What Does Staying Present Mean?

Posted on by Sen.

There are so many misunderstandings about the pointer of “staying present” mostly because this pointer can easily be made into a technique and then become another means to feel bad about yourself saying “I find it difficult to stay present so there is something wrong with me”. It’s easy for the brain to make everything into a means to be self-critical when it has a strong momentum of negativity going in it. “Staying present” was the first pointer that I encountered by reading the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, but this pointer is quite popular, since ancient times, in the Zen tradition as well as in many other spiritual circles. The simple interpretation that any brain would make out of a pointer like “stay present” would be to “stay alert” in the moment, but then the question arises stay alert of what – of the outside surroundings, of the inner thoughts, of the feelings or of the task at hand? The usual answer that’s given is stay alert of your inner space, and hence it’s just a way to bring awareness to your thought and feeling space – to start growing in the awareness of your negativity.

The only reason to develop awareness of negativity is so that you can ultimately start letting go of the negativity. Developing awareness of negativity, in your mind/inner-space, is like becoming aware that you are eating bad food, after you become aware you need to simply stop feeding yourself with it – you just drop it. So you “stay present” (or stay alert) only to watch the negativity operating within, and once you detect it, the next step is to start letting go of it. Some people get addicted to practicing “staying present” by making it into some technique of concentration (which gives them a feeling of control), and start using it as a means to silence the mind, thus making it into a suppression mechanism.

Moreover “staying present” (or staying aware) is not something you need to do all day long, because the brain has other things to do than just keep being aware all the time. Awareness is something you do now and then, to get a sense of the negativity in you, that’s all – it’s not a technique that you beat yourself up to perfect. With time you just feel more aware without requiring any conscious “doing” on your part, and the periods of being lost in the mind keep getting shorter.

At one point you drop the pointer of staying present

Staying present is only a temporary practice needed to develop the power of awareness – nothing more. Soon enough you will have enough awareness to detect the obvious, and subtle, patterns of negativity running inside you. It’s easy to detect negativity, in you, if you are honest with yourself – mostly your negativity would have something to do with self-hatred (or hatred towards life), belief in lack or belief in struggle. In fact, all forms of obsessive thinking in the mind (popularly known as OCD) is just a manifestation of an inner negativity – it’s not really a “disorder” of the brain rather it’s simply a repetitive thinking pattern fueled by the force of inner negativity. If you are not willing to be honest with yourself about your negativity, no matter how long you keep practicing staying present you will garner nothing useful out of it because soon you will start using it as a technique to somehow “silence” the mind, which basically defeats the whole point of the practice and makes it into another form of resistance.

As you can see a pointer like “staying present” can itself become a form of resistance if you use it as a means of suppressing your mind. Staying present doesn’t mean that you quiet the mind, or keenly observe your surroundings, because that’s just “concentration” and it serves no real value to detect inner negativity – it can easily just be a form of spiritual entertainment. Staying present is simply a pointer to observe the mind’s negativity and the negative energy in your inner-space – the more you observe the more you sense how much you are pulled around by negativity. Once you have observed this, it’s time to start relaxing and letting go – unless you relax, you can’t let go. Relaxing simply means to stay open, and allow the negative momentum to start ebbing away, because you are no longer “contracting” your focus on it. There comes a time when you no longer need to practice “staying present”, rather you just need to start staying open and relaxed, so that the suppressed negative energy can get released from your inner space and the negative momentum in your mind can start slowing down.

People find it difficult to “relax” and let go, they want to constantly make “effort”, so they keep on trying to stay alert/present (practicing it as a concentration technique) as if it’s something to perfect, some even go at it for years – it’s such a waste of time and energy if you use it as some technique of concentration. It’s illogical to even imagine that one can attain a state where one is keenly aware all day long because the brain by its very design has a very small capacity for concentration – it will get tired of concentrating, soon enough. When you have developed some awareness to watch your thoughts and feelings, it means you are “aware” enough. Now it’s time to start letting go of the negativity by just becoming relaxed – by relax I don’t mean anything spiritual or complex, just an ordinary state of being relaxed and open. The more you relax the faster you let go of negativity and sooner you come into alignment with life.

Life is inviting you to relax, can you take up this invitation?

The question is are you trusting of life enough to “relax”, because to relax requires a huge amount of trust in life. It’s easier to practice techniques like “staying alert” or staying present, but it’s much harder to just let go and relax – to stay in space of being effortless. All forms of guilt and doubts starts arising in the brain when it starts relaxing, because all along you have been ingrained in the principle of “action” and effort. To relax requires you to let go of your ego’s fears about becoming dysfunctional, and it requires a deep trust in life to take care of you. Your life-stream is already pulling you towards your natural expression which can only start unfolding when you let go of your mindset of effort – your natural expression is meant to be effortless, relaxed and in the flow. Very few have the courage to relax and let go, but the ones who develop this courage can easily become aligned with the pull of their life-stream starting with day one.

When I say “stay relaxed”, I just mean let go of all forms of struggle and resistance

– let go of trying to be right, let go of trying to get something right

– let go of trying to figure things out for a while

– let go of the questions of how,and when, life will fall in place

– let go of making struggle-based, or forced, actions

– let go of believing the negative talk in the mind

– let go of waiting to reach some perfect level of awareness

– let go of trying to live up to the outside expectations of you

– let go of forcing your body and let it move in its own rhythm

– let go of the mindset of “determination” (this is not about “will-power”, it’s about coming into your natural flow – will-power is basically a means of force). When you become aligned you don’t need any forced determination, you just move through inspiration.

– let go of all suppression, or force oriented, techniques including “staying present”

– let go of your stories of the past negativity that happened (let go of your bitterness, hatred and anger towards your past)

– let go of your delusion that you need to wait for something to happen before you can let go

– let go of your fear of letting go

– let go of the worry that you will become lazy and won’t take actions (everything that’s “really” required will get done, only the unnecessary actions won’t get done)

– let go of forcing yourself to not do, if the inspiration is there do something go ahead and do it

The pointer of letting go holds true for everything – be it obsessive thought patterns, be it confusion, be it any form of negativity; just let go of your struggle with it, and become relaxed, so that life-energy can have access to dissolving it. The negativity won’t vanish overnight, it takes time and you need to allow this time – that’s what it means to trust in your life-stream’s ability to heal, to sort things out and bring well-being.

If you don’t have the courage to let go, its best that you acknowledge it for now and stop asking “why is life not working out for me” – it’s not working out because you don’t have the courage to trust it and let go, you are still trying to use your “strategies” to make things work. Stop blaming life for your problems, it’s not possible for life to work out smoothly for you if your whole vibration is based on struggle, bitterness and distrust. If you can’t take the simple invitation to let go and relax, to allow life to orchestrate the circumstances for you and create inspiration in you for the right actions, it just means you trust your brain’s fear-based, limited, conditioning-based, past oriented and mechanical thinking over trusting your life-stream’s intelligence/capacity to set things right.

Are you testing life or trusting life?

Another problem is that people let go for a few days, and then start the pattern of – “nothing is happening, I am not getting any inspiration, the thoughts are not going, so I better start struggling again”. Letting go is not a technique that you use to “test” life’s ability to serve you, it’s a simple state of surrender and openness to the pull of your life-stream. At first as you surrender, the negative realities start coming down, your negative momentum (in the mind) starts dissolving, your inner space starts clearing out of negative energy – so for a while it’s purely a process of “deconstruction”. Once this deconstruction phase is quite done with, you start seeing the emergence of a movement towards a harmonious reality, your vibe starts becoming aligned/whole and your actions start coming from a place of inspiration, and you sense that you are finally living your natural expression.

Some people can immediately take the invitation to “let go” because it resonates for them deeply, as they have tried out all the mind techniques and seen its failure to solve their negativity. Some people are still looking for more techniques, and they even try to use “letting go” as some technique to get results instead of living it as a way of life. When you start letting go, initially there will be challenges where you need to make conscious choices in the favor of your joy/ease over struggle, its during these choices that you make it clear on how committed you are to letting go fully, to trust life’s invitation for you to let go of struggle/effort, to trust life’s capacity to bring in your well-being and desired reality – soon you will reach a point where you don’t have to make these conscious choices, because you will be well in the pull of your life-stream and from there on struggle no longer remains a choice.

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  1. Gerard

    Sen, firstly, I have been reading your blog now for the last 4 months and find it truly inspirational. Some of your posts, especially relating to obsessive thought, negativity and ‘letting go’ have really helped me through some trying moments over the last few months. I am still struggling though with the issue of being present, staying aware and basically letting the mind, body and soul ‘relax’ (although have made good progress).

    The latest manifestation of this is a job that I have recently been offered. I thought it was everything I had been wanting, but I have since been paralyzed with fear (i.e. thoughts of fear) about leaving my current job. Will it be as good as I think it is? Will I live to regret the decision of moving? Will it negatively affect my career path? What if it doesn’t make me happy? All of these thoughts have been running through my mind. I’ve been told that life is what you make of it and that I can find happiness in many alternative paths, but sometimes it’s much more difficult put into practice, especially when you have such a binary choice in front of you. I fear my negativity is creeping into this great opportunity. How do I relax, let go and be happy with my choice (whichever it is)?.

    1. Sen Post author

      Gerard, the only thing in our control is our inner state of being, or our vibration. Your job is to stay aligned, by being relaxed and open, and allow life to take care of the details. Decisions just get made for you when you are relaxed, you don’t have to worry about “making” a decision – if you just stay relaxed you will start noticing some signs or some circumstances that make your decision for you. If this new job is aligned with you, you will be moved towards it. When you stay open you are most receptive to inner guidance. The mind obviously gets scared about leaving the “familiar” domain, for the mind change is always frightening because it has to venture into something “new” or the unknown. So it’s best if you don’t fall for this fear in the mind, and just get a sense of your heart, of your deep instinct about this job. If you feel inspired, you can do a background check on the new company, talk to some employees there, get a sense of the work environment and how the management works with the employees – see if all this resonates positively in your heart. You know that you have made positive shifts in your vibration and hence the new job will match this new vibration in you. From your words it’s pretty evident that you want to take up this new job, and the only fear you have is about leaving the “familiar”, which is quite natural. You can ease this fear by getting a more realistic sense of this new job by interacting with some employees there and understanding the environment you will be working in. Also, let go of the mindset of “lack”, when you are aligned life keeps bringing in plenty of options all the time, there is no lack of it – lack is only experienced by people who have a high resistance to allowing their life-stream. If you keep holding a relaxed vibration, things will always keep falling in place for you, and your experience of life will be deeply positive.

    2. Gerard

      Many thanks Sen for your insightfulness. You are right when you say keeping relaxed will only bring positive things. When I am fulling relaxed, I realize that taking the job just ‘feels right’. The situation though with the job is unfortunately not resolved yet. They are now facing problems with sponsoring my visa so alas, the decision may end up being outside of my control. I am though more calm about whatever happens as I know if I stay relaxed and aligned with a positive state of mind, only good things will happen. Thanks again for your much needed guidance.

  2. Brent

    Sen, Thank you for writing such an informative blog. Everything you say makes sense to me and that is rare as I often find many things which I read on self-help to be confusing. I have been working on staying present and reducing negative thinking for several months and I have made progress. However, I am worried I simply pushed the negative thoughts somewhere else in my system instead of purging them as I now often get a severe pit in the stomach feeling, almost like a feeling of terror and I don’t know how to eliminate it. The feeling is usually quick moving and hits several times per day like someone was throwing a heavy rock at me. A separate issue I am facing is that I am having a difficult time trying to discern if my ego is sending me messages or if the information is coming from my inner being and then I am afraid to take action and I do nothing to stay safe.

    1. Sen Post author

      Brent, if you feel an intense fear/feeling as a sensation in your body it’s an indication of high momentum of negative energy in your inner space. The way you allow the release is to let go of “working” on negative thoughts, and just allow them to arise in your awareness without any suppression on your part. Allow your mind the freedom to think negative thoughts, and allow the body to have negative energy – this allowing is what causes the release. As long as you keep trying to work on the negative thoughts, using any technique (even trying to stay present with a thought can be a technique to get rid of it), it will keep recycling in your consciousness. The only way to release negative energy to be is be fully allowing of it, even if it goes against the conditioning of the brain (because the brain will always try to run away from the negative thought, in a reactive manner). The simple pointer is to stay relaxed and let go of trying to work on negative thoughts, allowing them to come up freely, so that they can get released.

      As you release the negative momentum in your inner space, you will also start becoming free of resistance, which means that your body/mind will be free enough to be moved by your life force, hence you will see yourself getting clear inspirations and insights, and there will be clear focus in the mind towards what needs to be done. For a while, you will need to let go of the need to figure things out and just be aligned with be relaxed – it’s not complex, it’s simply about letting go until you feel a clear inspiration coming up towards action. Actually, if you sense that you have to “decide” on what action to take, that means there is still a lot resistance within you – there comes a point where there is no sense of having to decide what to do, rather you just move from a knowing/inspiration – there is a clear mindedness. The more you stay in a space of letting go the more you release resistance, and clearer your access will be to your inner guidance.

  3. robert


    Why is it that when we bring awareness to our negativity it makes it go away. WHat is it about awareness that makes the negative shrink away as such.

    1. Sen Post author

      Robert, when your awareness is lost in the negative thoughts/emotions, you are fueling it with your unconscious focus (through your belief/interest/fear of the thought), but when your awareness stays as an open space allowing the thoughts/emotions to happen, they are not only deprived of the fuel of your focus but there is also a field of wisdom operating in you that allows you to see through negativity, and also bring insights/solutions – this because when you stay as open/relaxed awareness (without being lost in the mind’s pull or emotional pull) it connects you to the intelligence of your life-stream. It’s like your awareness acts as a bridge between the intelligence of your life-stream and the brain, when your awareness is totally lost in the brain you lose connection with the guidance of your life-stream.

  4. rafael


    What advice can you give someone trying to give up a bad habit? Im a bit confused as to what to do. Do i just give in to the urge every time and let everything sort itself out or do i use some type of will power to stop it?

    1. Sen Post author

      Rafael, any habit which feels off in you can be dissolved by bringing awareness to its patterns and its energy. Start with bringing awareness to the trigger for this habit, what form of lack within you causes you to move towards indulging in this habit – is it a physical lack (like a physical craving) or a mental lack, the more awareness you bring to this feeling of lack the less influence it has on pulling you in. See if you can simply stay allowing of this feeling of lack without trying to satiate it with a habit – this can feel challenging initially, and if you body moves into the habit let it do so, just ensure there is some awareness in you while you are indulging in the habit. With time you will be able to gain a deep awareness of the whole pattern of this habit, to the point when you no longer feel helpless to its pull – you can just watch the trigger arise and die down without feeling pulled by it.

  5. nvibes

    Hi Sen

    Can you help to steer me in the right direction?

    I’m concerned with striking a balance between being aware of external circumstances that I am experiencing that I see as ‘negative’ at work (e.g. overworking without time off/extra pay, too much pressure to meet impossible expectations, unhealthy work practices-meetings during lunch breaks, not having enough thinking time etc) and taking responsibility for creating such an experience unconsciously rather than blaming external parties, and also at the same time not focusing on what I’m currently experiencing too much, realising that there’s much more going on than just this, there’s a much bigger picture, that what I am experiencing currently doesn’t reflect “me”.

    Sometimes I seem to be able to drop into “letting go”, and have glimpses of realising in a real (rather than analytical way) that the external circumstance (negative or positive) doesn’t actually matter to how I feel about “me” deep down, but recently I feel I may be fuelling the negative momentum further, and am now fearing this because I’m scared of creating future “negative” circumstances again. I also seem to keep waking up at night thinking about these issues and not sleeping well, which contributes further to feeling negative.

    I think the underlying pattern is that deep down I don’t feel good enough, that I should be better than I currently am, I should know more than I do, self critical. Also, taking on responsibility/blame for things that are not my responsibility to sort out. I enjoy learning, I enjoy working in new environments, I just feel at the moment I’m not being given the space/time and tools to be able to do my job properly and feel good in myself even whilst learning. I think I’m stuck on bringing these issues to light with my managers and feeling I’m complaining/blaming too much, because I feel I have created this circumstance unconsciously so I should just wait/go inside myself for a solution,rather than challenging the external circumstance?

    Also, is there a difference between “letting go” and “giving up”? At times at work when I realise I won’t complete what I need to, I find myself saying “i give up”, and i just leave it to be sorted out the next time I’m in, but this then leads to increased pressure before the deadline. So I wonder if this “giving up” is the same as “letting go”?

    Thank you.

    1. Sen Post author

      You may have identified the three core forms of negativity in you that are attracting your current experience – meekness, struggle-orientedness and focus on lack. Just sense the state of your mind when you are at your job, just observe it now and then, and you will get a glimpse of the negativity in it that’s attracting this negative experience. Develop the attitude of being “curious” about identifying the negativity in the mind, life is just an eternal path of growth and learning, there is no “perfection” to reach, so don’t feel bad about yourself for having negativity in the mind – it’s just about constantly letting go of the negativity more and more, and thus evolve into a more aligned person.

      Can you sense that your mind has always believed in struggle in some way, because if that was not the case you wouldn’t attract a reality of struggle at work. It may seem natural to your mind to hold the mindset of struggle, because it sees a lot of people struggling and hence thinks that its the normal way to be – this mindset is what I call “struggle orientedness”. It also imagines that if you stop struggling you won’t be able to make money and this mindset is what I mean by “focus on lack”. At the root is also meekness, when you feel afraid of totally aligning with your ease and joy, and feel guilty about pleasing yourself in many ways. However, unless you follow your inner joy and comfort, you will always find yourself in realities of struggle, and I understand it’s not easy to develop the mindset of following your joy after having lived for years in a mindset of struggle. However, at some point, you need to develop the courage and trust to follow your inner joy at any cost, if something doesn’t feel aligned with your joy, your natural movement should be towards letting go of it – no matter how fearful the mind gets or the excuses the mind makes. Unless you have this courage, it doesn’t matter how much you analyse your negativity, you won’t be able to let go of it because you are actually believing it. Letting go is not “giving up”, it’s about having the courage to align with your heart and not keep listening to the seemingly rational fears of the mind – the mind can come up with a hundred rational reason to stick around in a situation that’s draining to your heart.

      When you are committed to letting go of struggle, of all forms, you become fully aligned with the grace of life, that’s what surrendering to your life-stream is all about. All forms of struggle arises from a place of a lack of trust in life’s intelligence and a belief in the mind’s limited perceptions and fears. In this present job, if you develop the mindset of being relaxed and be courageous enough to say “no” to any form of pressure put on you, it means you are making a choice in the direction of your joy/ease. If your present job is not aligned with your natural expression, you will get moved out of it, but this open up the avenue for you to allow the manifestation a reality that’s congruent with you.

    2. nvibes

      Thank you Sen, it really helps.

      I guess I am scared of “letting go” because it means accepting that I’ve again created an incongruent work situation for me, that initially I sensed was a positive thing to undertake (even though logically it wouldn’t look to be so e.g. i work 2 days a week and financially this won’t cover all of my bills). Also, I cannot tell whether I’m just shrouded in fear of feeling that I’m not doing a good enough job.

      It feels as if I cannot trust myself/my instinct to make a positive choice for me. Even though I took time out after leaving my last job to just chill, explore and get in touch with what I enjoy doing. If I end up having to leave this workplace, I just have a sense of “gloom” about what next, as I will have been in the same situation before and it didn’t work out as I’d expected. And also a big part of me does not want to leave without feeling I’ve done my best.

      But I don’t want to sound like it’s all doom and gloom! There are definitely positive aspects to the job (e.g. working in a creative field) and positive changes in other aspects of my life, I’m working on a voluntary project I enjoy outside of work, and doing more things I truly enjoy.

      Thank you.

  6. Michele

    Hi Sen,

    I have been struggling with past memories of an ex-client that I fell in love with for 2 years now. I cannot tolerate my mind going there anymore. He doesn’t want anything to do with me, why am I so pathetic? I still cry so easily when I think of him. I have been to a few therapists and did EMDR but I think it lies in what I am thinking about on a daily basis. What can I do?


    1. Sen Post author

      Michele, as you see that there is a part of you that’s constantly obsessed with the thoughts of neediness towards a relationship which is no longer working, and there is a part of you that’s “aware” of this dysfunctional attachment. If you can allow yourself to simply stay aware without giving belief to the thoughts of neediness, they will soon lose their hold on you. When you stay aware of thoughts, without being lost in them, these thoughts lose their hold on you. Unless you feel stable in your awareness you will feel pulled around by the mind, and hence feel like a prisoner to its movements. If you practice staying aware of the mind’s thoughts, you can come to a place of inner stability and not be so influenced by the mind’s movements. You can also read this post – letting go of neediness in relationships – to get some insight on how to align with your inner joy first so that you are not needy of this joy from the outside.

  7. Terry

    Sen your reads are so interesting to me.Thank you soooo much i am sooooo POSITIVE your writing helps many people your motive seems to be just to help people and that is VERY kind of you …My question is this im at the third month of finding out my wife cheated once discovered she ended it came clean has explained to the best of her ability,apoligized,answered every question i asked of her she wants to work this out sincerly and i do believe her .I seem to be stuck and keep bouncing back and forth with my emotions im sure it,s the trusting and of also learning from you i feel listening to the negative thoughts in my head.i seem stuck on wanting re assurances now from her and just want to make sure of what she has learned .i feel i am not rushing anymore im glad i didn,t let my emotions at the time make any stupid quick decisions ah… i think i just answered my own questions rereading as im going along here ….this is the point were i need to Relax and Let Go isn,t it ….if my Gut is telling me she is sincere and i believe her its now up to me and proceed with stay in the moment……..i was just going to erase this and not post my question but now i seem to want Your re assurance my timing is correct or still need questions answered…..

    1. Sen Post author

      Terry, just follow your instinct with respect to whether you are willing to stay in the relationship or move on. Also, continue on the journey towards inner alignment, allow yourself to find your inner wholeness within rather than depending on the relationship for it. Relationship is an avenue to share your life with someone who is compatible with you, it’s not an avenue to control the other person to seek your sense of wholeness through them.

  8. TheHumbleVirgo

    …. and Let Go of TRYING to JUSTIFY why to LET GO lol… that’s a big one for me..

    PS – Sen; u da man! Thanks a lot. I’m so appreciative of you and your insight. Your “work”/wisdom/efforts/intentions are not being taken for granted; and will not go in vain. What a blessing.

    Take care! … and thanks again. *deuces* (Peace) lol

  9. Mika

    How is it possible to be aware of negative thoughts w/out fueling them? (Don’t you need to give them attention to be aware of them? Hence fueling them for giving them your attention/focus?)

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