Home » Blogs » Mentoring and Recovery » Presence/Engagement Versus Disengagement

Presence/Engagement Versus Disengagement

Putting some context around the mind's wanderings can make the difference between staying present and becoming disengaged at precisely the wrong moment.

In “15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently,” #13 addresses the slippery slope between staying present in the moment enough to be focused and effective in our work and life there, and still allowing our mind and heart and spirit to range on ahead to dream up new wonders we can feel excited and inspired by.

In exploring the delicate balance between present and future, the article’s authoress shares a complex-sounding (albeit wise) quote by Eckhart Tolle: “When you are present, you can allow the mind to be as it is without getting entangled in it. The mind in itself is a wonderful tool. Dysfunction sets in when you seek yourself in it and mistake it for who you are.”

People like Eckhart Tolle can say things like this without getting confused by them because they have unwrapped their own minds, studied them, made friends with them, put boundaries around them, wrapped them back up, and put them back in their place.

The rest of us are most likely left scratching our heads….”the mind in itself is a wonderful TOOL?”

I will never forget the first moment I was confronted with the fact that I AM NOT MY MIND. I was like – huh? In the same way, I remember the first time I told one of my mentees that she is not her mind. I’m not sure she has figured that one out yet, actually.

Yet staying present for and engaged in our present moments – the step by step, minute by minute living of our life right as it unfolds within and around us – is at its core a mental exercise. When “we” wander off, it is our mind that wanders. Like hanging out with the wrong crowd, if we are susceptible to mental peer pressure, we are often tempted to follow it, especially if its wanderings are promising some level of excitement or newness or intrigue that life-now simply isn’t dishing up on a regular enough basis.

So if, for instance, when your attention wanders in a business meeting, while trying to take notes in class, as you are making dinner, or while you are with your partner or children; it is your own mind and not you, yourself, that is causing it.

But it is your fault if you let your mind get away with it.

The disengagement part occurs when we let our minds lure us away. In this, I suppose Eckhart Tolle’s quote could be rephrased to read, “There is a time to stay present and a time to dream.” There is always – always – time for both. Human beings need to stay present sometimes (our ancient fight-or-flight limbic brain will always ensure this occurs to prevent something fanged and hungry from making off with us for its delicious lunch) and we also need to dream sometimes.

The trick is to figure out when to do which, and which to do when.

Today’s Takeaway: Do you sometimes (or often) find yourself becoming disengaged at exactly the wrong moment – such as right when your boss or professor is asking you a direct question, or as you are working out who takes whom to school on which days? If so, it is likely your own mind is the culprit. Perhaps consider Eckhart Tolle’s statement in light of the amount of effort you have expended to date to control your mind, and ponder if this needs some adjustment so that you can have a more satisfying and productive time whether you choose to stay focused in the moment or take a fun quick getaway trip into the realm of your own dreams.


Presence/Engagement Versus Disengagement

Shannon Cutts

Freelance writer. Author. Cockatiel, redfoot tortoise & box turtle mama.

One comment: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2012). Presence/Engagement Versus Disengagement. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Aug 2012
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.