It has become increasingly more common to come across phrases such as “being in the present moment” or “living in the now”’ especially in the personal development literature.
The concept, which has its roots in Eastern philosophies, has in recent years gained a great deal of interest in mainstream western thought through people such as Eckhart Tolle, Jon Kabat-zinn and many others.
The increasing popularity of the idea and its wide-spread use has quickly promoted its status from an esoteric concept to an abundantly used ‘power-phrase’ in the self-help arena.
But for those of you who are still pretty confused about the concept or have read it a couple of times on blogs and books but have not fully understood what’s the fuss about, I will attempt to demystify it in a few short anecdotes.
‘Living in the now’ means:
Being aware of your present. Paying attention to your life as it unfolds in the present. Being conscious of what’s going on around you and inside you while you go through your day.
Realizing that life only happens in the present. Past and future are only a concept. You cannot live in the past or in the future right? You only live now.
Going beyond your stream of thoughts which always drag you to some blurry past memory or expectation about the future and wake up to the freshness of the present moment.
Connecting with your inner space – the space or gap between your thoughts. That stillness of being that we feel when for a moment we stop identifying ourselves with our thoughts
Living your life moment by moment. A lot of experts in time management will tell you to break down your big tasks in small manageable chunks. What they forget to say is to break them down in a way that does not distract you from your present. The size of your tasks should keep you focused on the present and not point to the future.
Stop thinking that life will happen some other day or that your goal is round the corner. This distracts you from taking action now. I know something about this! It has been the biggest drag in my life.
Self-talk to yourself in the present tense: “I am now writing an article”. This gives the command to your subconscious to turn its attention to the present and stop wandering about in some other place. This also prevents procrastination
Give your immediate surroundings soft attention, a gentle recognition. Accepting whatever comes up without tension, judgment or friction. Let it be. It doesn’t mean letting things passively pass you by but on the contrary being actively yourself in the present moment.
Being in the director’s seat. You are directing your life because you are no longer absent. You are no longer captive of your frenetic thoughts or hijacked by illusory daydreaming.
Living life with joy and enthusiasm. Being more present and conscious in your life means doing things with better quality and with greater enthusiasm. Better decisions are taken which means your life is directed towards more positive ends.
How to get there:
Living in the now can paradoxically be the easiest and most difficult thing to do. Being in the present is easy because you are already there. You do not need to go somewhere or do something to get there. As Jon Kabat-Zinn would say “Wherever you go there you are”. At the same time it is difficult because we are captive of our own thoughts. They are too real for us and we think there is nothing beyond thought.
Everything starts from awareness. My motto is “Awareness is the key”. Practice your awareness. Practice it everyday and everywhere. It is easy because you can practice it anytime, anywhere without being noticed. Look around you and just be aware of something, anything. The colors, the wind, textures, sounds, smells, etc. The senses are gateways to the present. Spend some time everyday doing this. While you are on the bus, walking the dog, washing the dishes, eating your lunch. Just observe and be aware.
Meditation is a powerful tool to practice mindfulness and being present. If you meditate, keep doing it. You already have the mind tools to be more present. If you do not meditate or do not wish to learn meditation, you can still find ways to access your inner space. Breathing is another gateway. Sometimes being conscious of two or three full breaths is enough to anchor your mind in the present. When I say conscious I mean putting your awareness on it. Feel it as if you are one with it.
Accessing your inner space becomes progressively easier since you know where to look for it and how to enter it at the right time.
You must know that it’s impossible to be present all the time. This should not be your goal. But it is possible to be more present by living more consciously and practicing awareness. The beginning is now. It always is!
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