Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I have done tremendous amounts of listening, observing, paying attention, and then done lots of thinking about why some people are so unhappy with their everyday lives. One of the factors holding people back from their own happiness is their inability to be present and live in the moment. One of things I have learned is that being present in the moment is a skill that requires you pay attention to details, say the things you need to say and express love to the full extent of your ability — right here, in this moment. The reality was that I was one of those people who was incredibly disconnected to the present, a moment that was entirely void of problems and was actually filled with love and comfort. By no accident, I chose a moment to pick up Soul Centered by Sarah McLean this morning and came across this quote:
“When you’re feeling anxious or fearful, it’s a clue that your focus is likely in the future; when you’re feeling grief or depression, your attention is probably on the past. If you’re feeling angry or critical, your focus is outside of yourself; and if you’re feeling ashamed or embarrassed, you are probably tuned in to an unclear or distorted image of yourself.”
I know I spend a great deal of time and energy thinking about what the future holds and what I can do now to make it better. Any attempt to change something that is uncertain and always changing is not only futile but also exhausting. It’s like using a flashlight to look at your destination when everything else around you is pitch-black. If you aren’t concentrating on each individual step, you likely will trip and fall before you even get close to the destination you shine your light on. As I stepped out of my analytical mind, I had a brief moment of clarity. All I need to do is handle this moment right now, and nothing else momentarily matters. The past and future are not my current reality, therefore they should have no bearing on the moment I am experiencing right now. I have never reached a point in my life and looked back and said, “Good thing I did all that worrying, that’s what got me to this point.” In fact, any memory of the worrying falls into the background because it doesn’t matter. It had no bearing on what actually happened. It never does. My present is perfect because it is simply what is — without the judgment of past events or anticipation of future events. Here are a few things I am practicing in order to bring my attention to the beauty of NOW:
Breathing — Concentrating on breathing brings awareness back to the body, something we fail to notice when we are thinking about everything else except the present moment.
Observing my thoughts — If you observe your thoughts, you have already removed yourself from the cycle of becoming your thoughts, something that keeps you out of the present moment. It also allows you to see patterns and avoid being overcome by the knee-jerk emotions that many thoughts cause.
Noticing signs in my body — If I’m experiencing anxiety brought on by future thinking, I immediately feel a heaviness in my chest or a churning in my stomach. Sometimes I don’t even realize what I’m thinking about until my body reacts in this way. Now I can recognize the symptoms and intentionally redirect my thoughts to the present moment. Making present moment awareness my task Instead of getting lost in my endless to-do list for work, I wake up and give myself one task for the day — extending the amount of time I am able to stay in the present moment. If I accomplish nothing else during the day, the peace of mind that comes from doing this successfully makes it worth it. In this moment, sitting at my computer, writing on a topic I am passionate about, everything is perfectly in order. The past is over and the future hasn’t happened yet. So right now, there is nothing to worry about. What do you do to stay present in the moment?