“Live in the moment.” It is phrase we have all heard, and a phrase that is almost synonymous with the idea of a free and happy life. But what does it actually mean to be present and how do we go about achieving it?
Well, to “live in the moment”, to “be present” is a simple idea in principle, and, with a little practice, can dramatically improve your experience of day-to-day life. All it requires is for you to engage in what is going on around you in the ‘here’ and ‘now’; emotionally, mentally and physically. Whether you are engaged in a task as mundane as driving a car or taking part in a more prominent occasion such as an important presentation or a big social event, there is always an opportunity to be present. There is never a bad time to get out of your head and into the world!
So, how to we do this? Well, ‘presence’ can be applied to any situation, and there are many schools of thought about how best to go about it. Here are a few pointers to help you start ‘living in the moment.’
Consider your surroundings
We can be very passive when it comes to our surroundings, so we invite you to engage with them. Look out of the window at the building across the road and consider it, perhaps you didn’t notice that it was made of 3 different colours of brick before. Look up at the sky, is it blue today? How are the clouds changing in the wind? Listen, perhaps you will notice a TV nattering quietly through the wall from next door or the rain pattering on the office roof. Consider the smell of your immediate environment; you might be lucky enough for it to be something delicious. Notice your surroundings and appreciate them.
What are you doing?
What is the primary activity you are engaged in right now? In this case, of course, you will be reading, but are you putting your full focus on to this activity and experiencing it entirely? Indeed, it is likely that you are not 100% engaged in your task. So next consider what else you are doing. Is your mind wandering? Are you at all distracted? What is your body doing; your hands, your eyes, your breath? Are you fidgeting? Notice all of these things and then try to discard them so that you may focus on what is in front of you.
Focus on your task
Whatever it is that you are doing, do that, and only that. Let’s say you are writing a shopping list; pay real attention to it. Take your time, notice each letter as you write it, each item, what you are writing on, what colour pen? Your mind may wander, and that is fine, just notice it and bring yourself back to the task in front of you. This can be applied to so many moments; when you are talking to someone really talk and listen to them, if you are driving take time to focus and appreciate the mechanics of what is seemingly a mundane task.
What is distracting you? If you are anything like me you might be aware of your phone blinking with notifications in the corner of your eye, or be constantly fighting off a compulsion to constantly check e-mails. Is your mind awash with the pressures of general life; kids, bills, social commitments and so on? Are you waiting for something? Whatever it is that is distracting you, do your best to put these to one side if you can. Turn your phone off, even turn the internet off, go into a quieter room or go for a walk. Do what you can.
The simplest and most portable way to practice being present is to return to your breath. Notice your breath, concentrate on it. Breathe deep and slow, find some peace, stability and comfort in it. You may find time to extend this into a short meditation, a clean and concentrated moment of presence in your day.
The art of ‘being present’ is a wonderful tool in the pursuit of a productive and happy life. Find a moment this this month, this week, tomorrow, today… you could even try now, to put some of this into practice and see what a difference it can make. Witness the ways in which it can improve all aspects of your life.
If you would like to look further into ‘presence’ and how to bring it in to your life, we highly recommend Eckhart Tolle and his ‘6 Stages for Presence’.
By Chris Thomson
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