This season of the year can be so crazy and hectic. I love the old Zen standby, “Chop wood, Carry water” as great advice for all of us to consider during this holiday season.
Why is it so hard for use to be present on the most important days or seasons in our life? Science is showing over and over again that we were not meant to multi task. Our brains are not wired to multi task and because of that we get frustrated, overlook something, forget something and in the worst cases cause accidents.
This week is a very important holiday throughout the world – why not make this week the week that you focus on staying present each and every day. A few ideas I’ve read and used these past few years have rally helped me to ground myself and live in the moment. I hope they will help you too.
Take a breath
Michael J Formica said that breath, along with change, is the only constant, and being present starts with the breath. Simply draw a deep breath and let it out through your nose. When we breathe through our mouth it triggers a subtle anxiety response, which increases heart rate and redirects blood flow. That’s why you rarely see elite runners and cyclists panting, and why one of my own martial arts instructors used to make us train for hours with a mouthful of water. A slow release of breath through the nose has the opposite effect of mouth-breathing, and draws a relaxation response.
This technique and intention is also taken in part from the Theraveda Buddhist meditation tradition. Try it out – take a breath and, when you exhale, what happens? Exactly – nothing. In the Theraveda tradition – the oldest of the Buddhist traditions – meditation practitioners are taught to focus on the out-breath because on the out-breath nothing happens. Everything falls away for that simple span of time – a breath.”
The think I love about this practice is that you can do it anywhere and any time. If you watch your body or feelings (mentioned below) and notice something happening the quickest and easiest way to do something about it and to get yourself present in this exact moment is to take a deep breath – take several deep breaths and stay focused on what you are doing. There is no quicker way to bring you right back to center.
Listen to your body & feel your feelings
If you’re prone like most of us to over-analyze your feelings and then quickly try to change them I would say instead to simply be with them. Observe where they are coming from. Let go of “bad” or “good” labels as they pertain to your feelings. Just let them pass through you and accept that you are feeling them. There is no quicker way to release them then to just be with them.
Having a journal handy may also help with this process.
It’s also super easy to think that you know best for your body – how you should eat and how you should move just because other people say you should.
One of the best ways that you can be present in your life is to listen to what your body tells you instead. Is it craving chocolate? Than eat chocolate. Does your body want Yoga on a running day? Do Yoga. Is your body exhausted and wants to sleep in – do it. This practice helps you to connect to your body right here right now. Mixing up your daily routine because you are listening to your body is always a good thing and connects you to the present.
Listen to others without intending to respond
Its interesting that we spend most of our listening time thinking about our response. This week try to listen without intending to respond or add in any way. Stay completely connected and present to the person you are listening to. Give them your full and undivided attention. When was the last time you did that?
Pick one thing to do slowly today
Today choose one thing at the beginning of the day and do it with full concentration. Stay immersed in the moment. If that is eating breakfast focus on the texture and flavor of your food. If it’s a walk outside do it with full intention of the beauty and magesty of the day. If it’s wrapping gifts do so with intention and love.
Whatever thing you choose today – focus on it and remain present during the entire process.
What are you doing right now?
When you notice that you are not present then ask yourself this question – what am I doing right now? Where is my mind right now? Then take a deep breath and come back. Come back to the moment, come back to your body. Look around you and use all five of your senses – What do you see? What do you hear? What can you touch and how does it feel? What can you taste? What do you smell? The 5 senses are amazing tools to bring you back to the present moment. And they are free of charge.
Lets be honest not being present is easy. There are bills to pay, there are gifts to wrap, parties to plan, places to be. There are doctor’s appointments and reports to write, books to read, parents to resent, loved ones to miss and the list goes on and on. With all that going on – past and future – it’s no wonder that presence is so elusive, but with a little practice it does not have to be.