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Wellness > Mental Health

The Power in Presence: The Work It Takes to Still Your Mind

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Winthrop chapter.

The scenario is after voice class.

We’ve begun work on poems for our finals in a few months.

Today, we were told to recite our poem to a partner while taking a full, deep breath at every comma. Every comma you approach you stop, inhale, stop, exhale, and then go on. My poem has a LOT of commas, so I breathe a LOT.

I’ve read this poem a few times. After all, it is my future final grade, I had to make sure I liked it. But as I slowly breathe at every comma, I find myself feeling like I’m reading the poem for the first time. It had never clicked with me the poem’s full relevance until that very moment. I look down at my paper, and my eyes scan the lines:

When Treatment Isn’t Enough


The September afternoon is bright green & the fires

that so often ravage these parts are damped & gone,
leaving only rolling, undulating hills washed in yellow greens
            & blue greens
& occasionally over the second ridge,
a solitary oak tree, bark chipped from buffalo hides.

I looked out the window of the classroom, and I realize, somehow for the first time, that right now it is a September afternoon. Bright green leaves are hanging in every window of the room. I am surrounded by it. Right now, as I sit here and recite this poem, the September afternoon is bright green. It seems so obvious. It’s the first line. Yet somehow, here I am, a full two weeks into September, only realizing it for the first time.

I walk out of the class into the gardens outside and look around. Well, obviously, I think, I should go and find somewhere to read the poem. This is the perfect time! So I do just that, I stand in the garden, listening to water run nearby. I breathe. I felt like I had stopped moving for the first time in weeks. I hadn’t realized how much I needed to just go stand somewhere by myself. I hadn’t realized how much of my time I’d spent replaying the past and planning the future. I hadn’t realized how much I’d ignored the present.

Since then, I’ve been trying as often as I can to take these moments where I make myself acknowledge the current moment. I’ve been really pinpointing those moments when my brain is telling me nonsense, stopping, and grounding myself. They’re not all the same, and they don’t always come when I try to make them happen, but I’ve noticed that they’ve really helped me in the long run. Simply taking those moments to say, “All I can control is right now. Right now, I’m enjoying a bright green September afternoon,” has become a really powerful tool for me.

The weird thing is, when I do this, I wouldn’t say I’m relaxed. It’s not as if the millions of things I have in my head have poofed out of my mind. It’s more that I have allowed myself to put what I’m experiencing right now first. I’m actually allowing myself to find joy in the present moment. I don’t do that enough. I don’t think a lot of us do that enough! There’s such an emphasis on full relaxation and time management and this or that or etc- we never stop to say, okay I don’t have to relax. I don’t have to forget about what I need to do today. I don’t have to completely let go. I don’t have to do anything. I need to, for however long I can stand it, be right here. Allow myself to take the time to take stock of how I’m feeling right now and what I’m seeing right now. Allow myself to accept that the only thing I can really control at this moment is this moment. Allow myself to simply exist. It’s so necessary to take just that moment to ground yourself. And it’s not easy!

It’s not easy to be present

Trust me, that first moment my body started to realize I was shifting my focus in that garden it tried to DRAG me back. It said HOLD ON- what about that thing that’s due? That thing that happened? That thing that could happen? Aren’t you worried? Why aren’t you working on it? You’re not doing enough, why aren’t you doing enough? That’s just how my brain works. I had to say,

“Well Brain, I don’t know. And I am worried. But right now… I’m standing here and I’m enjoying listening to the water run. Right now. It is a bright green September afternoon. Hills roll around me washed in yellow and blue-greens. Trees line my every path. Right now, I’m just existing and that’s enough for right now. It’s more than enough for right now.”

My brain didn’t listen. It still kept going. Still kept saying things I didn’t want to hear. But I, with all my might, stayed where I was. Being present was something I had to actively try and make happen. Was it hard? Yeah. But was it totally worth it? YEAH. I was almost mad at how worth-it it was. I felt so cheesy. I still feel cheesy writing this! I feel like I’ve spent so much of my life hearing those classic phrases-

“Just take a break.” “Take a breath.” “Don’t worry about it it’s not that big of a deal!” ‘ “You’ll be fine.” “Just be in the moment” “Just don’t worry so much!”

I would always hear those words, smile, nod, and move on knowing that none of that was going to happen. I know a lot of you have probably done the same. We think, “It’s not that easy!” None of that is something you “just” do. You can’t be expected to so easily drop everything going on in your head. I think that’s why I don’t do it as often as I should. I feel so stuck in how my brain works all the time, and I’ve always been under the illusion that “relaxation”, “peace”, and “presence” were things that came to you in soft, easy waves. I always thought that once it came it’d stick around forever and that’s how I’d know it was real. I never saw a reason to try because I assumed it wouldn’t come.

No one ever told me that it all takes work.

No one ever told me that that one small moment in the garden was going to take so long to get to.

No one told me that it wasn’t going to come easy for me.

No one told me that it wasn’t going to appear and stick around by itself.

No one ever told me that it even kind of.. starts to suck when you do it.

Your brain wants to take over so badly that it starts to feel more stressful than helpful. No one ever told me that none of it was easy, but I still need to do it. I have to make a really conscious active choice to be present. I have to make the decision to do it, find a place I can do it in, actively breathe, actively tell my brain what we were doing- it’s a whole process.

It takes work. I know it does. It takes so much work, but it’s necessary work. You need to identify when you’ve hit that moment where your mind is a mess of paper and ink. You have to make yourself stop. You have to walk outside and see that it’s a bright green September afternoon. It’s not going to change everything. It’s not going to rewire the way your brain works. It’s not going to be easy. But for one moment, you have to make yourself remember what it’s like to stop moving. I know it sounds ridiculous but it kind of works. It really does.

I don’t really expect to change anyone’s life forever with this article. I know that everyone’s brain is different. But I hope, that in sharing my ramblings on that moment in the garden- I can provide just a few things to take with you.

Despite what so many people try to say, being “in the moment” isn’t easy.

Finding presence- allowing yourself to put what’s right in front of you first- is a repetitive, active process.

There will be times when you try to do it and it doesn’t happen.

There will be times when you question if it helped you at all.

There will absolutely be times when you think it’s stupid.

(I’ve definitely been there a few times already)

But it’s worth it in the end.

Slowly, you’ll start to see how much those tiny moments of relief help you.

You start to see how it can even help you in little ways.

I’m not going to do the cliche thing now and challenge you to be present right NOW. Right now might not be the time for you. Right now you might not feel ready. Right now you might be thinking I’m not making any sense at all.

I just hope that that one day soon you’ll come upon a seemingly repeated afternoon, look around, and over all the noise of your brain you’ll push your way to the front of your mind.

And I hope that standing there, at the front of everything that seems to be trying to pull you back down, you’ll see what a bright green afternoon it is. Or bright yellow. Or bright blue. Or actually incredibly rainy and smelling like dew-covered grass. Whatever it is you see!

I just hope you truly feel and see it happening in front of you.

I hope that it’s just the beginning of many more moments just like that.

I hope so.

Jasmine Diaz

Winthrop '25

Hi! I'm Jasmine and I'm so excited you're here! I'm so passionate about writing, theatre, bettering myself and learning about the world around me. I hope anything I write inspires you, teaches you something, or just gives you a bit of joy in your day.