Do You Have to Meditate to Be Present?

TheThreeMonksMy dear friend Christie and I met a monk in Thailand who said to us, “You can meditate anywhere. You don’t need to be in the meditation hall.” It was quite profound at the time because we were looking for a place to meditate. It hadn’t occurred to us to meditate on the sidewalk. I figured that if he said that it was ok, it would work.

I haven’t looked back since.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about meditation versus presence… If the point of meditation is to practice being present, to practice noticing what is happening right now, do I have to meditate to be present?

In other words, if meditation helps us focus on the present moment, if it helps us focus on something that is happening right now, do I have to meditate in order to do it?

Or really simply: Can I be present with out meditating?


In any given moment of my life I can take a moment to notice where I am and what I am doing. In fact I do this throughout my day. So do you. You do this when you pause for a brief moment and check to see if you have your keys when you leave. You do this when you pause to check if there is enough petrol in your car or money on your metro card. You do this when you look around at who is at work today. You do this when you glance at yourself in the mirror to check your hair or make sure that you’ve gotten your hands clean.

You do this multiple times a day.

You just don’t think about it this way.

And you can if you like.

As you go through your day, you can start to notice those moments when you’re naturally present.

You can also choose to be present for moments at random if you like. You can pause on the street corner and take a look at where you are. Even if you’ve been there a thousand times, it will be unique in this moment. It will never be the same way again. Something will have changed by the time you get there next. Can you see the differences? Are the sounds different? Do you feel different standing there? Things will change.

Of course, now I’ve created a practice out of it.

You don’t need to be this formal about it. You don’t have to turn it into a game or a practice. You can just pause and notice the street corner… And then go on your way.

Another friend of mine, Esther, introduced me to Kitchen Yoga. She said you could practice yoga in your kitchen while bending over to get a pan from under the counter, stretching up to get a plate, or twisting around to open the fridge.

I’m suggesting a similar kind of “non-practice” practice.

I’m going to start calling it Sidewalk Presence.

Yep, I can be present anywhere and anytime. I just notice where I am in this moment and voila, I’m present. And so can you. No practice needed.


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How Is Mindfulness Made Easy?

symbol-Woman-MeditatingImagine hearing all of the wonderful things that you’ve heard about meditation and innocently sitting down to give it a try. You cross your legs, set a timer for 10 minutes and start counting your breath and calming your mind.

…And it doesn’t work.

You can’t sit still, your back hurts, your legs fall asleep, your nose itches, you keep checking your watch (“Is this over yet?!”) … As if that wasn’t bad enough, you’re mind races and you can’t even count 3 breaths in a row!

Maybe you’ve even had this experience yourself.

I certainly did. After about two weeks of this craziness, I quit.

And then started again… in a whole new way. Successfully this time. And much happier.

What saved my practice?

Well, I discovered that there are other ways to meditate. It turns out, in fact, that there are many, many other ways to meditate. On that day, 10 years ago, I did some research and found a way that I liked, that suited me, and along with a good does of determination I became a happy meditator with a regular practice that changed my life.

How did I do it? How can meditation be made easy?LOGO_3 resized 2

With two key steps: first, do your practice for a short amount of time, and second, chose a practice that you like, that suits you and your personality.

Step 1: As a beginner, practice for a short amount of time.

Just like fitness, as you exercise, your meditation ‘muscles’ will get stronger and you will be able to practice for longer and longer periods with ease. Start with 30 seconds or a minute, 3 breaths or 5; get good at that, and then add more. With daily practice you will find that very quickly you are able to build to a longer time.

If you start with something that you can do and build on that, you will feel successful from the beginning, you will feel encouraged to continue, and you will get the benefits of meditation by going from strength to strength.

It may help to realize that the benefits of meditation come when you practice every day. It isn’t so important that you practice for a long period of time, especially in the beginning, it is more important that you establish a regular habit. Start small, see if meditation helps you. If it does then you will be encouraged to keep building your practice. A good daily goal to aim for is 15 minutes a day.

Step 2: Chose a practice you like, that suits you and your personality.

Meditation is about learning to focus on something that is happening right now, in the present moment. Simply put, meditation has you pay attention to something in the here and now. Focusing on breath is the classic example: you pay attention to how you are breathing right now. Luckily, as well as breath, there are a lot of other things that you can focus on such as images, sounds, sensations, etc. If breath isn’t interesting for you you can choose something else!

If you are a visual person, someone who likes visual arts, design, esthetics, etc you can choose a practice that focuses on an image, like a painting, or what you can see in your environment right now.

If you are more auditory, someone who likes music, singing, soundscapes, etc, you can choose a practice that focuses on sound, like a song, or what you can hear in your environment right now.

If you are more physical, someone who likes athletics, dance, sensations, etc, you can choose a practice that focuses on physical sensations, like a movement, or what you can feel in your body right now.

As you can imagine from these suggestions, it is not necessary to practice meditation with your eyes closed or while seated. You can look, you can listen, you can move. In fact, you can choose any one of your five senses and do practices that utilize that sense. Even a combination of senses, like the practice of Mindful Eating in which you focus on how your food looks, feels and tastes as you are eating it, moment to moment.

Mindfulness Made Easy ClassesLOGO_3 resized 2

You can find lots of different kinds of meditation practices online, in books, at retreats and in meditation classes in your area. In my class, Mindfulness Made Easy, I teach 4 different practices, each one focusing on a different sense, so that you will have one to suit your personality. We practice these for very short periods of time so that you can get used to meditation and build your meditation muscles with ease.

You’re welcome to join Mindfulness Made Easy, as a great way to build a new practice or turn your existing one into a regular habit that’s easy to maintain.

One to one classes are also available upon request by emailing me at Elena at

And to receive free meditation tips and tools subscribe to my blog at

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3 Steps to Empowerment, Step 3: Empowerment

Once we can see and accept ourselves, we begin to have choices about where to put our energy. Do we keep doing what we’re doing, or do we focus our energy on something else?
The empowerment to make this choice comes from the clarity of awareness: knowing what we’re doing, and the openness of acceptance: allowing whatever we’re thinking, feeling, doing to be here.  Because we’re open to our thoughts, feelings and actions (and not denying, resisting, and contracting around them) they can shift and change and thus we are in an empowered space… we have choices about where to focus our energy.
There are many ways to reach this stage of empowerment, of being in a space to make real choices about what we’re doing… to go from fine to fantastic…
I’d love to know what you’ve done in your life to get to this place of fully aware choices?

3 Steps to Empowerment, Step 2: Acceptance

As we become aware of ourselves, our daily thoughts, feelings and actions, then we can start to accept them… most will be easy to accept and some will take a bit of compassion. For some we will want to step out of denial and out of resistance and into compassion, non-judgement and acceptance.
Why might this be useful?
If we want to go from fine to fantastic then we want to accept all of ourselves… step out of denial and resistance of the parts that we feel we don’t like and into acceptance. Then we start to know the truth of how fantastic we already are!
Can you accept all of you?
Some days I’m better than others… I’d love to know what kinds of things you’ve done that helped you to accept parts that were “unacceptable”?

3 Steps to Empowerment, Step 1: Awareness

If we want to go from fine to fantastic, we need to be aware of what we’re doing so that we know what to change… what our thoughts, feelings and actions are on a daily basis.

This can be as simple as noticing our body movements for a few minutes, or really noticing our surroundings several times a day. Cultivating awareness can be simple, easy and fun!

And the results are life changing, life affirming and lovely.

I’d enjoy knowing what you have noticed about your self or your environment through your own awareness?



Stop Taking Spiritual Development So Seriously!

(video) Life is a balance. Not enough focus and our energy is too dilute. Too much focus and we’re constricted and can’t move…

And sometimes it helps to just remember not to take our spiritual development so seriously!
Does it help you to relax in the middle of chaos?

Watching Emotions

(video) Emotions seem to run our lives!

How we feel about something seems to control how we interact with it. For instance: I’m mad at someone, so I’m mean to them.

What if you could develop a place in yourself to watch that emotion and make choices about how to interact?
How do you “step out of” or witness your emotions?

Speaking From the Heart: Accepting Emotions 7 Day Challenge

(video) Most of us are uncomfortable with some of our emotions… to the point that we try to deny or ignore them.

It can be challenging to try to feel all of them! Take this 7 day challenge and see for yourself!

Are you comfortable with ALL of your emotions?


Your Questions: Why Isn't This Meditation Practice Working?!

(video) What happens when you have been diligently doing a meditation practice and you feel like it isn’t helping? If it works for other’s shouldn’t it work for you? Is there something wrong with me, how I’m doing the practice, or is this just the wrong practice for me right now?

How do you know when a practice is working for you?