In our modern world cultivating presence is challenging, let alone during cancer remission.

There are a million things to distract us and grab our attention at every turn. But, being present with the work we must do today is the definition of thriving one day at a time.

Worrying about what the future holds can leave us drained, can build anxiety, and can be a roadblock to staying present.

Living in the future invites worry and anxiety to take over our time by focusing on things we don’t yet know or have control over.

However, what does being present look like? And how do we stay there?

Here are my four steps to cultivating presence during cancer remission, but also any time we might be feeling adrift in life.

Find Your Motivation

This means finding your “why”.

Why is it important to show up fully in the moment?

Is it connecting with your kids?

Is it making an impact in the world?

When I contemplated what motivation means to me, I came to the easy conclusion it’s my kids. They have an ability to bring me back into what’s happening in the here and now. They see the world as a simple place, and they demand attention in the moment. Often, they get so excited about some of the simplest things, like the sunset or seeing a rainbow. Finding your motivation, or your “why” is a great place to start in being present.

Disconnect to Reconnect

Living life in the world today is inherently filled with distractions. Modern day devices like computers, tablets, and phones are all specifically designed to grab and hold our attention.

Public transit can not only assault our senses through the sheer number of people around us but everywhere you look there is yet another advertisement. Even work environments, like classrooms, or cubicles are built with tons of distractions.

Disconnecting to reconnect is an important foundation to cultivate presence. However, being present in the moment goes beyond reconnecting with ourselves, it requires us to become reconnected with the world around use.

Great ways to reconnect to the earth can include:

  • Walking in the grass without shoes on
  • Taking deep breaths
  • Floating in water
  • Touching a tree
  • Hiking in nature
  • Hugging a pet/family member/friend
  • Feeling the sunshine on our face

Hit Pause

Being caught up and disconnected in these daily environments furthers the stress response of
fight or flight within us.

If we find ourselves overwhelmed by the moment, the surrounding environment, or our thoughts, I tell patients to try hitting the pause button.

To pause amongst the chaos, we must bring our awareness into all our senses and imagine, like in a movie, things around us moving in slow motion.

Hitting the pause button on multitasking, overwhelm, and our senses can help to reset our nervous system to bring us back to the moment and nurture the rest and digest side (parasympathetic) of our nervous system.

Nurture Spirituality

Having faith in God, the universe, nature or however you define your spirituality is important to living each moment filled with presence and peace.

I experienced this on a visceral level when I discussed death, life, and different cultures with my university roommate.

She had the opportunity to go on a mission and provide nursing care to extremely poor communities in Africa. The thing we discussed in detail when she returned was the difference that the culture in Africa had surrounding death. The villages she went to were ravished by HIV and plagued by malnourishment. Death was commonplace and often a daily occurrence.

Death in their culture still brought about sadness and grief, but there was more of a celebration of life than anything else.

The world didn’t stop with death.

The happiness and joy of the present moment didn’t fade with the ending of one life. The challenges that every family faced were still present, but their grounding and their beliefs were such that they were much more able to move through their grief.

Nurturing spirituality helps to reawaken our souls, live each day in the moment and sparks our deeper transformation of thriving daily.

As you journey through daily life, with newfound presence and peace, you will be able to present this new self to the world. There will be people who won’t like the new you. There may be resistance to the changes you’ve made. The renewed you isn’t the same person and for anyone who isn’t on the journey with you and wants the old you, they’re simply stuck looking backward instead of being present right now.

Seeing the opportunity to get to know the new you and the opportunity of what life has to offer moment-to-moment is the most important thing in any relationship.

Even as I wrote my book, I lost friendships, and colleagues. I know that people will come into and out of my life. Just as each challenge gives us a moment to find opportunity, so does each relationship. So, continue your journey, cultivate presence, and strive to thrive with passion and compassion in every single moment.

Portions of this blog were excerpted from chapter 15 of my book, “The Opportunity In Cancer”, which as many more exercises and resources to help you cultivate your presence, mindfulness and awareness on your cancer recovery journey.

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