If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything. ~ Thich NhatHanh
Last month we looked what I often think of as the daily mantra that helps me shape my day or experience of an event. This month we’re going to take a deeper look at the second part of that, “Be present.” We have explored “Show up” as #1 and that’s an excellent start to things but now I want to nudge you to look a little deeper. As we talked about last month, it is important to get your body to a location but that’s only the start; now the challenge is to allow yourself to really be there. Does that sound too New Age-y to you? It might sound that way but the reality is this is a concept that has been around in the mainstream for a very long time. They may not have phrased it this way, but if you think about people who traveled here from some other part of the world, to start over, were likely in the daily practice of staying present; how else to you uproot your entire life, leaving everything else behind, to build new?
So what does it mean to be present? Since we can also use the phrase, “mindfulness” to describe the state of being present I’m going to turn us for a moment to Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn, who is often credited with bringing mindfulness to a broad audience, defines it this way, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and not having any judgement about it all. That’s a handful! Yes and no. It is a tricky thing to accomplish full time but it is totally within your reach right now, not too much work required.
The daily practice of staying present has a number of huge health benefits and rather than belabor them here’s a partial list (I’m reluctant to give you a full list because that would be the entire newsletter!):
The attitude of staying in the moment allows for great satisfaction with life in general
It is easier to savior the pleasures of daily activities
It is easier to manage stressful events
It can assist in lowering blood pressure, managing pain, treat heart disease, improve sleep, manage stress and lower gastrointestinal distress
It helps with treatment of substance abuse, eating disorders, depression and anxiety
Almost sounds like magic, doesn’t it?
The beginner’s guide for how to stay present is really pretty simple. Here are some get ways to get started:
Take 5 minutes out of your day to slow down, close your eyes and focus on how you feel, without being critical. Do you notice how the chair feels on your legs? How perhaps your shoulders are holding tension? Just notice it.
At some point when you have a moment, try to focus on your breathing. Again, just notice the way your body moves as you take a breath in and then let it out.
Do your best to stay here, now. By focusing on the present moment we have the opportunity to experience it rather than just being there, a lump in the chair or getting too caught up in what could be in the future or what was in the past.
Allow your initial urges to do something or react to a feeling ride for a moment; just a moment or two. We know that those impulses are often fleeting and do not necessarily need to be acted on.
Part of learning to flourish and thrive in our lives is learning how to live our lives. Being present for what is going on will allow you to start that process today. If this is something that sounds exciting to you or you would like to look at it more closely I’d suggest you take a look at anything written about or by Jon Kabat-Zinn, check out some of the new apps for your smartphone (a particularly good one is Headspace and SimplyBeing is also well regarded) or give me a call! I’d be more than happy to help you on your way to being present!