporary but since I’m observing everything, there’s no need to remember specific events. Some of this I’ll remember and some of it I’ll forget.
I find it impossible to be present under the influence of any substance like alcohol, or even a stimulant like caffeine. To be present I must experience the surrounding environment in my truest form.
My presence is not limited to sight. It is enhanced by touch.
Sometimes when I’m alone in the forest I close my eyes and listen.
If my sense of presence is perceptual then it cannot be measured, but I suspect that it is noticeable to those around me. However it’s a state of mind only I feel and understand.
The benefits I have found to being more present include: remembering things more clearly; stronger relationships with those around me; no longer a desire to be elsewhere or thinking about the next thing; noticing things I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.