Your feet hit the ground as you peel yourself out of bed. You make your way to the bathroom feeling a bit groggy since you stayed up late the night before watching that new Netflix documentary. Your mind drifts back to the documentary, replaying what you watched and thinking about who to share it with later in the day.
“Maybe I’ll post about it on Facebook”
“I’ll tell Rob about it he would really appreciate it”
“It was so good maybe I’ll watch it again this weekend”
All of these thoughts are swirling as you brush your teeth and look at yourself in the mirror.
Where are you?
Your body is in the bathroom.
Your hand is moving as the bristles of the toothbrush clean your teeth.
But YOU, aren’t there.
The problem is that this mind wandering doesn’t stop when your teeth are clean.
This way of experiencing life continues throughout the day.
Your body’s in one place, but your mind’s in another.
You aren’t living in the present moment.
What happens when you aren’t present in the moment?
Your ability to focus on a task at work is diminished as your mind wanders to the past or the future, distracting you from being productive.
Your relationships suffer constant tension because your mind is always somewhere else rather than present with loved ones.
Your life is passing by you so quickly, and if you don’t do something about it, you’ll blink and realize you missed the whole…damn…thing.
What happens when you ARE present in the moment?
You fully experience and embrace life.
You have all of your faculties; including your intelligence, your skills, and your cognitive abilities to complete tasks more effectively.
You are more productive since distraction is no longer a hindrance to you.
You savor the moment with loved ones; they feel your love and you feel theirs.
So much is said about the present moment and while many understand its importance, there’s some confusion about what it means to be in the present moment, and how to be present.
Being Present in THE Moment, Not THIS Moment
I’ve made the mistake of calling the present moment “this moment” many times.
Why is it a mistake?
Because in calling it “this moment” we’re implying that there’s more than 1 moment.
Let’s say you were to ask me a question.
If I say, I have “this answer” for you, I would be suggesting that there are multiple answers.
If instead I say, I have “the answer”, I would be implying that there is only 1 answer.
We’re not in “this moment”, which is succeeding previous moments, and preceding future moments.
We are not moving through life moment to moment and experiencing them one at a time.
Please, DON’T believe me.
Go to your experience.
Does it feel as though each moment is separate and sequential?
Does it feel as though the moment is fluid and continuous?
The answer is quite obvious, isn’t it?
Therefore, identifying the present moment as “this moment” is incorrect.
The importance of this is based on the underlying meaning given to the term “this moment”, which is that life is to be experienced “moment to moment”.
This type of thinking creates an illusion in the mind that our happiness is invested in a future moment, which does not exist.
There are no future moments or past moments.
There is only 1 moment, or “the moment”.
The present moment is therefore not different than any other moment before it or after it.
It is the same moment.
Only in THE present moment can happiness be experienced.
How do I know this?
Again, go to your experience.
Have you ever experienced a moment other than the present moment?
Have you ever gone to the future and experienced a “future” present moment?
Will it be the same present moment you are experiencing now?
Have you ever gone to the past and experienced a “past” present moment?
Was it the same present moment you are experiencing now?
Once it’s known that the present moment is indivisible from our past and future, we can also see that it is eternal.
Well – if it cannot be divided, and it is not sequential, meaning it has no beginning or end, wouldn’t we come to the conclusion that the present moment is everlasting?
All of existence prior to your birth, all of your existence on this planet, and all of existence after you pass on will be experienced in the everlasting and continuous present moment.
How sad is it that we are so often not experiencing the wonder that is THE present moment?
Our thoughts are off somewhere else, taking us to the future, dwelling on the past, and we are missing what’s happening here and now.
When you’re spending time with loved ones, you can either be fully present savoring the experience, OR, you can be distracted with thoughts about the meeting you need to prepare for the next day.
The first way leads to joy.
The second way leads to stress.
When you’re at work, you could be fully invested in the moment by executing on your ideas and completely focused on the task at hand, or you can be worrying about what others may think of you if you don’t succeed.
The first way leads to results.
The second way leads to anxiety.
When experiencing any difficult emotion, you are resisting the present moment.
It’s that simple.
As Eckhart Tolle says…
To detach from stress, what is required is a simple deviation from resisting the present moment to embracing it!
Here are 3 tips to make a subtle shift in your experience so you can be fully present in THE moment.
Tip 1 – Breathe Mindfully: Complete a Simple Breathing Exercise
Research shows that we take on average 20,000 breaths per day. That’s a lot of breaths! How many of those are we doing consciously? On many days, I would guess it’s less than or equal to 0!
An exercise to focus on your breathing can be a simple tactic to shift your attention to the present moment.
4-7-8 breathing is one of my personal favorites, where you breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, hold it in for 7 seconds, and exhale through the nose and mouth for 8 seconds.
When doing this, focus all of your attention on the sensations you experience during the inhale, the holding of your breath, and the exhale.
Give it try right now and see how it feels.
Another exercise is simply becoming aware of your breathing. When you notice your mind getting distracted, bring your attention to the air flowing in and out of your nose or mouth. You will notice an immediate shift to being present in the moment.
Tip 2 – Get in Touch With Your Body
Bring your attention to your toes.
What do you notice?
Are they cold or warm?
Do you notice any sensations, such as tingling or numbness?
This is one example of how bringing your attention to your body helps make a shift to the present moment.
This is obvious, but your body is always with you, right?
So let your body be an anchor to bring you back to the present moment when your mind is wandering.
Notice the sensations of your fingers sitting on the keyboard.
Become aware of the weight of your body in the chair you’re sitting in.
Observe the muscles in your face and allow them to relax if you sense any tightness.
All of these examples help you to fully experience the here and now.
Tip 3 – Observe the Observer
Right now you’re reading this article, and your attention is on the words.
Shift your attention.
Focus your attention on YOU, reading the words.
Watch yourself, as if you’re watching someone else, read this article.
If you’re doing this right, you’ll notice a major difference in your experience.
You’ll be immediately pulled into the present moment, since you’re focusing on the experiencer of the experience, and this “experiencer” is always in the present moment.
In the space where you observe the observer, there are no thoughts.
This requires turning awareness on itself, and being aware of being aware.
This is different from observing your thoughts and sensations since your attention is on the source of your attention, not on the thinking mind that labels the experience.
An example of this would be listening to the sounds of bird singing. The traditional way of listening would consist of hearing the sound and labeling what it is you hear.
“There’s a bird singing.”
“I think it’s a robin.”
“It sounds beautiful.”
When you observe the observer, you’re only experiencing the sound for what it is in the present moment. The sound hits your ears and no thoughts are required as you’re experiencing it fully and objectively.
See how this doesn’t require any thoughts?
Thoughts arise out of memory, which is based solely on the past, and are not required when fully experiencing the present moment by observing the observer.
When there are no thoughts, you are fully embracing the present moment.
This last tip may require further exploration, so maybe I’ll post another article about this topic.
For now, please remember that life is short, my friend. And you don’t know what tomorrow may bring. If we choose to experience life through the fleeting thoughts that come and go like the wind, we’ll blink, it’ll be all over, and we’ll realize we missed it.
Instead, this week, I invite you to choose a different experience of life. One where you make an intention each day to experience life in the only way life can be fully experienced; in the one and only present moment.
P.S. A distracted mind is an unhappy mind, and my 8-week program on how to build resilience and be present may help you. Schedule a free call and we can have a conversation to determine if working together makes sense, or feel free to contact me directly.