Traveling through Presence

Slow down, breathe, look, smell, listen, touch. Be present. I’m currently sat next to a fellow traveler with extreme body odor. We’re in a mini bus for two and a half hours. Sometimes losing presence isn’t a bad thing.

Do you ever read a page in a book to not remember what you just read? Or listen to a song to only repeat it because you “missed” it? Or drive home without recollection of how you got there? No, not under the influence. These are moments of not being present in the moment. Your whole life could pass you by because you weren’t able to acknowledge what’s in front of you. Think of the movie Click. Adam Sandler, you are smarter than Jack and Jill showcases.

How to Be Present

1. Listen

Our ability to share conversations with others is one of life’s greatest gifts. Listen to people as they talk to you. You can learn from books, TV, radio, but nothing will replace the knowledge we learn from talking with others. People are walking dictionaries and encyclopedias. Walking and talking Rotten Tomatoes reviewers, Urban Spoon connoisseurs, Trip Adviser reviewers. The online world cannot replace first-hand knowledge shared over a beer in a hostel common room.

Really listen to someone as they are speaking. I’ve developed a sense of speaking to someone and seeing their interest fade – fair enough; I’m a shitty storyteller. I don’t like hearing my own husky voice as much as you don’t, prick. But if someone is opening up to you, sharing their thoughts and emotions, then listen. You have no idea what amazing inspirations could come out of their mouth, or a wicked accent, or some garbage which you can later share with travelers.

Listen to your own head before you speak. On the Four Islands tour that departed from Koh Lanta, I met a man originally from Miami, U.S. He had a South African influenced Spanish accent and the intelligence of a 5 baht fried grasshopper. We visited the Emerald Cave – a lush paradise discovered within a volcanic environment, previously a safe ground for pirate booty.

We swam through the pitch black tunnel and then spoke in awe when arriving on the pristine beach. The culturally confused man said “So how did they make this? How did they put the beach inside this rock, and put the trees up that high?” He either couldn’t recognize his own stupidity or couldn’t hear himself think. I replied “evolution”. Like one-day evolution will hopefully create a more beautiful world without this level of intelligence.

People have selfish tendencies in conversations that you don’t learn until you genuinely learn to listen outside of noise. Don’t be the person who interrupts others or the person who simply waits for their turn to speak.

Don’t be the person sitting on their phone in conversation. Your Instagram upload of generic eggs benedict and a cappuccino will still receive the same amount of likes if you upload it AFTER breakfast. Listen. Ask questions. Engage.

As for the Rastafarian man on my bus playing reggae and his dreads stinking of weed… No, I do not want to listen to your music for the next three hours. “Who likes reggae beats?”… Doesn’t f*cking matter cause I’m gonna play my shitty tunes on a speaker for the next three hours, while I also snore. Ripper.

2. Look

Not through a camera lens. Put on your polarized sunglasses and stare into the sunset. Look at the colors, look at something so temporary and will never be the same.

People are beautiful sunsets, an array of colored emotions, always evolving and transitioning. Before you know it they are gone. The world is dark. There will be another sunset, but not like the last.

Koh Tao, Thailand

The Valencia filter from Instagrammers of your home city can’t compare to the sun-kissed Swedish you met abroad. The people back home are looking on a screen to aspire to be where you are right now.

As you’re listening to a conversation, look at their body language. According to Jeff Thompson of Psychology Today: 55% of conversation is through body language, 38% tone of voice, and 7% actual words. Dependant upon your emotional intelligence levels, people are easier to read through body language than conversation.

You can test body language through various forms. There is sympathetic rational behind a yawn: if person A yawns, person B will be likely to follow. People do this behavior more frequently when they have romantic feelings for a person. Test this theory in the early stages of dating and getting to know someone. Someone showing interest will mimic your actions. Cross your legs, fold your arms, pick up your passionfruit mojito. See their folded legs sway towards you. Or away if they are not digging your tipsy, flirtatious behavior. We are creatures of habit and predictability. All it takes is to open your eyes to see what’s happening in front of you.

Are you still with me? What are you thinking about? Come back to the screen.

3. Breath

Conscious breathing and pranayama are believed to influence awakening the mastery of presence. Pranayama is a breathing exercise in yoga, thought to serve as a connective link of the body to mind. Your thoughts and actions control your breath movement, and in turn, your breath movement can control your thoughts and actions.

Developing an awareness to your inhale and exhale is a subliminal process underlining your state of presence. It is vital, however difficult to comprehend, practice and utilize. I am also too uneducated in the manner to discuss further.

Koh Tao. So inspirational.

The scuba divers first rule: keep breathing, never hold your breath. The saying “don’t hold your breath” resonates with not only obvious human functionality but to a deeper sense of life lessons.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for something. It may never come.

What you have and what you need is right in front of you. Breath, take it all in. But if you’re in India, then for the Hindu Gods sake learn how to breathe without smelling. And NEVER breath through your mouth. Smells like shit, tastes like shit – it’s actual human shit. Everywhere.

The ability to be present in the moment is exceptionally difficult to extensively understand and to practice in your life. Keeping a journal has been proven to improve your sense of presence by being more mindful. Write your emotions and your environmental factors. How do these coincide? Recognize the correlations: what makes you happy and how did the fellow public bus traveler piss you off? What was it about his stale mushroom shake breath, bug infested dreads and bong water-stained hemp pants?

Slow down, breathe, look, smell, listen, touch. Be present. Understand that for every action is an equal and opposite reaction. You can control this, and in theory, make the most of your life through every minute. That is when you recognize you are in every minute. This is the real deal.

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