How present do you think you are throughout your day? A great way to find out is to recognize how many times you are not present. Knowing you are not present makes you present. Knowing that when you find yourself thinking of something in the past or daydreaming of things in the future you can be certain you are not in the present moment.
What is the big deal you might ask? Well, wondering why you’re not feeling so happy and saying, “my life will be happy when…” or “when this happens I’ll be great.” When does that moment ever come and you are satisfied with it? Not being present and accepting where you are at this very moment brings feelings ranging from irritation to anger and depression. How are you supposed to be happy with what’s happening in your life now when you are somewhere else?
Have you ever talked to someone about something important to you and you can tell the other person is not fully listening (not being present)? It can be aggravating and sometimes hurtful. Well, that’s what we do to ourselves. We don’t pay attention to what’s going on right now in our life. You also know how great it feels when you’re talking to someone, and they are fully listening to you (being present). Doesn’t that feel good, calming, and caring? That’s what we need to do for ourselves. Be present to our lives!
Let’s say we’re doing something difficult or something we don’t want to do but must. When we sit and complain and put our mind in the future (“when I get out of here I’m…”), or put ourselves in the past (“I used to…”,or “I should of…”) then know it’s going to be a long day for sitting in either spot will not help. But, being present to that moment allows you to accept it – get it – handle it – and move on. Without all that bullshit mental gymnastics stuff we do in our heads. I’m not saying you’ll like it or have fun doing it, although you might be surprised. I’m saying it makes life so much better. And when you leave and your mind is not reeling because you didn’t feed it!
So how do we stay present? Like anything, practice, practice, practice. As Ekhart Tolle in “The Power Of Now” tells us: pay full attention when doing simple things. For example, something as simple as washing your hands, feel the water and the smell of the soap. Do the same while brushing your teeth. My favorite: getting in the car and taking a moment, especially when I’m running late. Feel yourself in the seat and your feet on the floor. Take a present breath, start the car and go. This helps me so much throughout my day. I use the feel of the feet on the floor a lot. It’s very grounding. You get it!
The point is, when you shift your attention to the present and you practice these little things you start to recognize when you’re not present in your day. This, and meditation stop the uncontrollable mind. Your ideas, creativity, productivity and your happiness all increase. This doesn’t mean you won’t make plans and set goals. You’ll be better at making them and achieving them. You’ll just be fully present while doing it.
I love making it a game. I see how many times I can catch myself. Like while writing this blog I got up to put a sweet potato in a pre-heated oven and instead I opened the refrigerator and placed it on the shelf…WOW! Funny thing is I NEVER keep sweet potatoes in the refrigerator… Who’s distracted now?
Practice, practice, practice!
About the Author: Sheila Heylin, the knowledgeable host of Happiness Series, lives in Chicago and Los Angeles. It was in LA where Sheila discovered healthy living. She realized that “what you’re not used to and what you hate are two different things.” She and Tania partnered to create Happiness Series and build an online and offline community that fosters wellness and happiness.