Living in the present sounds like such a simple goal – unless you’ve tried it. If you have, you know how difficult fully experiencing NOW can be. In our professional and personal lives, it seems like a luxury to stop and focus exclusively on what we’re doing right here, right now. Too often, we devote too much time and energy to rehashing the past or mentally planning our next 10 moves.
When we engage in activities that allow our brains to slow down, and our hearts and minds to be exactly where we are, we become more generative. We’re better able to solve complex problems. Our sense of burden lightens and we feel more energized, and creative.
Like many of you, I’ve explored many ways to be more present. Here are few that work well for me.
I get my to-do list out of my head and write it down. I use paper. You may prefer to maintain an electronic version. Keeping a written to-do list helps me to quiet my “monkey mind.” It keeps me from misusing my time and energy by revisiting the same task over and over in my mind. Plus, I often find that when I write down my to-do’s, the list is shorter and less daunting than I expected. And, I can let go of worrying about forgetting something important.
I deal with the past, let it go and move on. It’s wise for all of us to not allow the past to haunt us. We tend to rehash exchanges that annoyed us, situations that were disappointing, circumstance about which we feel guilty, sad or shameful. Mentally, we replay them, and even retell the story to others, all the while, reinforcing our self-created purgatory.
Break this negative spiral by asking yourself, “What do I really need in order to feel better? What will help me to let go and move on?” Apologizing? Identifying my takeaways so that I don’t repeat my mistake in the future? Reacting differently if it happens again? Committing to change the subject in my head when the issue comes to mind? Once you glean your lessons learned, devise your plan and move forward.
Living in the present means letting go of the past, especially if it’s painful, and spending your precious time and energy focused on the good that is right in front of you.
I have a trigger word to bring me back to now. Do you? “OM” is a simple mantra that relies solely on sound and vibration. Use “OM” as your trigger to focus on the present moment, or try something as simple as “relax,” “be here now,” or “breathe and focus.” Often times, simple things work the best.
I find additional relief, and strengthen my ability to be right where I am, when I combine my trigger word with lowering my shoulders, taking in a few slow, deep breaths and releasing the tension in my face. This instantly brings me back to the present. What I love most is that I can do this – breathe, sigh, lower my shoulders – anywhere and at any time. It’s absolutely free and readily available.
Meditate by breathing deeply, thinking “relax,” becoming aware of your body and your presence in your surroundings. Whether you’re in a meeting, working at your desk, or preparing a meal, here’s a quick exercise that only takes a minute and makes a big difference.
Close your eyes or soften your focus. Experience the space you occupy right now. How does the air around you smell or feel? Is it warm or cool in your nostrils? Is it fragrant? What sounds do you hear? If it seems quiet, do you hear anything in the distance? Rest your hands on your legs and notice how the contact feels. Are your fingers relaying warmth or coolness onto you legs? Are your muscles relaxed or tense?
Doing this brief centering and focusing activity as I prepare to go to bed brings about better rest. By releasing tension in my face and body, I wake the next morning feeling clear-headed and connected to the present.
Although living in the present creates awareness, stimulates a sense of joy and fosters genuine appreciation for what happening now, it also reduces stress – which, when left unchecked, has been proven to cause life threatening health challenges.
In the workplace, and at home, we are more positive, creative, productive, and satisfied when we eliminate distractions, reduce stress, and focus on our here and now reality.