Sometimes it takes a moment of drama, a flash of danger or a pop of unexpected joy, to bring us sharply into the present moment. That moment when time stands still and the only sound is the thump, thump, thump of your racing heart.
It’s moments like these that nothing else matters - not what lies behind or in front. Your attention is completely and absolutely focused on the here and now. Why is it that it seems to sometimes take an “event” to bring our focus squarely into the present?
I am the queen of thinking ahead. My mind is always dancing to what I am doing next and when. This was born a few years ago out of a well-intentioned desire to change my life, and rather than dwelling on less than positive situations, I would imagine the things that I could do to alter my course. While that was all fine and dandy, one end result was that I fully adopted this habit and very quickly was completely out of sync with what was happening right in front of me.
Flash forward a few years when this startling realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I was in the middle of yoga teacher training and I started weeping. I wasn’t there. I didn’t know how long I had been gone and I was astounded by the fact that I didn’t know how to be present.
I know that being fully present is a challenge. This unique challenge requires constant work (at least for me). I can honestly say that I have gotten better at being present but still slip up from time and time and return to my old ways of functioning. When I notice my mind racing, I like to dig into my mindful bag of tricks for a little help. The following are a few of the techniques that I use to stay present.
1) Take A Deep Breath
When I notice that my mind is flying a million miles an hour, I hit pause and simply breathe. This is even more effective if I can close my eyes (thus eliminating any visual distractions) and bring myself into the here and now.
2) Provide Visual Reminders
I wear a stack of bracelets that were given to me by my grandmother as a daily reminder of many things. Having this tangible visual reminds me constantly that the only thing that matters is what is happening in the present. If you think about it, it is the only thing that we have. (If this doesn’t work, perhaps consider tattooing a mantra on your wrist. You are sure to look at it often!)
3) Offer Up A Little Gratitude
Remember to say thanks for your reality. Even if things are not exactly as you would like, say thank you. If things are 100% perfect, say thank you. As Buddha said, “ Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.”
4) Remind Yourself
I set little reminders on my phone to go off randomly with messages such as “Be here now” and “So Hum” (Sanskrit mantra meaning "I am that"). These messages are just for me and work remarkably well.
5) Find The Beauty
I recently attended a workshop with the fabulous Jennifer Pastiloff and one of the things that we did was make a list of five beautiful things. Five things that at that very moment struck us as being beautiful. I loved this. She encouraged us to find spontaneous beauty. Beauty in the ordinary and beauty in unexpected ways. Celebrating the little beauties of everyday life is an excellent way to anchor yourself in the present moment.
All of that said, take it easy on yourself. When you find that you are thinking ahead, gently remind yourself of the importance of the present. A little thinking ahead, visualizing and planning is wonderful. Getting lost in your thoughts and detached from reality, not so good.
Is it easy to stay fully present? Absolutely not. Is it good to day dream about future adventures? Of course! However, the trick is to find that critical balance - looking to the future while keeping your own two feet planted in the present. This is certainly not as easy thing to do, but I promise you, the rewards will be great.