Free yourself from unhelpful thoughts and emotions and learn to live peacefully in the present
• Provides practical exercises, meditations, and reflections centered on mindfulness, breath, and immersion in nature to simplify your life and anchor you in the present
• Learn to use your body as a tool for raising consciousness, work with occurrences like tiredness, illness, and pain as spiritual teachers, as well as identify and release addictions, including harmful thought patterns
• Can be integrated with any religion or spiritual teaching with examples pertaining to everyday experiences in the Western world
Offering a synthesis of spiritual teachings viewed through the lens of modern personal experiences, Darren Cockburn provides practical insight into how to cultivate a peaceful mind, live skillfully, and nurture a spiritual connection through the power of the present moment.
The author shares practical exercises, meditations, and reflections, revealing how to free yourself from becoming lost in unhelpful thoughts and emotions, while bringing acceptance to what life presents you with. He explains how to generate true mindfulness through connection to your breath as well as immersion in nature. He details how to use your body as a tool for raising your level of consciousness as well as how to weave exercise, diet, breathing techniques, and sexuality into your spiritual practice. He explores how to work with occurrences like tiredness, illness, and pain as spiritual teachers for enriching your presence of mind and being.
The author explains how simplifying life where possible will also bring a better understanding to all types of existing addictions, including harmful thought patterns, providing precious breathing space for our overly busy minds. In addition, he shows how a stable practice of mindful presence can enhance the quality of communication with others, be it with family, with friends, or at work.
Alongside an introduction to meditation techniques and supportive wisdom teachings from Buddhist and other spiritual traditions, Cockburn provides useful guidance on successfully integrating a regular spiritual practice into your day-to-day activities. He also includes pointers on how to create your own unique and personal structure in order to support your ongoing spiritual practice, the fruits of which will ultimately be a peaceful, calmer, and more connected experience of life.
Over the years I have practiced a number of Buddhist meditation techniques, including Mindfulness of Breathing, Loving Kindness, and Anapanasati on a daily basis. Whilst learning about Eckhart Tolle’s teachings, I developed a meditation technique to directly cultivate Presence.
Being in any of the three stages of Presence Meditation is beneficial and we can move from one stage to the next at our leisure. We should be kind to our self as we practice and move naturally through the stages at our own pace.
Presence Meditation -- Stage One -- Thought
Settle into your posture and gently close your eyes to begin the first stage. The first stage involves bringing awareness to your thoughts. The reason that we start here is that our thoughts are usually active prior to meditation and act as the main blocker to accessing concentration. Starting with awareness of thoughts allows us to accept them and has a natural settling effect before concentrating on another meditation object such as the breath. So meet your thoughts where they are with awareness and a kind acceptance and move forward from there.
If your mind is completely still to begin with then you can move directly to Stage Two. Otherwise, take some time to observe your thoughts. What is your mind doing? Is it telling stories, showing pictures or playing movies? Observing the mind in this way naturally quietens it. You can stay in this stage, observing the mind for as long as is required to quieten it.
It is important not to be driven to quieten the mind, as this will create more thought. Simply observe what the mind is doing and allow it to quieten naturally. By doing this you are being the awareness that is observing the thoughts rather than getting lost in them or adding to them. You see that your awareness, which is who you really are, is separate from your thoughts, enabling perspective and freedom.
As the mind quietens and creates larger gaps between thought, you will naturally become aware of other things, including your feelings, body and breath. Once this happens and you can become aware of three full breaths without getting lost in thought, you are ready to move on to the next stage. It is fine if you stay in the first stage, bringing awareness and acceptance of your thoughts for the whole time. Starting the meditation and sticking with it for the time you had planned is primary and moving through stages is secondary.
Whilst observing your thoughts, you may notice your ego at work. A common method used by the ego to reinforce itself is to create persistent thought patterns relating to things we identify with. If you observe your thoughts and emotions, you will find common themes that are repeated on a regular basis. These are parts of your ego. Bringing awareness to them within and outside of meditation helps to gain perspective. Let go and return to the present moment. Any thoughts that arise from the present moment will be creative and helpful. When you do catch the ego operating, this means you have regained a connection with your true essence and can mentally label it “there is the ego”. That is all that is required. The ego is not good or bad so judgements are unnecessary and unhelpful. Simply, label the ego, accept it is creating thoughts and then allow the thought patterns to pass, returning to the meditation technique.
Presence Meditation -- Stage Two -- Breath
Once you are aware of three full breaths, you may enter the second stage. In this stage, you direct all your attention to the breath. Examine its different characteristics, including the length, frequency, texture and sound as it constantly changes. You have the whole of the breath to work with from the point where the air enters your nostrils or mouth down into the depths of your lungs. You are not trying to control the breath in any way. Simply allow it to flow naturally and operate through the body’s intelligence without any conscious intervention from the mind. Your job is to give the breath your full attention, accepting whatever forms it takes.
Once you anchor to the breath in this way, it is inevitable that your awareness is going to tune in to other objects that are presented to you, including other bodily sensations, sounds, feelings and thoughts. You may also be aware of subtle lights and colours even with your eyes closed. The mind may create images, movies, sounds and discussions. Being aware of these other objects instead of getting lost in them means you are Present. Accept the experience without judging it and then bring your attention back to the breath.
It is human nature to become lost in thought during meditation. You may experience a feeling that triggers a thought, which leads to a story, and before you know it you have lost touch with the present moment. This happens to people (including experienced meditators) many times during meditation. Once you realize you are lost in thought, which might be several seconds or minutes into the thought stream, you can congratulate yourself because at that point you have regained your awareness.
If this continues to happen, you should return to Stage One, observing the thoughts before returning to Stage Two after holding your attention for three full breaths. Never give yourself a hard time about being lost in thought within or outside of meditation. Having a continuously peaceful and concentrated mind is the vision, which can take years or even lifetimes to achieve. You should be looking for progress, not perfection. There will be ups and downs to your practice inside and outside of meditation. If you observe general progress in your level of Presence over the last few months or years, you are heading in the right direction. The most important thing is the practice itself. Stay focused on the practice and the results will take care of themselves.
Darren Cockburn has been practicing meditation and mindfulness for over 20 years, studying with a range of teachers from different religions. As a coach and teacher, he has supported hundreds of people in meditation, mindfulness, and finding a connection to spirituality, with a focus on applying spiritual teachings in everyday life to cultivate a peaceful mind. Darren also works as a business consultant supporting organizations with strategy formulation, interim leadership roles, and transformation programs. He lives in Bournemouth, England.
“Darren and I sat in meditation for a week, and I could clearly sense his ability to sink into stillness and be Present. . . . He has a beautiful way of writing and presenting spiritual teachings. . . . The feeling of Presence that Darren’s book evokes gradually becomes an inner experience that you can keep tapping into, an experience that can go beyond reading his book.”
– ESTHER EKHART, yoga and meditation teacher and founder of the online yoga studio EkhartYoga.com
“Being Present provides insight into the nature of addiction, how it manifests and how it can be released. This clear and concise book is a useful tool for anyone who wants to understand addiction and recovery. In my work and in my personal recovery from addiction I can affirm that every addict needs to look beyond the substance or behaviours and into himself or herself as a person for the underlying cause. This always involves knowledge of thought patterns and emotions, and for many no sustained recovery would be possible without a spiritual program. Ego is at the root of addiction, and learning new ways of letting go of unhelpful behaviours is a powerful growth in true self-awareness. The knowledge that I don’t have to be trapped in my ego but can connect to a higher power comes as a tremendous relief and release for many addicts. To then develop a relationship with this higher self, experience the pleasure of connection and guidance, and enjoy the pathways of this journey brings deep healing for those used to unskilful means for dealing with pain. This book from an experienced spiritual practitioner guides us carefully through to understanding what it means to be present and includes advice on how to seek help and support for those experiencing significant addictions. Presence is a powerful antidote to being lost in thought and craving, and I am happy to recommend this book as a welcome addition to our understanding of recovery.”
– DENNIS WAREING, substance misuse worker
“Reading Darren’s book Being Present feels like a meditation. In clear, simple language Darren describes the process of letting go of identification with our thoughts and feelings and invites us to a place of peace with what is. I have spent enough time with Darren to realize that this book is a transmission of his own deep practice of Presence. His teachings spring from his lived experience, and the authenticity of his words radiate from the page.
At this time humanity is in dire need of spiritual awakening, and this book is an invaluable guide to anyone interested in learning how to awaken in a way that is gentle and loving.”
– JENNIE HASTINGS (SRI DEVI), yoga teacher and programmer at Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat, Bahamas
“I met Darren in India at a yoga center several years ago, and I was struck by his Presence and kindness toward others. We later came to know each other, and I learned there were profound wisdom and spiritual teachings behind his outlook on life. Reading Being Present helps in keeping these teachings alive in daily life. For me practicing awareness through meditation and contemplating how to simplify my life makes me more peaceful and grounded in my often stressful working days.
As a medical doctor I strongly believe in having a holistic view of well-being, with physical and mental health being equally important. This book provides concrete guidance through different aspects of how you can improve your life when it comes to, for example, dealing with work-life balance, finding stillness, and overall cultivating Presence.”
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