Before I tell you what helps me stay present in the moment/now, let’s first understand what it is to be present and why it is important.
There’s a saying,
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.Lao Tzu
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
I often find myself dwelling on what I could’ve / should’ve done or wondering of ways to be / act in the future, or just endlessly playing hypothetical scenarios / “what ifs” in my head.
The range of emotions I feel during this time vary from feeling sad, regretful, depressed, angry, fearful, anxious, to feeling happy, hopeful, excited, ecstatic. It depends on what I’m thinking about at the time.
I’m able to feel all of that while sitting/standing in one place. All these emotions are caused due to what’s going on in my head. None of that is happening in real life at that moment per se, it’s all happening in me, in my mind, and I’m left feeling what I’m feeling at that moment.
To be present in the moment, in the now, is — to be outside one’s head.
I wonder how often we are really present in the now; like this very moment, as you’re reading these words. You are present in this moment. Right now there is not much happening except for you reading this and probably some ambient noise in the background. Thats it!
Except for the present moment, everything else exists in our minds. Past and Future are concepts which we live in our minds, all the time!
How many times do you find yourself thinking of and wanting to be at home or with friends when you are at work? — That is a classic example of you not being present in the moment and living in your head.
The only time we have, which is real and outside our head, is now.
I am reminded of two quotes —
“Past is just a story we tell ourselves.”Her, 2013
“Nothing has happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.”Eckhart Tolle
Now is all we have. Life is happening right now at this moment with each breath you take, each time your eyes blink, with each and every heartbeat, with every second you hear the clock tick, life is happening, right now!
To be present in the moment means to be aware of your internal state AND your surroundings. It is not a state you reach though, it is an action / activity. It is an act of being — being present. You choose to be present, consciously.
Being in our head prevents us from being present in the moment.
This is not to say thinking is wasteful. In fact, thinking and imagination is at the source of all the inventions and discoveries. It is thinking that has gotten us this far and it is that which will take us forward. We imagine something, we think of how to make it happen and we make it happen.
That is conscious thinking though. That is focused, deliberate, conscious thinking. It is not the same as entertaining any passing thought our mind throws at us and we go where it takes us — like a leaf blowing in the wind from one place to the other — lost in our stories; having no power over our minds. We go where our thoughts take us. We feel what our thoughts make us feel.
To plan, strategise, organise the information/thoughts/ideas is a conscious activity.
Our mind is an extremely powerful tool if we use it right; if not, we can be sitting in one place and just brood all day/night.
I read somewhere — Our mind can be a dangerous place to visit, especially at night, alone!
But, how we use our mind is on us.
Do you let your mind control you or are you in control of your mind?
Now that you’ve seen what it is to be present, let me share
6 Ways to stay present in the moment
1. Catch yourself when you’re in your head. When you find yourself thinking about something that happened in the past or worrying about the future or investing your time in any random thoughts — Catch yourself at that moment. Our mind thinks 50,000-80,000 thoughts a day! That’s 2000-3000 thoughts an hour (Success Consciousness).
Awareness is the first step to change. The very awareness of you not being present is the first step of you being present. As soon as you become aware that you’re not present, you’re present in the moment.
2. Observe — Get your senses into play — Grounding technique 1. Notice 5 things you see in the room. 2. Name 4 things you can feel (“my feet on the floor” or “the air in my nose”) 3. Name 3 things you hear right now (traffic, birds, AC) 4. Name 2 things you can smell right now (or 2 smells you like) 5. Get present to 1 thing you’re grateful for right now.
3. Pay attention to your breath — observe yourself breathing in and out. Feel the air passing through your nose to your windpipes to your lungs to your stomach as you inhale and it’s way back as you exhale.
4. Get engrossed in whatever you’re doing — Do what you’re doing consciously — sometimes we could be doing something but not be present at the same time. Like if the task is mundane or monotonous we could be doing it subconsciously while our conscious brain wanders. — Whatever you do, do consciously — be it eating, listening, reading, writing, doing your work. If you focus on what you’re doing at that moment, you’re present. And trust me, your productivity will shoot up cause you won’t allow you mind to distract you. You’ll reach a state of flow.
5. Write — Write down whatever is preventing you to be present in the moment. Take your thoughts out of your head and free up that space. You could write it on a piece of paper, maintain a journal, or even on a note on your phone, whatever works for you. The point is to take that thought out of your head.
6. Meditate — Meditation is one of the best ways (for me) to quieten the mind. There are various kinds of meditation and there are a variety of apps and resources you can use for meditation. I usually just sit myself down and focus on my breath. it is a great practice for me to drop unwanted thoughts and focus on the now. — the thing with meditation is (what I learnt from personal experience), you might not feel it’s impact until you stop doing it.
Lastly, Practice — The more you practice being aware, being present, the easier it will become. It is just like building a muscle, the more you work out, the more results you witness.
Put reminders to remind yourself to practice the same. Incorporate these practices in your daily routine. Make them a habit. (There’s a feature on Apple Watch that you can turn on which reminds you to breathe consciously!)
“We first make our habits and then our habits make us.”John Dryden
The worst that can happen to us is we just cease to exist, out of nowhere, at any moment! Yet here we are, spending so much time holding on to our past (the past that doesn’t serve us anymore) and being anxious for our future. Most of the time we are living in the stories in our heads while the real-life (right now) is slipping by at the same time.
Reminiscing, learning from the past, and planning/strategising for future is one thing. Everything else can be avoided. Things that make us feel sad or anxious, we don’t have to think of them. It’s our choice.
If you are committed to being present in the moment, I highly recommend one book which has had a huge impact on my life — The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle
I still remember the first time I read this book was the first time I got the feeling of being in absolute control of my mind. I felt as if my mind was a horse and I had the lead rope. It was an extremely powerful realisation.
I understand that online stores might not be delivering books currently due to quarantine so I am sharing link for kindle / audible version 🙂 Don’t let this time stop you from growing and learning. Get your book here
Thank you so much for reading and I hope you got something out of this.
Feel free to comment your point of views and to share with people 🙂
*Hope you’re doing well in this time of pandemic. Stay home and stay safe!