The present moment is truly the only thing we have, yet distractions are rife and we waver moment to moment. Even when we think we are amidst the present moment we are peering over the shoulder of it as Sam Harris states in this awesome video. We can spend a lot of time living in our head, on autopilot, disregarding the true experience.
When our lives run at the pace that they do, it is easy to get caught up in endless thoughts, even associating our sense of identity with them, but are they true? They have no impact on the experience you are having right now. Take a deep breath, sit or stand up tall and pay attention to how you feel, not what you think. Everything seems to have a sense of clarity. These moments, there is no longer separation, there is peace, harmony, tranquility, the joy of being part of the process. In these moments the universe appears fresh; it is seen through innocent eyes. It all begins anew. When we take these breaks from associating with the relentless stream of thought, we soon realize that thoughts are a tool, not the self.
“The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.” ― Robin S. Sharma
FOCUS ON YOUR SENSES
One of the easiest ways to connect with the present is to focus on your senses, what are you experiencing right now? Without labeling things, pay attention to what you feel, smell, hear, see around you at this very moment. It’s refreshing to let the senses take precedent over the barrage of thoughts occupying your brain. Experiencing this for a prolonged time is hard, but take a moment to simply pause and engage with the moment through your senses and letting thoughts subside. We often hear music in the background of our lives, shops, cars, friends houses, but the visual and audible noise of life in the foreground stops us from truly appreciating it. That differs wildly from laying down with some headphones with your eyes closed and hearing all the new detail you never noticed, because you are fully present when experiencing the music. The same way we let experience of the senses go unnoticed, as the static of life and thoughts consistently take the forefront of our mind, masking the beauty of the moment.
BREATH & SENSATION
Focusing on the breath is an invaluable technique to calm ourselves amidst the chaos. But all too often that simple process of breathing is forgotten, resulting in short, shallow breaths (often associated with anxiety) instead of a more natural slow and relieving pattern. Try taking ten slow, steady, easy, deep breaths – in through the nose, out through the mouth next time life starts to bare down on top of you or your mind runs riot. Use this as an opportunity to focus on the moment, the breath and the sensations of the body. You may find it does wonders for bringing you back into the present moment allowing space for tranquility and clarity to return.
PAST & FUTURE THOUGHTS
What could happen? Why did I do that? Does that person think ____? These are not useless questions by any means, but when we dwell upon them extensively, especially in a negative manner, they can make us feel helpless and stuck. When we get vulnerable, ill or close to death, we find that we may have cared about the wrong things. That our intention got bound up in petty concerns when we were healthy and able, we subconsciously think we are going to live forever.
“If you worry about what might be and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.”
Thinking is one of man’s greatest abilities, allowing us to learn, communicate, teach, or dream about future possibilities. The problem is that we spend too much time there, and too little time here. Right now, there is no what if, there is only what is, and no matter how dire ‘what is’ is, it is what it is. If you put half the energy you put into the ‘what if’s’ and ‘why’s’ into the solving ‘what is’, you may lead a more content life.
CHANGING THAT ROUTINE
We are creatures of habit, and with the recent discovery of neuroplasticity allowing us to rewire our brains, we may be more adaptable than we think. Neuroplasticity is both a blessing and a curse. It means that during seemingly complex tasks, once learned, there is plenty of room for the mind to wander, rather than remaining present and focused. Once we build up neural networks, such as driving a car, we end up being able to drive on autopilot, almost forgetting how we got from A to B on the work commute. But on the other hand we are adaptable, we can learn and be rewarded for new challenges physically and mentally. By trying new things or varying how your day to day routine takes place – even in small ways, it will reward you and throw you into the present moment as it’s different. Shaking things up forces you to be present with the direct experience in front of you, rather than aimlessly completing the pre-determined routine.
These things all sound simple in theory, but in practice they can be hard, it is easier to make your life complex in favor of simplicity, I guess simplicity leaves us more open. When we make our lives complex, the responsibility broadens, the days get busier, the weeks speed up, and excuses become frequent as we chase our tails. So, set some reminders on your phone or diary to stop and breathe, take in your surroundings and pay attention to your senses. Meditation is a great way to have a daily practice that incorporates all of this, learn more on how to get started.
Giving way to the present moment is important, as it is all we really have.