We, as air breathing humans, are often reactionary and habitual in the way we are aware. We do things and say things without really thinking about the how and the why. We are on auto pilot and are too busy living in the past and future. Regularly we forget to be in the now. Perhaps it's because we don't exactly know how to be immersed in the present moment. They don't have a NOW class in school ;)
The now is the only thing in life that is guaranteed. The past is fiction - you can't change it. The future is only a vision - an important vision, but still not real until you make it so.
Have you ever looked back on the calendar and wondered where the days went? Have you ever been immersed in a moment and wished that you could remember it forever? Have you ever had 10 screens open on your laptop and unsuccessfully tried to research, answer emails and check voicemails all at the same time? Have you ever surfed facebook for more than 30 minutes and looked at random pictures of people you don't really know? Have you ever been in the car, driven 2km's and then realized that you don't remember driving them? Have you ever been in the bathroom while brushing your teeth and remembered that you had something to do in the kitchen? But when you walk out of the bathroom with your toothbrush still in your mouth, you completely forget what it was that you needed to do?
If you've answered yes to any of these questions, then welcome to the club of majority. Life gets busy and distractions are endless. Our minds wander and they can constantly be chasing thoughts. We have been conditioned to believe that more is better. We have been told that multi-tasking leads to more productivity. In today's world, staying on task and being immersed in the present moment is a tremendous challenge.
So how do we immerse ourselves in the now? Here's a few tips that I'm discovering in my life:
1. Pay Attention - Instead of letting our minds run when we are sitting in traffic or at the grocery store, take a moment to look around and see what you see. What does the person look like behind you in line? What colour of shorts is that person on the bike wearing? How many dogs do you see in the dog park. The first key to waking up and being present is making a conscious choice to pay attention.
2. Breathe - Inhale. Exhale. Repeat often. Take ten minutes a day to just breathe. A couple of helpful techniques that I've discovered are:
a. Breathe in while counting to five. Breathe out while counting to five. Breathe in while counting to six. Breathe out while counting to six. Breathe in while counting to seven. Breathe out while counting to seven. Repeat this pattern until you've reached ten breathes and then start working your way back down to five.
b. Lay on your back and put a book on your stomach. Watch the book rise and fall. Do this for 15 minutes. When your mind wanders, bring your attention and focus back to the rise and fall of the book.
3. Observe - Next time you are at a gathering or in a meeting, just sit back and have the intention of observing. Pretend you are watching a movie. Watch the way the characters in the room move, act and really listen to what they say. Don't be concerned with looking smart or saying the right thing - this often keeps us in our own mind with the intention of creating the perfect response. Just be there. I think you'll surprise yourself with how much more connected you feel to the situation and how much more thoughtful your responses will be.
4. Meditate - Meditation is not about reaching enlightenment and floating off of your pillow. Its about being disciplined and creating the time in your life to be aware. The biggest trick I've learned for meditation is this: You don't have to solve anything. Just be. My mind tends to try and fix things, solve things and come up with magical answers to my life's problems when I meditate. Reminding myself that there is absolutely nothing to solve allows me to focus on my breath and be in the now. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up to 30.
5. Create a Routine of presence - We all have things that we do every day. Whether it's eating, showering, washing the dishes, exercising...heck, even peeing. Pick something that you do regularly every single day and set an intention to be present during those moments. Think of nothing else. Do nothing else. Just be fully immersed in the experience.
Being in the now is not a destination, it's a constant journey. It is a practice that can open up many new and brilliant doors in your life. A few benefits of accessing the now are:
Better Relationships with others and yourself
A more pro-active approach to life -vs- reactionary living
Calmness and confidence - less stress!
Less guilt and more enjoyment
More productivity - get things done!
Better and more intense ability to focus
Increased sense of worth and purpose
Keen awareness of self and what you need to be successful
So, when was the last time you took a moment to feel and experience your life just as it is? When was the last time you scheduled in 20 uninterrupted minutes to just sit and observe where you're at? When was the last time you felt immersed in the now?
Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat often. It all starts now.