What moment are you living in? The past? The present? Or, the future?
Hint: That’s a trick question. We really only have the present moment. This is it!
Then, why all the fuss about being present?
With so many ways to be distracted, the concern about where we place our attention is important. Being present and in the moment seems harder than ever, as societal, technological, relational, and personal distractions pull and tug at our limited attention.
What it Means to Be Present
Before we talk about how to live in the moment, let’s talk about what it means to be present. “Being present simply means inhabiting this moment without getting lost in thoughts about the past or the future. When we’re present, we’re vividly awake and conscious of what is happening in the here-now.” (lonerwolf.com)
Another definition: “… paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”.
In both of these definitions, one can see that avoiding getting entangled in our thoughts is important. Another way of looking at this is to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings, without judgment.
Why is important to avoid judging our thoughts? They are just thoughts. They are not who we are. When we tell ourselves not to think something or resist a thought rising to our consciousness, we are fighting with ourselves. The thoughts will arise regardless of what we do.
Another negative impact is to allow a thought to high-jack our consciousness. It is after all just a thought. But, we can have a thought about someone we care for and wonder about their safety, and then the next thing we know we are worrying about something that may never happen, but we have now allowed that thought to raise our blood pressure and to distract us from what we were supposed to be working on.
Purposefully, paying attention to what’s happening, the now; is how we can be present. It requires a little work and a little patience. It can feel a bit frustrating if we are not used to mindful practices. But the now is really all that we have. It is our current reality. The past is a memory and the future is just a mirage. The now is real and paying purposeful attention to it is how to live in the moment.
Why The Moment Present is Important
So, why is it important to be present? There are many advantages, not the least, that it is just kinder to our brains and minds. It places less stress on our minds in that we are focused, or allow ourselves to experience, the present moment. The moment we are in and not consumed by worrying about a past that we cannot change and a future that is not here yet. So, why is it so hard?
Focusing on the now makes it easier to deal with our own current needs, make more empathetic choices towards others, be more thoughtful, make wiser and conscious choices, slow down and appreciate life, and experience states of joy, awe, and peace. This is being kinder to our mind and being more mindful of our present moment.
It also makes it easier to have authentic moments and relationships when we are truly in the moment. We can pay attention to all of the non-verbal cues that go along with verbal communication. We can be truly responsive to what we see and hear in our conversations, instead of reacting to the filtered version of the conversation. We can listen to respond instead of listening to react.
When we are truly present in a conversation, we are not preoccupied with fears about the future or regrets about the past. We are in the moment. We are riding the wave of time as it approaches us and passes through us. We experience life as it unfolds and are not stuck in the past that we cannot change.
How to Live In the Moment
To write this post, I reviewed 11, high-quality articles on the topic of being present or being in the moment. Not surprisingly, a few articles mentioned the same or similar tips on being more present. If the tip was mentioned in four or more articles, it made the list below. There is a list of honorable mentions, that I did not write about, at the end of this section. These are tips that were mentioned in two or three of the articles reviewed.
Put away Our Phones
According to Daily Dad, ” . . people generally spend an average of 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phones every day. Not just that, but we pick up our phones an average of 58 times per day. How much of this is actually necessary? How many times are we checking our phones for things that are actually urgent and pressing instead of just out of mere habit? (dailydad.com)
Putting our phones away can bring us a little closer to being wholly in the present state. Our phones become our gateways to the world outside ourselves. However, with their constant notifications and addictive applications, it should be no surprise that 6 of the 11 articles referenced for this post, list this as one of their go-to tips to be more present.”
We can turn off our notifications or limit notifications on our phones to avoid distractions. That works to a point, in that if your phone is on vibrate or visible, you will still be distracted. My son puts his phone in his desk drawer during work. So, I know if I call him during the day, I will not get him. He works in finance and needs to be focused. Whatever strategy you use to prevent your phone from distracting you will work, as long as you have the discipline to work the strategy.
Develop a System to Be Present
Blocking out a certain day can help us be more present. Microsoft Office allows us to schedule Focus time throughout the week. I find that I can be more productive when I am disciplined about using this feature for ‘deep work’.
This is one place where our phones can be helpful. We can use our phones to schedule time or a reminder or use any of a number of apps that support meditation and mindfulness.
When practicing mindfulness, we are living in the moment. When we are mindful, we are focused on the present moment and the realities of the moment (www.lifehack.org)
When we practice mindfulness, we are almost acting as an observer of the reality
all around us, without consciously engaging or judging that reality. Consciously observing what is happening is different than thinking about what is happening. Although the task of observing will not necessarily be easy, becoming adept at the process will be worthwhile.
This can be a challenge for those of us who self-identify as intellectuals. If we are ‘knowledge workers’, we are paid to think our way through challenges and develop analyses and plans to pull or push ourselves and our organizations to what we call progress. This pushing and pulling against a future state, that is vividly visualized and worked toward, can be the very thing that prevents us from observing and appreciating the present moment.
Mindfulness complements and enhances our thinking by allowing us to be more aware of a more objective reality. With mindfulness, we can calm our minds and emotions to see more clearly and completely the reality we are in. Then, much of our understanding can come from simple observation. “When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness”. (ibid)
When we can calm our minds and see what is actually going on around us, we focus on the present moment, not the future or the past. One way to calm our minds is through mindfulness or meditation.
There are so many ways to meditate. One of the more popular methods is mindfulness meditation, where we focus on our breath and as thoughts come and go, we simply do not engage them and call our attention back to our breath. Everyone seems to struggle with this when they first start the practice. However, it brings clarity, peace, and calm to the present moment. For more about mindfulness meditation, read this article.
I’ve recently begun a Qigong (she-Gong) practice. Qigong is an ancient Chinese healing art that is also a form of moving meditation. The 15-minute routine is perfect for my morning and afternoon breaks and allows me to return to my work with renewed vigor and focus.
Other forms of meditation include:
- Spiritual Meditation.
- Focused Meditation.
- Mantra Meditation.
- Transcendental Meditation.
- Progressive Relaxation. &
- Loving-kindness Meditation.
To learn more about these forms of meditation, check out this article.
Give Ourselves a Daily Treat
The topic of self-care has become very popular. It can, in some instances, include almost all the practices above and more. For our purposes, I’ll focus on just treating ourselves nicely – giving ourselves grace during challenging times. Making sure that we take time to rest properly. Slowing down to enjoy each moment, before it passes.
If you are a caregiver or someone with responsibilities involving others, you may also be the type of person who simply does not take care of yourselves and views self-care as an indulgence. It is not. It is how we maintain our ability to be present and in the moment at the very times that those who count on us need us. We cannot pour into the lives of others from an empty cup.
Honorable Mentions to Being Present
As I mentioned earlier, I chose to highlight practices that were mentioned at least four times in the articles I reviewed. That does not mean that these practices are the most valuable. Many of the honorable mentioned practices below are worth trying out to see how they work for you and help you figure out how to live in the moment:
- Remain conscious of your thoughts,
- Get rid of distractions,
- Hold hands,
- Create new habits,
- Make time for fun,
- Let go of your baggage,
- Practice listening,
- Find a source of flow, &
- Take it slow.
Start using these tips today! Maximze each moment, each day. In case you need a reminder:
- Put away your phone,
- Develop a system to be present,
- Practice mindfulness,
- Give yourself a treat every day.
Read ‘An MRI / Mindfulness Experience’ to get more insight into how to use mindfulness in your life.
Get ‘The Mindfulness Challenge‘ to experience a 10-day journey to greater awareness.
What do you do to live in the moment?
I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.