For the past 2 weeks we have been talking about living in the present moment, in a nutshell we gathered that to a large degree, the measure of our peace of mind is determined by how much we are able to live in the present moment. Irrespective of what happened yesterday or last year, and what may or may not happen tomorrow, the present moment is where we are – always! Without question, many of us have mastered the neurotic art of spending much of our lives worrying about a variety of things – all at once.
We allow past problems and future concerns to dominate our present moments, so much so that we end up anxious, frustrated, depressed, and hopeless. On the flip side, we also postpone our gratification, our stated priorities, and our happiness, often convincing ourselves that “tomorrow” will be better than today. Unfortunately, the same mental dynamics that tell us to look toward the future will only repeat themselves so that “tomorrow” never actually arrives.
If you missed any of the series or need to refresh your memory you can go to the previous articles : your reality is in the present moment(part 1), your reality is in the present moment(part 2)
Today the finale I will discuss 8 practical ways to be in the present moment
(1)Surrender during challenging times
Like Echart Tolle explained in his book “power of the now..” To surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation. For example, if you were stuck in the mud somewhere, you wouldn’t say: “Okay, I resign myself to being stuck in the mud.” Resignation is not surrender. You don’t need to accept an undesirable or unpleasant life situation. Nor do you need to deceive yourself and say that there is nothing wrong with being stuck in the mud. No.
You recognize fully that you want to get out of it. You then narrow your attention down to the present moment without mentally labelling it in any way. This means that there is no judgment of the Now. Therefore, there is no resistance, no emotional negativity. You accept the “isness” of this moment. Then you take action and do all that you can to get out of the mud. Such action I call positive action. It is far more effective than negative action, which arises out of anger, despair, or frustration. Until you achieve the desired result, you continue to practice surrender by refraining from labelling the Now.
Then look at the specifics of the situation. Ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do to change the situation, improve it, or remove myself from it?” If so, you take appropriate action. Focus not on the 100 things that you will or may have to do at some future time but on the one thing that you can do now. This doesn’t mean you should not do any planning. It may well be that planning is the one thing you can do now. But make sure you don’t start to run “mental movies,” project yourself into the future, and so lose the Now. Any action you take may not bear fruit immediately. Until it does – do not resist what is.
Do not confuse surrender with an attitude of “I can’t be bothered anymore” or “I just don’t care anymore.” If you look at it closely, you will find that such an attitude is tainted with negativity in the form of hidden resentment and so is not surrender at all but masked resistance.
(2)Do not identify with your thoughts
The fruit of negative feelings is endless ignorance and suffering…..
Most thoughts of the past and future creates anger, frustration, worry, jealousy, anxiousness. Once we wallow in those feelings we create negative feelings… we should keep reminding ourselves about the quote above… “The fruit of negative feelings is endless ignorance and suffering”
You are not your thoughts… identifying with them and keeping the process alive through compulsive thinking only makes you so unhappy… once you bear that in mind… It helps you focus on the present.. Observe how your mind creates it, how it labels the situation, yourself, or others. Look at the thought process involved. Feel the energy of the emotion. By witnessing the resistance, you will see that it serves no purpose. By focusing all your attention on the Now it helps to dissolve this feeling. Pay attention to your thoughts…
(3) Forgive past hurts
“Forgiveness” is a term that has been in use for 2,000 years, but most people have a very limited view of what it means. You cannot truly forgive yourself or others as long as you derive your sense of self from the past. Only through accessing the power of the Now, which is your own power, can there be true forgiveness. This renders the past powerless, and you realize deeply that nothing you ever did or that was ever done to you could touch even in the slightest the radiant essence of who you are. The whole concept of forgiveness then becomes unnecessary.
If you are harbouring resentment towards another human being because of past hurts, choose to forgive and move on. The harm was their fault. But allowing it to impact your mood today is yours.
Everything starts from awareness. My motto is “Awareness is the key”. Practice your awareness. Practice it every day 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 colours, 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.
You can become mindful at any moment just by paying attention to your immediate experience. You can do it right now. What’s happening this instant? Think of yourself as an eternal witness, and just observe the moment. What do you see, hear, and smell? It doesn’t matter how it feels— Whether we are washing dishes or tying our shoes, our mind is focused on whatever we are doing. We are not thinking about the bills that we have to pay, or the phone call we need to make when we get to the office. We are simply living in the moment.
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.
As you focus your attention on your breath, you’ll notice that your breath is neither voluntary or involuntary. It is something that you do, but at the same time something that “does you”. When you focus your attention on your breath, you come back into relationship with reality, because like breath, reality is both something you do and something that “does you”. It is co-creative. Practice conscious breathing to bring your mind back to the present.
(6)Don’t keep track of time… (Try flow)
The mental state of flow is “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz, sports, skiing , dancing. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
As with romance or sleep, you can’t just will yourself into it—all you can do is set the stage, creating the optimal conditions for it to occur.
The first requirement for flow is to set a goal that’s challenging but not unattainable—something you have to marshal your resources and stretch yourself to achieve. The task should be matched to your ability level—not so difficult that you’ll feel stressed, but not so easy that you’ll get bored. In flow, you’re firing on all cylinders to rise to a challenge.
To set the stage for flow, goals need to be clearly defined so that you always know your next step. “It could be easy as turning new page if you reading a good novel, listening to the next track in a music album or finding the next foothold if you are a rock climber, learning to be a good swimmer… flow also means anticipating
You also need to set up the task in such a way that you receive direct and immediate feedback; with your successes and failures apparent, you can seamlessly adjust your behaviour. A climber on the mountain knows immediately if his foothold is secure; when learning how to swim you become aware of the tension when you are in the water as you are not floating well… As your attentional focus narrows, self-consciousness evaporates. You feel as if your awareness merges with the action you’re performing. You feel a sense of personal mastery over the situation, and the activity is so intrinsically rewarding that although the task is difficult, action feels effortless.
We all have pain in our lives, whether it’s the ex we still long for, the loss of a job or money, or the sudden wave of anxiety when we get up to give a speech. If we let them, such irritants can distract us from the enjoyment of life. Paradoxically, the obvious response—focusing on the problem in order to combat and overcome it—often makes it worse. The mind’s natural tendency when faced with pain is to attempt to avoid it—by trying to resist unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and sensations. When we lose a love, for instance, we fight our feelings of heartbreak. As we get older, we work feverishly to recapture our youth. But in many cases, negative feelings and situations can’t be avoided—and resisting them only magnifies the pain. The problem is we have not just primary emotions but also secondary ones—emotions about other emotions. We get stressed out and then think, “I wish I weren’t so stressed out.” The primary emotion is stress over your workload. The secondary emotion is feeling, “I hate being stressed.” It doesn’t have to be this way. The solution is acceptance—letting the emotion be there. That is, being open to the way things are in each moment without trying to manipulate or change the experience—without judging it, clinging to it, or pushing it away. The present moment can only be as it is. Trying to change it only frustrates and exhausts you. Acceptance relieves you of this needless extra suffering. Suppose you’ve just broken up with your girlfriend or boyfriend; you’re heartbroken, overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and longing. You could try to fight these feelings, essentially saying, “I hate feeling this way; I need to make this feeling go away.” But by focusing on the pain—being sad about being sad—you
Only prolong the sadness. You do yourself a favour by accepting your feelings, saying instead, “I’ve just had a breakup. Feelings of loss are normal and natural. It’s OK for me to feel this way.”
Acceptance of an unpleasant state doesn’t mean you don’t have goals for the future. It just means you accept that certain things are beyond your control. The sadness, stress, pain, or anger is there whether you like it or not. Better to embrace the feeling as it is. Nor does acceptance mean you have to like what’s happening.
(8)Don’t assume you know it
when you are in autopilot mode you tend to forget what you did the last 15 minutes or so, especially if you have been taken the same route, doing the same job, talking to the same people, reading a book … your mind is somewhere else never in the present moment… when asked a question, you can’t even remember what you did or read…. As a result, life passes you by without registering on you. The best way to avoid such blackouts is to develop the habit of always noticing new things in whatever situation you’re in. That process creates engagement with the present moment and releases a cascade of other benefits. Noticing new things puts you emphatically in the here and now. if we see the world with fresh eyes, we realize almost everything is different each time— the pattern of light on the buildings, the faces of the people, even the sensations and feelings we experience along the way. Noticing imbues each moment with a new, fresh quality. Some people have termed this “beginner’s mind.”
By acquiring the habit of noticing new things, we recognize that the world is actually changing constantly. We really don’t know how coke is going to taste or how the commute will be—or at least, we’re not sure. “Once you recognize that you don’t know the things you’ve always taken for granted, you set out of the house quite differently. It becomes an adventure in noticing—and the more you notice, the more you see.” And the more excitement you feel.
Food for thought
John Lennon once said, “Life is what’s happening while we’re busy making other plans,” our children are busy growing up, the people we love are moving away and dying, our bodies are getting out of shape, and our dreams are slipping away. In short, we miss out on life. Many people live as if life were a dress rehearsal for some later date. It isn’t. In fact, no one has a guarantee that he or she will be here tomorrow. Now is the only time we have, and the only time that we have any control over.