When I think back to the ups and downs of the Christmas season, I realise that most of the time I was not really present in the moment. My mind was wandering, jumping to conclusions, worrying about consequences, wrapped up in beliefs. I am sure we have all done this: speaking to a friend, asking them how they are and while they were telling us, already thinking of the next thing to say, not really listening to their answer.
The mind can be so full OF agendas, thinking ahead to the future or mulling over the past, that there is very little inclination to be in the present moment.
Being present, to many of us, does not come naturally but, like all negative habits we seem to acquire so easily, this positive habit can be learned.
Why would you want to learn it?
Perhaps you are tired of worrying (being in the future); perhaps you are caught in the downward spiral of negative events that happened in your life (being in the past) and want to get out of this?
When we take attention away from ‘thinking’ it brings us more into the present.
How can we stop thinking when we know that thoughts are happening automatically all the time; when we get triggered and don’t even notice it; when we react to somebody hurling abuse at us; or when we break into tears when we see animals or children/people suffer on the television?
Becoming aware of what is happening, catching ourselves when we are reacting and taking a step back from our initial emotions could be a good first step to bring ourselves into the present moment.
“But”, I hear you say “why would I want to be there?”
Because your power lies in this moment. From here we can clarify, focus, act and change some of what we do not like. Of course, we know, we cannot change other people, but we can change our attitude towards them and in time, our behaviour to achieve more positive outcomes.
“So, how do I do that?” might be the next question.
What I do is, start small. I try to become aware of moments of stress and frustration or other negative states of being by acknowledging where I am and making a conscious choice of not following my thought processes along, but stopping there.
To interrupt the downward spiral, I do this simple breathing exercise:
Bring your attention to your breath. Feel it going into your nostrils and all the way down, filling your lungs. Feel your chest expand. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. Repeat as often as you like or for as long as your time allows.
Bringing your attention to your body, will ground you in the present.
There are many other breathing and relaxation exercises you can explore and adopt, but to begin with keep it simple as that means you have a greater chance of carrying on. The more you practice, the more natural it will become. A new habit is formed through about 30 days of consistent practice.
So, by the end of the month you may feel more present, powerful and happy than you have for a while.
Let’s start the year by bringing more presence into our lives.
My articles are not meant to be lectures or advice. My words are simply musings, perhaps helpful thoughts unsupported by science though they may contain some scientific facts. They come from my life experiences and make sense to me, and I hope they may make some sense to you too. Behind me lie years of experimenting, constantly trying to improve myself and my life. Before me lie (hopefully) some more years of learning and ‘getting it right’. So you see, I am no expert. I am merely giving an account of some of the ways that may make this life a little bit happier and comfortable for whoever can be reached in this way. If I can make just the smallest positive difference in one person’s life, I have reached my goal.