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Being Present

Ed Halliwell
Mindfulness Teacher and Author of Into The Heart of Mindfulness

Learning outcomes

  • How becoming aware of our senses and bodies can offer the possibility of meeting our immediate experience more skillfully

Executive Bio

Ed Halliwell

Mindfulness Teacher and Author of Into The Heart of Mindfulness

Ed is a UK-based mindfulness teacher. He has written three books: Into The Heart of Mindfulness, Mindfulness: How To Live Well By Paying Attention (published in a new edition as Mindfulness Made Easy) and (as co-author) The Mindful Manifesto. He is an associate of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre and Sussex Mindfulness Centre, and regularly speaks on mindfulness-related topics, in the media and at conferences, festivals and other events. He leads public mindfulness courses, workshops and retreats in London, Surrey and Sussex, and has introduced and taught mindfulness in workplaces such as Accenture, UNICEF UK, Imperial College Business School, and the Houses of Parliament. Read more

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Interview Transcript

What does it mean to be fully present?

There’s a line, in one of James Joyce’s books, in Dubliners, and he speaks about a character called Mr Duffy, and he says, “Mr Duffy lived a few feet from his body,” which is a lovely, succinct description of how many of us live, much of the time, when we are on automatic. We don’t tend to inhabit our bodies. Of course, we are inhabiting our bodies; we carry them around all the time and they are us. But the way that we are trained and the way that we are evolved, is for our attention to move up into thinking. Much of our education system is based on this; learn to be a thinker.

When I went to university, I remember clearly, my director of studies told us that the process we were about to undergo was going to turn us into intellectuals and, in some sense, I’ve been trying to undo that process, ever since. That’s not to say that intellect is problematic, but it does become problematic when it’s automatic. Because, actually, that’s not real intelligence; that’s just following the dictates of our mind, as they have been trained and we’re not fully present when that is happening. We’re living more like robots, if we’re just following the tyranny of our thoughts, as I’ve heard the phrase used. We’re just going with whatever our thoughts tell us, which may not actually be the truth of things.

It may be part of the truth of things, but there’s a whole other dimension to our lived experience, which happens not up here, but down here, in our bodies. Those are the realms of body sensation, actually feeling of what’s going on, moment by moment. It’s the realm of emotion and, as it turns out, and this is now understood more clearly, I believe, at least in some fields that, actually, what happens in our bodies, really affects what’s going on up here (in our minds).

So if we can become present, not just to whats going on in our minds (and actually really be present to what is going on in our minds, rather than being completely identified with what is going on in our minds. To actually be aware of our thoughts instead of just in our thinking) And if we can be present to this domain of being, if I may call it that, this domain of embodied experience, then we’ve got more of the picture. There’s also environment, of course, what’s going on around us, which also affects what’s happening within us.

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