How Practicing Presence Changed My Life

How Practicing Presence Changed My LifeHow Practicing Presence Changed My Life

By Lauren Ziegler, one of Aura’s meditation teachers.

Sometimes the world is too much. Sometimes you’re protecting yourself from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune {thanks Shakespeare}.

Sometimes you’re done.

I was having one of those moments in Phan Thiet, Vietnam 8 years ago. There I was, in the elbows-to-knees-slouch-face-to-hands move. I was slightly afraid, and being a young woman traveling alone, my guard was up. Earlier, I’d arrived by night bus to this local beach town. It had been weeks and I needed to feel connection, so I decided to find an internet cafe and write an email to family. Drifting down the streets, I found no signs I could read. I was dependent on the theatrics of body language. Everywhere I meekly inquired, I got a cold kung fu hand. I guess to engage was to to risk confusion or misunderstanding. Eventually, I was angry and exhausted, so I gave up and that’s why… the fetal position crying on the beach on the other side of the world.

I closed my eyes and began to consciously breathe and calm down. One tiny cell shifted out of fear and began to awaken.

I heard laughing. I opened my eyes and saw two teenage lovers playing innocently.

More cells awakened inside and I was drawn out of myself into a feeling of zest for life.

I continued to be present, now feeling comforted by the humid-heat and the faint scent of ripe fruit from a shifty cart, shuffled around by a content-looking elder.

Awakening expanded on its own and I suddenly had an epiphany! In this moment I had choice: 1. I could succumb to feeling powerless against my stressors. 2. I could choose a different perspective.

I bursted into laughter, knowing my own resilience and resourcefulness, knowing my connection to the world around me, and that I get to choose how I respond. So, I found a place and got sailing lessons!

I’d discovered something life changing. Somewhere between the happening and the outcome, there is a choice – and that choice determines the flavor of our experience.

Viktor Frankl writes in his classic book Man’s Search for Meaning, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

Moments of confusion and profound sadness are sticky spots in the mind, and though often we’re stuck unknowingly – we don’t have to stay stuck.

We can change where we put our focus! I knew little at the time about the profound effects of this stuff. The healing arts I’d been practicing {yoga, tai chi, and meditation} were secretly teaching me how to shift my focus and let go.

It’s important to remember when we’re trying to meditate: the rewards are in the practice itself.

EEG studies of brain activity during meditation show a distinct brain wave pattern {theta} that’s associated with self-soothing. Meditation helps to maintain mood stability, even when we’re right in the thick of it. As the parasympathetic nervous system comes online, we are directed towards calm states. Often the hard part is thinking to do it, or “applying the tools” as I say to private clients.

We tend to overvalue complication, so taking some time every day to climb into presence, we participate in reducing disturbing emotional influence and we maintain calm perspective. When we emerge with a lighter spirit, we embrace life more fully and we go sailing!

Turning towards pain

Physical/mental/emotional pain is a worthy adversary of my practice. Becoming intimate with the root cause of my pain has been a journey fraught with peril and defenses. Many people live with underlying pain, they feel somehow not at deep peace. For many people, life is busy, they are stressed, they feel unbalanced in work/life, and there’s simply not enough to put healing on the top of the list. Sound familiar? I get it.

The question is: How are we when we’re in pain? When we have an unpleasant feeling tone, do we resist? In a freakout moment, can we close our eyes, and turn towards it with curiosity?

Studies show that reducing reaction to pain, reduces chronic pain. So there is an important distinction between pain and how you are relating to it. Accessible practices, like those on Aura, prepare the mind for helpful wisdom.

In working with the relationship to your experience – that’s where you have the power of choice.

That’s where unwholesome tendencies of the mind that cause so much suffering are transformed, and released.

Something more, something different

Noticing more includes noticing mental sticky spots. Getting real and noticing where you often end up putting your focus is the key to correctly navigating the stickiness of the mind. Thoughts that are noticed have the opportunity to be acknowledged, accepted and even loved. We can find this realness through emulating the simple and ordinary constancy of the nature that we are and that surrounds us.

We can sink down below the surface panic and tap into wholesome feelings of patience, acceptance, kindness, compassion, and equanimity.

Listen to the message

The delicious mystery is that you don’t have to know any of this. Yes, it helps to have some intellectual framework for working with real, unpleasant sensations. AND you can just do the practice – it works. When I had a realization in Vietnam, the benefits of practice had accrued enough to bail me out when I needed some help. Understand that life is pain as well as bliss, and that everything changes. You can truly find relief in the fact that you get to choose where you put your focus and that it’s an experiment.

The more you give yourself the experience of calm attention, the more it comes naturally.

Feel the musing to practice? Aura’s meditations (iOS | Android) are a great way to get regular doses of mindful meditation into your life.


Lauren Ziegler, RYT500, is a Yoga Therapy practitioner with a yoga style that releases tensions throughout the layers of the physical and subtle body. From deep study and experience, she shares with those ready to resolve the root underlying cause of pain and discomfort. Those who want to better recognize and enjoy themselves, their lives, relationships and outlook. Say hello to discover a comprehensive approach for your own practice.


Lagopoulos J, Xu J, Rasmussen I, et al., 2009. Increased theta and alpha EEG activity during meditation. University of Sydney: J Altern Complement Med.

Moseley L, 2004. Evidence for a direct relationship between cognitive and physical change during an education intervention in people with chronic back pain. International Association for the Study of Pain.

Next Article

Give Yourself the Gift of Gratitude

In the hustle and bustle of the holidays this year, take time to give yourself the divine gift of gratitude.

Read More
Give Yourself the Gift of Gratitude

Stay Updated: Get the latest from Aura's Mindfulness Blog

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.