Being present is for everyone! Whether you work in finance, education, construction, or the music industry or you are unemployed, retired or fresh out of college, most of you will have found being present challenging at points throughout your life.
Today we will explore how being present will not only bring a greater sense of calm and ease, but also help you feel satisfied as you move through life.
In this article I am going to explain:
-What “being present” means and what it is not.
-How being present is a choice which leads to greater satisfaction.
-The unwanted effects of the “lack of choice” mentality.
-Give you 12 Simple Tips to harness that presence and satisfaction in every moment!
What does it mean to be present?
Well the present is right now, however our concept of it is always relative to time, especially when we have a plan for our day or a long term goal for the year. The present is instantaneous and even as I write this sentence, what I have written, and your thoughts about this paragraph are already in the past. It’s quite existential and open to some interpretation.
What being present is not and why that’s confusing:
We often use the past or future to interpret our present. An example would be noticing a repeating pattern in our past relationships and relating that to a present experience. We may also have a habit of making decisions about finances based on how much income we have been able to generate in the past.
First of all, there is nothing “wrong” with awareness and thoughtful decision-making based on past experiences or future desires. And it is important to note that both can still hold us back from taking healthy risks and considering new possibilities.
When we interpret the present from the future we may have planning thoughts and think about what we are going to do next, while considering the effects of our actions, the multiple routes and outcomes. And this practice, while great for aiding in decisions, can also lead to “analysis paralysis”, fatigue, frustration, indecision and anxiety. Yuck!
Being present is a choice which leads to greater satisfaction.
What if you could fully trust your choices–and be present and confident all along the way with total faith in a favorable result, even if the results were not guaranteed? Would that be valuable to you? How would that free up your mind, your energy and your relationships?
When we fully trust our choice in action, we will find the most freedom, joy and efficiency because all of the thoughts about alternate plans, judgments, or fear fall away and we are able to focus fully.
This is also an opportunity to experience the freedom that comes from commitment. Yes. That’s what I said: Freedom in Commitment! When I commit to completing a task or project and I follow through on that task then I feel the freedom of knowing that I can trust myself to deliver on my word. This is called Integrity. I also know that I can trust myself to enjoy the other aspects of my life and see how doing so allows me to be more focused and productive at work.
The unwanted effects of the “lack of choice” mentality
Here is a simple example of the unwanted effects of not choosing fully.
Let’s say you have a hard time waking up in the morning. You may hit the snooze three times and then take a whole hour to even wake up and then be tired for the rest of your day. In this case, you did not fully choose getting out of bed or to get some extra rest. You may have a belief that you are lazy if you sleep in or that you need to wake up early to get something done. Or you may dislike what you are waking up to: your job or life in general.
People say they want more freedom in their life and then they unknowingly give their power away to their self-judgements, job, boss, family, etc. They say I “have to” work this job I hate so my kids can go to a good college. Or “I have to” tolerate my boss or life partner being emotionally abusive because I would not be where I am today if it was not for them.
This brings us to the 12 Simple TIPS to be more Present and Satisfied in your daily life!
TIP 1- Replace “I Have to” with “I Get to”:
I am the chooser in my life. When you replace the “I have to” with “I get to” you remove the elusive “overseer” whom you used to blame for your life. Now the power is rightfully back where it belongs. Instead, we say “I work because I believe in supporting my family and I can always find a better job. I get to talk to my boss/partner about our relationship because we have a huge opportunity to grow and support each other more than ever before.” ***Play with replacing “I Have to” with “I get to” and get underneath why you really are choosing to do something and make the choice fully from a place of power.
TIP 2- Being Present is a Practice in Choice:
Now hear me out because I know there are many people out there who say, “No matter how hard I try, I can’t mediate.” From a neurological perspective, choosing and rechoosing the present is a way to rewire our neurological pathways to focus more on enjoying what we are doing in the moment, without any clouding from the past or future. Choose the present by noticing your sensory experience: I love the way the carpet feels under my feet, the sound of the person’s voice, the way the air smells. This works equally as well if you are having an unwanted experience. Ask yourself: “What is really going on right now?” Name what is happening without any interpretation: I feel tired. My boss is yelling at me. My skin feels hot and tingly, my heart is racing. (Then immediately practice TIP 3!)
TIP 3- Needs, Wants, Desires:
Ask yourself, What are my needs, wants and desires in this moment? What’s missing? How can I give myself what I need? Now if you are enjoying your experience it may simply be to continue being present with what you are doing.
If you are in an unwanted experience, asking these questions can bring you solution and resolution by pausing to see what is missing in the present and how you may ask or act to shift the situation.
TIP 4- Concentration Meditation:
Pick an object such as a candle, plant, flower or photograph to focus on for 5-10 minutes. Set a timer. You can play music if you like. Spend the time focusing on the details of the object. When your attention drifts or you find yourself in thought, gently bring your attention back to that object and all the sensory aspects: sight, smell, taste, touch. Accept that bringing your attention back is part of the practice. Let go of all judgement about your ability to focus and watch how your focus blooms and shifts. Do this once a day and notice how your ability to focus improves from day to day, moment to moment.
TIP 5- Mindfulness Meditation:
Sit in Silence and allow your thoughts to pass by like clouds in the sky. When you get distracted focus on your breath flowing in and out of your nose. You can also picture your mind like a blank screen and allow the thoughts to pass by like words on a ticker tape.
The more you focus on the blankness behind the thoughts and your breath coming in and out through your nose, the more your thoughts will become background noise. They are still there just as the sounds of birds and cars can be heard outside your house and they are now part of the “silence” instead of being your primary focus.
From this place you can feel at ease and restful, as you are free from what is often called the “monkey mind”–the mind that is always analyzing, judging, fearing, negotiating, and planning. From this place you can access flow states which you can then take into other areas of your life to help you focus and stay present with certain tasks or situations
TIP 6- Talking about the Present:
Now this one is fun to do with a partner or solo especially when you are engaged in an activity like hiking or exploring outside. Or if alone you can practice it silently to yourself in almost any situation from washing the dishes to building a shelf to interviewing for a job.
Start by fully choosing and focusing on what you are doing. If you are hiking with a friend you might talk about the flowers and the scenery or the sensations in your body. You may notice that you start contemplating the past or the future, which again is totally fine and also not the point of this exercise. So lovingly bring each other back to what is occurring in the moment. Same thing if you are alone. You are describing what it feels like to wash the dishes, how the dishes look, etc. If you are having a job interview you are talking about how honored you are to be having this interview right now and acknowledging what you like about the company, while silently reminding yourself to listen to the person interviewing you and acknowledging yourself for your skills and expertise.
TIP 7- Feeling Whole and Complete:
Sit or lie down in a very comfortable place. Better yet, take a bath or float in a pool or hot tub. As you relax imagine what it feels like to be whole, to have everything you need and want, to be completely satisfied. Initially, you may think about the past or future desires. But Once you have the feeling, let go of the past and future and allow yourself to feel whole and complete in the moment.
Place one hand on your heart and the other hand on your belly and breathe into this feeling of wholeness. Allow any thoughts, fears, judgements to pass like clouds in the sky as you continue to use your breath and your concentration to maintain a sense of wholeness in your body and mind for 5-10 minutes. Set a timer. 🙂
TIP 8- Being Present to your Resources:
Practice this immediately after the previous exercise. Here you are accessing your internal resources of safety and security and oneness and much more. It is possible to access these states from within, without any external resources or validation to back them up. When we give ourselves this gift, we begin to notice how we can use our mind to create our experience and our response to what is going on in the world around us, even if what is occurring in the material world is unwanted. Other resources you can access are character traits that you already have and want to cultivate more of in your life. Things like: compassion, integrity, creativity. And even if you don’t think you are courageous, focus on what you think it might feel like to be that way.
TIP 9- Notice What’s going Well:
This practice is designed to help you focus on your strengths, supports, and what is going well. This is where you acknowledge everything that is working for you in the present. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and allow yourself to acknowledge yourself. Whenever you drift into fear or judgement or loss for words, you bring it back to what is working right now, even if you are repeating yourself. Whatever we focus on grows.
TIP 10- Daily Reflection: This is reflecting on the recent past in order to be more present in the future. Stay with me now! At the end of your day ask yourself:
Where was I present to the moment or task at hand throughout the day?
When was being present a challenge?
How did I feel when I was present versus not present?
How did being present benefit me?
What technique can I practice the next time I am struggling to be present?
Remember Acknowledge your successes no matter how small!
TIP 11- Physical Activity:
Pick a physical activity that you like and practice focusing on the act of the physical activity and how you feel in your body. Gently bring your mind back to the sensory details of the physical activity every time your thoughts wander, or you start analyzing a past experience or planning for something in the future.
TIP 12- Get a Satisfaction Partner:
Ask a friend of yours to share daily gratitudes with you as well as celebrate areas of your life in which you feel satisfied.
Take turns sharing on the phone, in person or over zoom or voice memo. Here are some examples of things you could share: I am grateful for my close friends. I find my wardrobe quite satisfying. I feel so satisfied after I go to the beach and work out. I am grateful to live near the ocean. Just spend 5 minutes each sharing your satisfaction and gratitudes daily. When you say your gratitudes make sure you are cultivating feelings of joy, satisfaction and gratitude in the moment.
You’ll find that these feelings will grow the more that you focus on them and share them with others.
Here’s to being present!