Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Make the Most of the Present

Recently I realized how much time and energy I've expended thinking about the past or the future instead of being fully present in the moment that’s happening right now.

Sometimes I dwell on an interaction I had with another person. It could have happened a week, a year or even a decade ago. I replay who said what and re-experience the feelings associated with that exchange. While some of these are happy memories, more often the ones I revisit have regret, guilt or some other negative emotion attached to them.

Other times I imagine outcomes I don’t want to have happen in the future. This kind of thinking produces worry, anxiety and tension, and is not a productive use of my brain power.

These realizations came as I read Eckhart Tolle’s masterful book The Power of Now. His writing inspired me to reflect on situations I’ve lived through but didn’t fully experience because my mind was not in the here and now.

Tolle’s observations reminded me of the wisdom in another favorite book, My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor. These two authors offer similar advice for times when you find yourself distracted by memories or the unknown.

Their suggestions will bring your mind back to the present so you fully appreciate what’s going on before you in this moment.

1 – Focus on your breathing.

If you take a slow, deep breath and then let it out, you bring your mind to that one simple activity. Repeat inhaling and exhaling until you feel yourself relax into your body.

2 – Pay attention to sensory information.

What smells do you notice in the room right now? Use your eyes to take in the view that’s right in front of you. Next, close your eyes and identify the sounds you hear, both near and far. Identify any sensations you feel on your skin related to the temperature in the air, the clothing you’re wearing and any other objects touching your body, such as glasses or a watch.

3 – Give full attention when performing routines.

Whether you are cleaning up after a meal, walking up the stairs, or taking a shower, be totally present for these simple activities. Notice little aspects of each movement you make.

4 – Monitor your self-talk. 

Get comfortable observing the words that run through your head as you think about what happened or what might occur. Avoid judging or criticizing what you notice. In fact, make a conscious decision that you will not subject yourself to internal verbal abuse.

As Tolle points out, when you practice these techniques, you’ll be able to measure your success by “the degree of peace that you feel within.”

“If you let yourself be absorbed completely, if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.” - Anne Morrow Lindbergh, American author (1906-2001)

"Wherever you are, be there." - Jim Rohn, American author (1930-2009)

"Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure." - Oprah Winfrey, American actress (1954- )

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