Ah…. the beauty of being present. Enjoying the moment. Completely slowing down. Focusing our attention on only one thing at a time. Living Right Here. Right Now. A reality that never seems possible. Like a vacation I’d love to take, but probably never will. However, that’s the beauty of being present, it’s all possible. Anywhere. Anytime. For anyone.
Being present isn’t only for yogis, or monks. It’s not just for the calm, quiet personalities, or the introverted types either. It’s for anyone and everyone. Whether you work or stay at home. If you’re surrounded by kids, cats, or cans of beer. Regardless of your lifestyle, personality, location, or time. You can learn the beauty of being present.
But what does being present really look like? If you are present, you are completely engaged in what’s happening around you in this exact moment. You are not in your head, thinking about the past, or planning the future. In fact, the only thoughts that occur, are those needed to participate in what’s happening around you right now. If you are eating, all of your senses (smell, sight, taste, touch, hearing) are focused on this one activity. You notice the scent of the soup, the feel of the fork, the taste of the tomatoes or the look of the lettuce. You are fully engaged, and enjoying everything that this moment of eating can offer.
Now this applies to all activities. If you are with your child- be fully with your child. If you are baking- really enjoy the process of baking. Even cleaning can be savored and fun, if you can remain present throughout the task.
However, problems occur when we are trying to be present, but get interrupted instead. As we focus on savoring a meal, our child starts throwing food everywhere. Or we try to be present while baking, but our phone rings, the dog wants out, or we get distracted by Facebook. Then suddenly we are no longer focused on our original task, but our attention has scattered out into a variety of other sources. And realistically speaking, we cannot be fully present to our child, phone, dog, dinner and dessert, all at the same time.
So, what do we do?…….
Here are several tactics to not only start being more present, but maintain that presence as well.
Do Only One Thing at a Time
First and foremost, presence can only be achieved and maintained when you are doing one thing at a time. So, if you are cleaning- clean. Don’t worry about the dog, dinner, your phone, or anything else. And if something tries to distract you. Or moves your attention from what you’re currently doing. Choose! Interruptions will occur, it’s part of life. But then you have to make a decision.
- Either stop what you’re currently doing completely, and move all attention to the distraction. Give the new task your full attention and presence, until it is no longer needed. Then return back to your original task.
- Or… continue to focus all attention on what you are doing. The phone, dog, or whatever else is pulling you away, can wait.
- Lastly, do a mix of the above. Move your focus for a short time, only to communicate that you are busy. Then go right back to your original task until it is completed. After which, the interruption can then have your full presence and attention.
In order to be present, and really enjoy the moments in front of us. We must slow down. This doesn’t justify turning into sloths, or being lazy. But actually means that we complete our one-at-a-time tasks, in a slow, purposeful manner. Because we choose the one thing we are doing within each moment, we want to make sure we enjoy it as well. So slow down. Savor the time that you have decided to spend reading. Slowly, purposely enjoy the book. Whatever you choose to do within each moment, savor it, and fully absorb the whole experience. Stop the rush. The sense of urgency. And the need for speed. Just slow down.
Lower Your Expectations- Do Less
Yes, I am telling you to stop doing so much. Stop expecting so much from yourself, your life and others. When we have less to focus on, less to do, and less standards to uphold, we can be more present. It’s hard to focus and enjoy, only one thing at a time, when we have 50 other things fighting for our attention as well. Also, how can we savor, and slowly, purposely finish a task, if we know we will be rushing, just to get to the next one? Quality over quantity. Choose those things that matter most. Or those that need your attention more. Then let all the other things go. Out of sight. Out of mind.
Get off Your Phone
Truthfully, we all know this already, but it’s so hard to actually do. Our phones take away so much of our time. So much of our attention. And prevent us from being fully present. Instead of reading to our kids, enjoying a meal, or talking openly with those we love. We’re on our phones. Is anything on our phones really that important? No.
Now this doesn’t mean we don’t go on our phones, or miss out on all the interesting news of the world. But we limit our screen time, and purposely choose when we will engage on our phones. I’ve been horrible with my phone lately, so I’ve turned off ALL of my notifications. And I also limit myself to a few minutes, a few times a day. As much as possible, I make sure I’m not doing anything else, or with anyone else. That way, every minute spent on my phone actually matters, and is enjoyable.
Use Your 5 Senses
A simple tactic, but so easily forgotten. How often do we really take the time to enjoy the smell, sound, taste, or touch of what we are doing? Probably not very often. When I am overwhelmed, and my head is all over the place. I usually choose a sense to focus on, and notice what I experience from using that one sense. What do I see? What do I hear? How does my body feel? What things do I see around me? This connects me with my own body and mind, putting me back in the present moment. And because each moment is different, you don’t want to miss out on a great sight, sound, smell, taste or touch. So, use those senses, and allow them to bring you back to the beautiful present.
So now you have suggestions on how to enjoy the present. But realistically, will you be able to do all these things? No. You will still do multiple things at a time, and be on your phone like you are right now. You’ll probably continue to do too much, and constantly rush, rush, rush. But that’s okay. The important part is to be aware. If you recognize you’re doing too much- stop. Do less. If you see you’re doing multiple things at a time. Don’t. Choose only one! Get off your phone if you really don’t need to be on it. And when you notice yourself rushing, and speeding around at a hurried pace. Slow down. The world will not end. Slow and steady wins the race. Always.
What helps you stay present? Do you use any of these suggested techniques? I’d love to hear from you!