Forever is composed of nows.-Emily Dickinson
Life is only available in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live your life deeply.-Thich Nhat Hanh
There are some beautiful ways to describe living in the moment. Capturing this essence, the desire to express “now”, the present and the moment in language is an art-form in itself and one which I could not do justice to.
What I can explore is the drive behind expressing this, the wider understanding of what living in the present means and the changes we can all make to work towards a greater engagement of ourselves with the present moment and a deeper awareness of how this can lead to a richer and more fulfilling life.
In the modern world we are drowning in distraction. mobile phones, computers, TV screens, adverts, traffic, lights, noise pollutions and people all compete for our attention. General media is now designed to grab your focus with little care for a deep or meaningful engagement. Headlines scream unfolding tragedies on a daily basis and modern news agencies broadcast project fear in an interrupted stream. Whilst our social media accounts relay in equal intensity the minute detail of other people’s daily lives.
In this overwhelming mish-mash it can seem difficult to make sense of our priorities. But the key is not to shut ourselves from the world, it is to shape our perspective and our understanding of the world in a way that is healthy, balanced and productive.
One of the first, and most simplest of things we can do to bring focus back into our bodies is to breath.
If this sounds like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs than perhaps it is. Of course we need to breath! It is the foundation of life and the first action we ever take and paying conscious attention to our breathing can reap dividends. But sometimes paying attention and focus to the most obvious actions in life and bring the most benefit. Try it now.
Breath in for a count of 4 seconds. Hold for a count of 2. Breath out for a count of 4.
Do this 3 times.
Feeling more relaxed? Whenever you feel anxious… Just breath
Breathing is a natural reflex, paying attention to it can improve that reflex, which, as with any muscle, may have become weaker over time. As children we are also naturally attuned to experience the present. We experience the world around us and we revel in it. But this condition isn’t exclusively available to kids, unlike most adults they haven’t yet learnt to worry to the point of anxiety about the future or to wallow in regret the past. Taking these thoughts into account, remember:
Your thoughts do not define you.
It’s really important to understand that the way we actually experience life only exists in the now. Of course the future will come and the past will go, but we will only ever experience those concepts when they arrive in the present. So whilst our thoughts about the future are taking over, or are regrets about the past are dominating us, we are unable to fully experience the present, to be fully alive.
*Note that experiencing the moment is a different concept and meaning to living in the moment. We should experience life in the moment and we should freely inhabit that presence and increase our awareness of it but we should not abandon our roles and responsibilities at the lure of this attractive concept. We can still shape our future based on the decisions we make in the “now” and seeking a more in-depth experience of the present should not negate those responsibilities.
If you only live in the moment you may be at the whim of rash, impulsive decisions. Actions that temporarily make you feel good but which, over the long term, do not lead to healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.
Experiencing the moment, through meditation and mindfulness is essential, but don’t forget to plan for the future and to pay respect to the past.
So what are the steps you can take today to bring your experience of life back to the present?
It’s that simple. Take deep, breaths through-out your day and whenever you are feeling anxious, tight or depressed take 3 deep breathes using the count structure above. It will make you feel instantly better I promise you.
Meditation is the key focus of this blog and one of the main activities I can recommend that will change your life. Meditation can ground you, make you calmer, more productive.
Psychology Today reported that meditation can result in at least 20 scientific benefits, including positive changes to your health, happiness and social life. They have provided links to over 34 peer-reviewed scientific studies and articles documenting these changes. Check it out here.
The meditation site Live and Dare has authored an much more in-depth article high-lighting the benefits that mediation can have on your brain and mood, your mind and performance, your body and health your relationship and even your kids.
There are over 3000 published studies examining, studying, exploring and referencing the benefits of meditation – these articles reference just a handful of them, but should provide a useful starting point should you wish to explore more.
Start exercising (or improve your programme)
Exercising is unquestionably one of the other main activities that everyone should undertake in order to improve their lives. It doesn’t matter what physical condition you are in, it doesn’t matter if your 100 years old. There is a type of exercise for everyone.
The type of sport or exercise you choose is completely up to you. But I personally recommend YOGA. There is a type of Yoga for everyone from gentle classes generally referred to as Hatha Yoga to much more vigorous classes such as Vinyasa or Ashtanga. Please do not be put off my the array of Yoga classes, the Sanskrit terms (names of poses) or the routines.
All Yoga has a focus on movement, flexibility, breathing and well-being and, with encouraging teachers and a supportive environment, it will take you a very short time to become acquainted. If your interested you can start my reading our Essential Guide to Styles of Yoga.
Yoga goes hand in hand with meditation because it includes elements of mindfulness and awareness within its classes. It encourages a greater insight of your body and a helps you to better understand your internal breath and movement in relation to the external world. A Yoga Teacher once described in my class how “our breath is our contract with the external world” – a beautiful idea thats stuck with me since.
Be. Here. Now.
Be present. Enjoy your experience. If you are at the cinema or theatre envelop yourself within the story. If your socialising with friends be with them, put your phone away. Don’t worry about your work assignment tomorrow or those household chores that need completing. If you are in a social situation appreciate your friends. Enjoy their company. If you are being active, hiking or walking in the great outdoors, pay attention to your surroundings. Feel the wind or sunshine on your face. Listen to the birds, or the far away noises of nature, a river or the sea. If your in a city get to its outside spaces. Enjoy the space and the freedom within it. You don’t need to talk all the time. Feel comfortable with silence (both with, and without other people) and embrace it.
Be an active listener.
This is an extension of the above point but far from being a passive role, being an active listener takes real work and it can be actually very hard to do.
Everyone knows what it’s like when we are trying to make a point or tell a story and that one person is just itching to interrupt, and they/we often do, to talk about the time they experienced something similar to the point your making but actually it’s not quite the same and instead they just end up interrupting you to bring the focus back to them. Don’t be that person.
Although this can be endearing in some respects, because the individual who interrupts you is displaying their enthusiasm for your topic of conversation, really its counter-productive to being an active listener.
Also impatiently waiting for the other person to finish simply so you can speak your mind is not being an active listener.
And finally asking someone a question and then answering for them before they have had a chance to speak is not active listening. This is used when we don’t really want to hear the other persons opinion because we disagree with them. But even if you disagree with someone if you are in conversation with them you should afford them the respect of your attention.
Active listening is hard but it’s important to cultivate. If your listening to people, your communication with them will be better and your friendships and relationships will improve.
Do not worry what other people think of you. (It’s mostly in your head!)
When you’re in the gym and you feel like a slob, either with what your wearing or because everyone else is so much fitter than you, it can lead to really negative emotions. Try to banish those thoughts. Essentially you’re just massaging your negative ego. And believe it or not other people really don’t pay that much attention. After all, can you remember anything, anyone (excusing those big attention seekers) ever wore in a gym?
Everyone started somewhere so the chances are that super fit guy or girl was once not so fit. This principle is the same in all contexts, whether you are doing your first big presentation at work or being thrust into the spotlight in something like a dance competition. Do not worry what other people think of you – your focus on what the goal in hand is and take the right actions to achieve it. In the gym your there to get fit, so focus on that. Likewise a presentation requires you to impart relevant knowledge and facts to your audience and even in a dance competition you will be required to show correct form, flair and execution.
People will respect your intention. If your unfit and have started an exercise programme people will respect your efforts. They will appreciate that you are trying to improve yourself because that’s the very same motivation they use for themselves.
Worry and stress less.
Worry is defined as the state of being anxious and troubled over actual or potential problems, but worrying will do very little to help to alleviate those problems. Think about it. Worry does not resolve issues, its the taking action that can change things.
If you encounter a negative life changing experience it is inevitable that you will feel worry and concern. But you must not allow this to become your modus operandi or state of being. Utilise your concern to motivate you into practical actions that can change things, but try not to dwell in a state of worry.
Worry achieves nothing except to produce anxiety within your body which is stress producing and stress has been linked to a whole host of illnesses. Science Daily has reported that “stress wreaks havoc on the mind and body where, psychological stress is associated with greater risk for depression, heart disease and infectious diseases.”
So over a longer term, worrying is a downward cycle.
Just get on with it. Just do it!
Savour your life.
Savouring isn’t just something that can be applied to food, though savouring food is a good place to start. We can savour life through all our senses.
Taste the sweetness of the crisp morning air. Relish the taste of food. We have about 10,000 taste buds so let them do their work. Enjoy the hot (or cold!) water on your skin in your morning shower and the mid-afternoon sunshine on your face. Appreciate the little things.
When you savour something you notice it more, you appreciate it via your sense and pay close attention. You are not in a hurry but simply enjoying the present moment. It can take a while to get back into the habit, but once you master it you will in find that you can learn to savour many things through-out your day.
Stop whinging. Seriously.
When you hear yourself complaining stop it. If you are reading this post you’ve got internet access, I hope that you get to eat every day and by reading this blog your demonstrating an interest in self-improvement, to make your life better and to better appreciate your life. And in financial terms, Investopedia has highlighted that if you earn 28k or more per year believe it or not you’re in the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the world. The world.
Whingeing is a form of self-indulgent worry that massages the ego and changes our prespective on the world to make us feel less engaged with the present moment and less inclined to feel joy in the present moment.
Oh, and if your friends complain tell them to stop too.
If someone or something has bothered you, deal with it.
Take action to address it, do something to resolve it or forget about it, but willingly forget and only if you are capable of doing so. Try not to hold onto that as again, this is just another form of worrying about the future thus taking us away from the present.
Be aware of your surroundings.
Explore new places and notice what is new about them. Anchor yourself in your surroundings or notice new things about your familiar surroundings. Have you ever been on a route that you’ve walked a thousand times before, but because your coming at it from a different angle or direction or even if the weather is different it looks entirely different?
Our world is in a constant state of flux. And our internal perspective is constantly shifting. Every day is different, avoid slipping into autopilot and see those changes, notice those differences and observe the beauty of our constantly changing world.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.Ferriss Bueller
Get decent sleep.
Adopting proper sleep hygiene is a process of discipline but its so simple and really just common sense.
The NHIBI has examined some of the benefits of sleep reporting that sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
Some of the key things to ensure good sleep habits are to:
-Avoid having anything with a screen in your bedroom (including your phone).
-Go to bed before 11pm and stick to a sleep schedule
-Don’t watch TV before bed.
-Create a bedtime ritual
-Exercise during the day and Limit daytime naps
Enjoy. Live. Love.