Coming to the present moment is not a one step thing. There are layers of distinction. Each must be given their full attention for us to move on to the prize of presence. When unconsciousness (getting in lost in thought) grips us, it is a symptom of an unbalanced emotional state underneath which there is often physical discomfort. That physical ailment – no matter how subtle – reminds us of our mortality and death is something that in our human condition we can do nothing about and therefore deny. That denial is being lost in fantasy, thought. And emotions are the stress we feel being pulled in one direction by our thoughts and our being anchored in physical space.
Therefore to come to the present moment and the peace of being one with now; the first step is to become fully aware of our thoughts. Once we have settled into that mode, thoughts will likely diminish if not disappear leaving enough of our attention to cascade unto what we are feeling of emotions at the time. It is crucial here to hold that attention on our emotions, which were the spring of our thoughts: feeding memory channels of related images we have experienced associated with the same emotion(s) and so energising the circuit. Unlike thoughts, the emotion may linger stubbornly. Mindfulness is not being peaceful but rather comfortable with chaos. A stubborn emotion here is a sign of painbody and should allow us to further focus on what type and nature of thoughts try to break the peace: are they angry, fearful? What do they say? This insight will help us identify the painbody quicker next time.
Once the emotion gives way to our sustained awareness, coupled with maintaining that our thoughts don’t scupper the exercise by coming back in again (hold attention on where the thoughts come from as well as where the emotion is) we are left catapulted into the welcoming embrace of the present moment. However like a juggler, maintaining that state is like juggling three balls. We are not only aware of what we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch but we must also be aware that we are aware: as we observe, feel that we are observing. As we see, feel that we are seeing. As we hear, feel that we are hearing. By doing so we don’t get lost in the form of the world and so get into the very mode we just escaped. As it is only a small step from being enthralled completely with the world around us to being enthralled completely with thoughts about the world around us.
With practice, the process itself should become semi-automatic and speedy and hopefully we won’t need it as often because, by God’s grace, we will spend more time in the present and less trying to get back to it.