‘Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, and today is a gift. That’s why it is called the PRESENT’ ~Bill Keane
You know the pattern right, either worrying about the future or replaying the past over and over like a broken record? We spend so much time beating ourselves up about our past actions or projecting into the future that we very rarely notice what is going on right now. And now. And now.
Taking a few moments to get truly present can have an profound effect of how we think, feel and act. Getting present slows us down, gives space to acknowledge what is really going on in this moment and relaxes us. Instead of worrying about that meeting, difficult conversation or what that person did to you 5 years ago just notice if there is anything in this present moment that you can’t deal with. Not bills that need paying or relationships that need fixing, right now in this very moment are you OK?
Ways to Practice Getting Present:
Stop: Take a few moments to stop, even if it is only for 30 seconds and ground yourself. Look at something beautiful, the clouds, a picture, your delicious lunch and take a minute to appreciate it. It can be in the shower, on the way to work, at the dinner table. Stop multitasking; be present to what you are doing and focus on one thing at once. Multitasking is ineffective and decreases concentration.
Get off your phone: According to research the average person looks at their phone 89 times a day!! Get off your phone and be with your emotions, or the person next to you or just in silence with yourself. Connect to yourself or someone else in person, not through a screen.
Let your emotions have their full experience: A lot of us are uncomfortable showing our emotions, good or bad. Our feelings are our bodies wisdom and our bodies are always present. So fully experience your emotions then they will pass. It is so easy to get stuck in a loop of old story telling. From a chemical perspective, our brain doesn’t know the difference between reality and story so when you replay old experiences, your brain actually relives the experience as if it were happening. If you are fighting a feeling it will keep coming back. Fighting isn’t the key here- surrender is. I recently saw a talk by a spiritual teacher called Nithya Shanti and he said ‘fully feeling what I am feeling, is very healing.’ I think that’s pretty spot on!
Stand on one leg: Nothing will make you get in the present moment like concentrating on standing on one leg. This is balance and presence in one action! Taking this a little further, stretching, yoga or exercise will get you present and in your body instantly.
Focus on your Breath: Take 10 big deep breaths and just follow your breath; inhale… exhale… pause…. Repeat. Our breath is always with us and always in the present. It also mirrors our emotional stat, if you are stressed you will notice it is more shallow and if you are relaxed it is deeper. Start to get to know what your breath is telling you about your emotional state. Our mind can make up stories but our breath will always show the truth. Finally don’t judge it, just be curious about what is making you feel the way you do.
Make eye contact: When you are talking to someone slow down and look at them, from the person who lets your out at a junction or on the tube, a colleague, the barista, the barman, the waitress and your loved ones. Take your time to show your respect to the people you are in contact with. Maybe even give them a smile!
Meditate: My biggest advice with meditation is keep it simple and don’t make up how it should be. The essence of meditation is to realise awareness. There are many different ways to practice meditation, so keep it playful and find which way suits you best. If you are new to mediation sit on a chair or on the floor with a straight back for 5- 10 minutes and follow your breath. Quieten your mind and every time you notice you are lost in thought, turn your attention back to your breath. The more we can quieten our mind when we are meditating the more we will be able to do it when we are under press and therefore react less. Those who say they don’t have 5 minutes a day to sit in quiet, are the ones who need it the most!
Gratitude: Spend a few moments every day to reflect on what you are grateful for. For more information on this please see my gratitude blog.
Discipline: Everything at its core is energy and when we mentally focus on the path of least resistance this can lead to poor choices i.e. poor food choices, lethargy, addiction and even infidelity. Instead of viewing discipline as something difficult or restrictive I will offer you a new perspective that discipline is the foundations of freedom. Through having discipline in our daily practices we focus our energy towards higher aspirations. We become more present, quieten the voice of the inner critic, stop replaying old stories, create new habits and find peace of mind and balance.
Don’t try to do all of this just choose a couple that stand out to you, and make a commitment to practice for the next two week, until The Art of Balance- Part 3!