All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence. — Eckhart Tolle
Are you often caught up in your thoughts? For example, do you normally think about what will come next, rushing from one activity to the other? Or do you often multitask? In our society it is very common to never be fully present in the moment.
The present moment, at best, is a means to an end, a stepping stone to the future, because the future promises fulfillment, the future promises salvation in one form or another. The only problem is the future never comes. — Eckhart Tolle
We often talk about the future, but have you ever asked yourself what it really is? It is just a mere mental concept, nothing that we can ever directly experience. In fact, every time the future comes it is always the present moment.
Same is true for the past. Another mental concept. But how often are we so obsessed with something that has happened in the past that we carry it with us wherever we go? For example, this happens every time someone behaved in a way we thought they should not. How much time do we waste building a narrative around it?
Why is it so important to be present in the moment?
Life is always now. Whatever happens, whatever you experience, feel, think, do – it’s always now. It’s all there is. — Eckhart Tolle
When we are caught up in our thoughts we forget about the most important thing… to live fully this life that we are given.
When you are out of alignment with what is, you are out of alignment with life. You are struggling to reach a point in the future where there is greater security, aliveness, abundance, love, joy … unaware that those things make up the essence of who you are already. All that is required of you to have access to that essence is to make the present moment into your friend. — Eckhart Tolle
Instead of spending our lives running away from the present moment, how can we build a healthier relationship with what is now and live more authentically? In the following you can find some suggestions that you can easily integrate into your daily life 🙂
Bring Your Attention Back to The Body
The easiest way to be more present in the moment is to use your senses. The well known author Eckart Tolle suggests to ask yourself often the question Am I still breathing? When you do so your attention moves immediately from the mind to the body. In fact, the only way to check if you are still breathing is to feel the air going in and out of your body 🙂
Another suggestion is to feel what he refers to as inner body. To better understand what it is, hold your hands up in the air and do not move them. Now close your eyes. How do you know that your hands are there? The sensations you feel are the inner body 🙂 If you pay attention you will notice that you can feel it throughout your entire body 🙂
Alternatively, you can pick an activity that you do daily. For example washing your teeth, having a shower or washing the dishes. Every time you do it, instead of thinking about something else, dedicate 5 minutes to be fully present there. Feel the contact of the water on your skin, hear the sounds, perceive your hands, look at the colors, smell the perfume of the soap, and so on.
Ask Yourself often Who Is Having This Experience?
Your thoughts have a very strong momentum that can easily draw your attention into them. If you are not careful enough you can get completely lost in the mental chatter and identify with it. When you ask yourself Who is having this experience? or even Who is observing? you immediately create some space between you and your thoughts, because you implicitly recognize that you are not them, but the silent observer that is behind. If you are interested, you can find more details in Mindfulness Meditation: Why You Should Seriously Consider Giving It a Try.
As we rush from one thing to the next, our default mode is very often autopilot. This is why it is so important to break periodically our train of thoughts. A very simple way consists in setting an alarm every hour to remind yourself to be present. For example you can try pausing 10 seconds to take one conscious breath. Feel the air going in and out.
You can also pause briefly every time you are about to say or do something. This way it will be very unlikely for you to react inappropriately to a provoking situation 🙂
Be Present When You Must Wait
What do you normally do when you are in a queue, in the elevator, waiting for the streetlight to turn green or in a traffic jam? Instead of getting nervous and irritated, why don’t you use these moments to be more present? For example you can feel your breath or the sensations in your hands 🙂
Regularly Observe Your Thoughts
Our mind is like a pond with muddy water. The more we stir it, the less we can see. Instead, if we just wait patiently, the mud will eventually settle and the water will become clear. Analogously, the only way to calm the mind is to observe quietly its thoughts, without getting involved in them. A very effective way to train in this activity is through establishing a daily meditative practice. It consists in sitting silently for few minutes, observing the thoughts arising and going. Every time one gets lost in the narrative of the mind, they gently bring back the attention to an anchor, namely the breath, a mantra or body sensations. If you would like to try it out, in How To Get Started with Mindfulness Meditation: Some Ideas to Help You Establish Your Own Practice you can find more details on how to get started 🙂
You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you. — Dan Millman
When our mind is particularly active it can be very challenging to observe it, without getting caught up in its chatter. How can we calm it down? A trick suggested by Eckart Tolle consists in accepting this state and saying to yourself I wonder what my next thought is going to be. Then remain alert, waiting for the thought to arise. Since when we are really vigilant, we are also completely present, no thought will be arising 😉
Spend Time in Nature
We are constantly bombarded with a lot of information and noise, whether we are aware of it or not. Spending time in nature helps us to calm down and recharge our energy. It is important to be fully present there. For example recognize the sounds, the smells and the colors, feel the body sensation as you walk slowly and observe quietly what is around you, without naming everything you see 🙂
Periodically Disconnect From Your Devices
Nowadays it is required from us to constantly be available. All the messages, email and phone calls keep our minds very active. Moreover, the television very often bombards us with a lot of negative information, that causes many fearful thoughts to arise. To avoid being completely sucked in by them, it is important to find some time to disconnect from all these devices and just relax. When the mind is calmer, it is much easier to be present 🙂
For example you can switch them off one hour before going to bed, this will also improve the quality of your sleep. Moreover, it might be a good idea also to wait a bit before switching them on in the morning, so that you are not immediately bombarded with a lot of information as soon as you wake up 🙂
Very often when someone is talking, instead of really listening to them we already think about what to say next. Have you ever experienced it? It happens pretty often. Why don’t you try next time to be fully there for them? This is how true connections can be built 🙂
What ideas resonated with you the most? Why don’t you try to integrate them into your daily routine to be a little bit more present in your life? 🙂
If you want to learn more about the importance of living fully in the present moment, a wonderful book is The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, authored by Eckart Tolle.
If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present. ― Lao Tzu
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