Whatever type of practice we’re doing, the main focus is always to keep the attention on the experience of the present moment. Once we’re able to experience this increased state of presence in our practice, we can then try to maintain the same focus in less controlled situations. When we’re walking around the city, sitting on the beach, or in conversation with friends, we can continue to make that small effort to be present.
Maintaining some conscious attention on the breath is useful in staying present when my mind is occupied by more complex tasks. Even though the majority of my attention might be on the ideas that I’m discussing with you, my awareness of my breathing is always there in the background. This background awareness keeps me anchored in the present moment.
As we become more experienced in being “consciously conscious” in the midst of the activity of our lives, we should find that we can be present and focused even in fast-paced or stressful situations. In this way, we’re transforming the quality of our life experience. We’re going from being “absent” to being present.
If I’m at work and I seem to have a million things that need doing as soon as possible, a choice presents itself as to how I proceed. Do I do what I’ve always done before—doing each thing while thinking about all the things that I have to do after it? Lost in the future? Or do I do that one thing that I’m doing right now with a wholehearted focus on the present reality of my experience?
This doesn’t mean that I should work more slowly or neglect the other things that I need to do later. It just means that I do what I do with focus and attention, and, like this, I regain my life. Because being present with whatever we’re doing is key for the joy of existence to come into our life.