How to Stay Present Through Meditation
Sometimes it’s hard to stay present. When we travel to new places or celebrate special occasions, it’s much easier to feel present and appreciate each moment. Returning to ordinary life brings distraction and daydreaming, leaving us wishing that we could stay in the present more consistently and easily.
The good news is that with certain styles of meditation staying present is much easier. In this post, we’ll talk about how to stay present inside meditation to experience more presence outside of it in your day.
Vedic Meditation for presence
When you receive a mantra and take my learn to meditate course, you learn how to allow your thoughts inside meditation. It’s ok to have thoughts while you inwardly repeat your mantra, which means that you drift in and out of presence. In fact, that’s the point of the meditation.
The mantra will gently coax your mind to transcend thought to reach a state of pure being. Encountering pure being and transcending thought regularly will naturally bring your attention more into the present outside of meditation, and so will releasing the stress that causes so much distraction and overthinking during the day.
How stress takes us out of the present
All stress is interpreted by our brains and body as the same type of event: a maladaptive response to a change of expectation in our life. What separates short-term stress versus long-term stress is our ability to release the stress memory associated with the stress.
For example, you may have a stressful response to your boss giving you a new weekly assignment at work. You’re not sure how you’ll handle it with your current workload or if you’ll be able to make it home to dinner on time each night, which may impact your time with your family. If you are able to accommodate the new situation, adapt to the change, and quickly release the stress after the first instance of receiving the assignment, you would experience only short-term stress.
However, if you hold onto your stress response so it comes up each week when you must complete your new assignment, you’ll experience the stressful feelings over and over again, leading to long-term stress.
Building a bank of stress resilience
If we can release it, then the short-term stress is over and done with. If the memory is stored and retriggered, we’ll likely be living in a constant state of stress retriggers. Our thoughts will respond to this stress by distracting us from the present moment and corresponding with physiological fear and reaction responses.
What we want to do is build our ‘bank’ of stress resilience so that even when our day brings something unexpected, we can handle it without adding any stress load to our bodies and emotions. We can handle almost anything that comes at us when we have a large enough bank of ‘adaptation energy,’ and we build up that bank by meditating consistently.
Essentially, if we can release stress enough to have a large bank of adaptation energy, then even the most dramatic changes in expectation won’t be able to take us out of the present moment. We’ll be able to adapt, respond, roll with the changes, and even enjoy the sensation of a new experience in our lives.
How to be more present inside of meditation
In Vedic Meditation, we don’t have to stay present or ‘avoid thinking’ to have a good meditation. We can have many thoughts in our meditation and still experience the benefits and reach transcendence.
If you’re wanting to maximize the stress you can release in meditation, here are a few tips to be more present inside of your practice:
Don’t try to fight your thoughts inside meditation
Thoughts are a natural part of the process, and attempting to “silence” the mind through force and focus will only cause more frustration. Start to be kind to your thoughts and mind, and the mind will begin to relax into the process of meditation.
Turn off notifications and create a quiet space
This might seem obvious, but with all the devices that we have, it’s easy to forget that the constant pinging is nonstop! Take a break when you meditate and let others know you’re unavailable for your meditation time.
While interruptions that happen inside meditation are no barrier to a great meditation, it does make a difference to go undisturbed from outside sources when your body is releasing stress.
Have a game plan for your meditation
How long do you want to meditate? What type of meditation will you be doing? So many people who are new to meditation think that meditation is just about closing their eyes and sitting still.
With each meditation technique, there is a specific skill you are developing, so we want to make sure we’re practicing a certain type of meditation that can bring one into the present moment.
Inside Vedic Meditation, we use a mantra to allow the mind to keep present with the practice and access quieter and quieter states of awareness, using a specific effortless technique that I teach. This mantra is a meaningless sound, and it quiets the mind just by thinking it.
This allows the body to rest deeply even while the mind is active, releasing stress in the form of thoughts. When we lose our mantra and think about a particular topic for a while in meditation, that is perfectly ok. We can simply return to our mantra and continue to meditate.
Let your body be in a comfortable body position
There is one surefire way to sabotage a meditation and leave the present moment, and that is to be physically uncomfortable in a meditation. In Vedic Meditation, we practice with our backs supported so the body can be easy and so the mind can be easy. Instead of having a meditation where we’re feeling all of the tightness in our backs, legs, and head because we’re not being supported, we can rest easily into meditation and stay grounded in the present moment.
This turns a meditation from hard work into a soothing, easy, effortless rest that we look forward to every morning and afternoon.
Stay consistent with your practice
One Of the ways to get distracted inside meditation is to skip meditations. When we miss meditations, we add to the level of stress and unrest without giving the mind and body time to process the newly accumulated stress.
In Vedic Meditation, we meditate in the morning and afternoon for twenty minutes to continually release the stress of the day along with some deeply embedded stress from earlier in our lives. An experienced meditator can always tell when they miss a meditation, because the following meditations are always more restless and thought-filled.
How to stay in the present outside of meditation
With 60,000 to 100,000 thoughts per day, we have a constant stream of commentary on life that takes us away from actually experiencing it. Those thousands of thoughts are usually repetitive and worrisome or negative thoughts which take us out of the present moment and have us rehearsing and worrying about the future and reviewing the past.
Because these thoughts are all born from stress triggers, they start to lessen or be less distracting when we consistently rest and release stress in Vedic Meditation. When we rest deeply inside Vedic Meditation, we release and eliminate the triggers that keep us from feeling grounded in the present. When we are consistent, we don’t worry so much about how to stay in the present moment because our practice will naturally release the stress that pushes us away from the present.
Slowly over time, the present moment begins to open up and we feel expansive in the here and now– even when we’re not meditating. This is the real prize of Vedic Meditation: 24-hour present-moment awareness, first practiced inside meditation and then lived as our default backdrop of life.
This isn’t an abrupt occurrence– meditators don’t tend to ‘hit’ enlightenment all at once and wake up to full present-moment awareness after a spiritual event. Rather, the changes happen slowly as the body has more attention for the present and needs less attention for managing stress.
Typically meditators will notice sleeping better first, which means they have more energy to bring each day. They notice they are less reactive to the people around them and more aware of their own emotional, mental, and physical states. Eventually, many meditators express feeling less anxiety in general, and more sensitivity to sights, sounds, tastes, and even colors. They will smile more easily and find it easier to accept what is rather than leave the present moment to think or plan about what should be happening instead.
Over a long time, when the body has released most of the stress memories ever embedded in the physiology (which takes about 8 years), a master Vedic Meditator will notice that they can sustain the completely thoughtless place of transcendence for a few moments while their eyes are open as well. That sensation will slowly, very slowly, last longer and longer until it takes over the waking consciousness almost entirely, and the meditator becomes a vehicle of pure being navigating through the world.
Learn to Meditate
To receive your own Vedic Meditation mantra and start a twice-daily practice, schedule an intro talk with me, or sign up for my next Learn to Meditate Course in Los Angeles or New York. As you build the practice into your routine, you’ll look forward to your meditation to stay present. After many, many years of practice, you’ll eventually experience total presence all the time.