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Diane Dreher's Tao of Inner Peace Blog

The Power of Presence

Are you really present with what you're doing? Research has found that for nearly 50% of the time most people are doing one thing while thinking about something else.[1]

 

For example, it's Monday morning. Your alarm goes off and you wake up thinking about all you have to do today. As thoughts churn through your head, you're caught up in planning, thinking about the report you're giving at work, worrying about everything that could go wrong. Getting up, you head for the bathroom, brush your teeth and splash cold water on your face. Then you go to the kitchen to make coffee. Sitting by the window with your phone, you scroll through your email, barely tasting your coffee as you deal with announcements, ads, and requests. Then suddenly you realize you're running late. With no time for breakfast, you rush to get dressed and head out the door for your car. Halfway to work, you realize you've left your report on the kitchen table.

 

Obsessive planning, worry, multitasking, and rushing block us from being present.  Let's begin the day once more with a greater sense of presence.

 

It's Monday morning. When your alarm goes off, you pause to take a deep breath, feeling the comforting warmth of your blankets. When you get up, you notice the sunlight shining through the window. Opening the shades, you look out at the trees and the bright blue sky. With a sense of gratitude, you wash, dress, and head for the kitchen where you put on the coffee and cook a bowl of oatmeal in the microwave. Sitting by the kitchen window, you savor your coffee and breakfast, smiling when you see a sparrow at the bird feeder outside. Clearing up the breakfast dishes, you pick up your report and head out the door for work, smiling at the birch trees on your way to the car. 

 

What makes the difference between these two mornings? Attention. We live life on two levels: our separate self and our connected self. On one level, we are all individuals, with our own names, strengths, and personal histories. Yet if we live only as our separate selves, we can become disconnected, seeing life as a competitive struggle and spending our time planning, worrying, and craving external approval. When we expand our attention beyond our separate selves, we recognize our oneness with all creation, opening our hearts to a more inspired and holistic view of life.

 

When you find yourself getting caught up in separation, can you take a deep breath and look around to connect to the natural world, other people, and a deeper vision of life?

 

I wish you joy on the journey that connects us all.

 

 



[1] Killingsworth, M.A., & Gilbert, D. (2010,12 November). A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science, 330, 932.

 

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The Light of Appreciation

My father grew up on a Kentucky farm but found his dream in the skies. Becoming an Air Force pilot, he flew cargo planes, air rescue helicopters, and jets. When he retired from the Air Force, he became a flight instructor. My favorite times were when he'd take me up in his Cessna 172 to explore the skies together, soaring over the Southern California coast and the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean.

 

One morning, I looked up in disappointment at the gray stratus clouds, thinking our flight would be cancelled. But my father reassured me that we could still fly that day. We headed out to the airport and took off.  When the plane broke through the cloud layer, the sky was suddenly clear and blue. My father smiled. "The sun is always there," he said. "Sometimes when we're too close to the ground, we can't see it."

 

We can also forget that the sun is still there in our lives if our vision is clouded by stress and everyday routine. Yet now, as the season of spring brings new life to our world, we can bring greater light to our lives by appreciating the beauty of nature.    

 

Appreciation can help us focus on moments of beauty around us that we often take for granted. Psychologist Dan Baker, PhD, considers appreciation the "fundamental happiness tool." He says that when we appreciate the beauty in our lives, we transcend our normal world and enter "a state of grace."[1] The appreciation of beauty and excellence is one of twenty-four character strengths common to humankind.[2]

 

When we open our hearts in appreciation, we can feel greater joy, meaning, and connection with life. Research has found that appreciation can help relieve stress, reduce inflammation, strengthen our emotional balance, and bring us greater hope. [3]

 

Sometimes our appreciation of nature can lead to awe, a deep emotional or spiritual connection to a power beyond ourselves. We can feel awe in response to a radiant sunset, a majestic redwood tree, and new signs of life in spring. [4] Psychologist Dacher Keltner, PhD, has found that awe can bring us feelings of deep, transcendent joy and inspire us to become more curious, creative, and open to the wonders of life.[5]

 

In this season of spring, I invite you to find more ways to appreciate nature, to bring the light of greater hope and possibility into your life.

 

I wish you joy in the process.

 

Diane

 

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References


[1] Baker, D. & Stauth, C. (2003). What Happy People Know. Kutztown, PA: Rodale Press. Discussion and quote on page 81.

 
[2] Peterson, C. & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Discussion on pages 537-538.

 
[3] Adler, M. G., & Fagley, N.S. (2005). Appreciation: Individual differences in finding value and meaning as a unique predictor of subjective well-being. Journal of Personality, 73 (1), 79-113; Childre, D. & Martin, H. with Beech, D. (1999). The HeartMath Solution. New York, NY: HarperCollins; Diessner, R., Solom, R. C., Frost, N. K., & Parsons, L. (2008). Engagement with beauty: Appreciating natural, artistic, and moral beauty. Journal of Personality, 142 (3), 303-329; Stellar, J. E., John-Henderson, N., Anderson, C.L., Gordon, A. M., McNeill, G. D., & Keltner, D. (2015). Positive affect and markers of inflammation: Discrete positive emotions predict lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. Emotion, 15 (2), 129.

 
[4] Adler, M. G., & Fagley, N.S. (2005). Appreciation: Individual differences in finding value and meaning as a unique predictor of subjective well-being. Journal of Personality, 73 (1), 79-113; Fagley, N.S. (2016). The Construct of Appreciation. In D. Carr (Ed.). Perspectives on Gratitude: An Interdisciplinary Approach, pp 70-84. Oxford UK: Routledge.

 
[5] Keltner, D. (2023). Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life. New York, NY: Penguin Press.

 

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