Being fully present in the moment means being aware of “all that is happening,” internally and externally, and being aware of being aware of those ‘events’ as they happen.
Let’s say you are laying in a lounge chair with a glass of ice tea in your hand, your eyes closed, enjoying the warmth of the sunlight on your skin. You are also aware of the damp feeling of the cold glass in your hand, the lingering sweet taste of your last sip on your tongue, a tingling vibration throughout your entire body, the slightly scratchy feeling of the towel under your bare legs, the subtle fragrence of flowers in bloom nearby and the earthy smell of the soil in which they are planted. You also hear the muffled sound of buzzing bees as they fly from one flower to the next. You are aware of all of this, without thought, and you are also aware of being aware of all this. (You are aware that ‘all this’ doesn’t really exist, but let’s not go there yet.)
So hey, wait! Some spiritual teachers suggest that being present means “One thing at a time.” How can this be? Is that not a contradiction to the above scenario of being fully present in the moment?
Unless you are permanently catapulted into the Now, you must actually ‘learn’ how to bring your focus of attention (in)to the present moment During this learning process, your attention will be pulled out of the present moment over and over and over again. The mind is powerful, subtle and very tricky, and it will lure you into thinking you are present when you are actually just ‘thinking’ about being present. The mind can take on a very convincing role of being vigilant to all the ways you are pulled out of presence. Imagine that! But true vigilance doesn’t come from the mind—it arises all on its own…
So until these kind of mind-games are recognized for the traps they are, you must learn to welcome and invite everything that happens as it is happening by first directing your attention to ‘one thing at a time’. This is why it is helpful to meditate using a mantra, or to focus on your body breathing, or on the taste of the food you are chewing, or on the flower you are gazing at. Just try it and see for yourself. Try eating one piece of fruit fully present with every bite. You’ll see how challenging it is for your mind to let go–to allow awareness to just Be. But don’t give up just because it is challenging.
By practicing, your acute focus on one thing eventually satisfies the mind enough to relax its guard, and awareness is then freed and available to accept the invitation to be present what what is here, now. Acceptance arises first in awareness of that one thing you have focused on. Eventually, as you are able to be present with one thing, consciousness is freed enough to expand to becoming aware of actually being aware of the one thing, to being aware of being aware, to being aware of itself… Being. And this can all ‘happen’ in the blink of an eye!
Here, observed and observer dissolve. And in that dissolution, Being is aware of “all that is happening,” which is nothing at all. “One thing at a time” becomes … One.