“The mind commands the body, and is obeyed; the mind commands itself, and meets resistance. The mind commands the hand to be moved; and such readiness is there, that command is scarce distinct from obedience. Yet the mind is mind, the hand is body.”
— St. Augustine, Confessions
A major theme that has sprung up recently in my teaching is presence. This is something I learned early on in my own practice, and as a result, is something that I thought was inherently understood by most people. However, over the course of my time as a student, instructor, and trainer, I have come to realize this is not the case. Is it any wonder, then, that countless philosophers and sages have taught presence across the millennia of our existence? Countless volumes exist by which these individuals have tried to teach you and I to be present, to “be here now.” And despite these admonitions, we fail to grasp even the most basic understanding of what they all have tried to convey.
But there are moments when I grasp it. There are moments when you grasp it as well.
Consider your physical practice. Whether you run, lift, or flow, how often do you find yourself at the very center of your work, focused only on the work you do? How closely do you pay attention to the way your muscles engage to propel you forward? To push or pull a heavy object? To find the best alignment for your body? Too often, you allow yourself to be distracted by the pain, your cellphone, or the end goal to be too concerned with how you’re performing in the moment. To be present in the moment means to exercise discipline and control over your mind. And to that end, you cannot be bothered. But every now and then, you can.
The mind commands itself and meets resistance. Resistance, however, does not mean total obstruction.
The simple truth is that presence is difficult because it takes work. Adding a lean to a plank; loading your back leg in a lunge; keeping your abs lightly engaged as you run; these are things that take focus. They redirect your energy when your energy is already being spent elsewhere. However, presence, like any tangible muscle in your body, can be developed.
Though your mind commands itself and meets resistance, you can eventually end the resistance with consistent practice. In this sense, the mind is like any other muscle: with discipline, consistency, and work, you can take presence from being an added nuisance to becoming your natural state.
In an earlier post, I wrote,
“Stay with yourself. The magic you are working towards doesn’t happen in its execution, but rather in those moments of intense discomfort and challenge. You build the magic when you’re present and willing to stay with the uncomfortable and challenging work you do.”
Make that challenging work you do a matter of presence, and you’ll find everything else is just details. It’s all still work, but it’s all just details.
Featured and Header image by: