Almost every meditation technique and mindfulness training asks us to stay present. For many this is easier said than done. Our minds are constantly chattering away, ruminating on everything we need to get done, what someone said to us the day before or we get carried away with aspirations for the future. With all this internal noise going on, how do we stay present?
Eckhart toll one said,
“Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past and not enough presence.”
Even the Buddha taught that our well-being is not in the future or the past, but in experiencing every moment as it happens.
Knowing that our minds have a tendency to just think, we may as well come up with a system to remind us to be present. That starts with an ability to check in several times a day to see if we are ruminating about the past, regurgitating emotional scars that have not yet been dealt with appropriately, or anticipating some future event.
We can set a timer on our cell phones, or just use an external cue – like every time we see the color green – as a reminder to check in with our thoughts. Are we thinking about what we are doing right now, taking in the smells, sounds, colors, and feelings of the present moment? Or are we squandering the precious now with our obsession with the past and future?
The next step is to become aware of the thoughts that arise. Often people tend to go into the past or present tense, because if they were to stay present, uncomfortable feelings and emotions might arise that they’d rather not deal with. Considering that the past emotions you were unable to energetically digest are still haunting you, it makes much more sense to be present with those emotions that arise, and to allow them to release. This is more healthy for your mind, and definitely more healthy for your body.
You can also look into the setting or rising sun, and focus on what that light feels like on your skin, and how it looks through the lens of your eyes.
In fact, don’t be surprised, if when you start to practice being present, you begin to experience memories of all sorts that you haven’t thought of for a very long time.
You may also become aware of emotions you didn’t know you have about things in the present time – maybe disappointment about how you handled asking for a raise, sadness about a relationship that isn’t working out, or regret that you haven’t yet stepped into your full power and started on your true path in life.
Don’t shy away from these emotions. These are important indicators of whether you are living your life in accordance with Divine Intelligence. Instead of escaping these messages, and the emotions that come with them by putting yourself in the past or future, stick with them, and see them through – even if they scare you. On the other side of those feelings are guidance about the next perfect thing to do to reach your goals in life.
Another way to stop living outside the present moment is to step outside of your limited Self-absorbed experience. Look around you. Watch people. Do they look sad, or happy? Are their faces buried in their phones or are they talking animatedly to others around them? How does observing others doing what they do make you feel.
The next level of this practice is actively engaging with others in the present moment. You can simply smile at someone and make conversation when you are getting an herbal tea (sorry! I don’t recommend or drink coffee), instead of worrying about your to-do list, or you can get even more deeply involved in the present moment by helping others through volunteerism or practicing random acts of kindness.
Finally, one of the quickest ways to stop worrying about what has happened to you and to stop fretting about what hasn’t happened yet is to write down everything you are thinking. There is something magical about this process. It is like a moving meditation, and it empties your mind of the thoughts that want to keep circulating over and over again. Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way, states that this is her preferred method of meditation. She explains that it frees up tremendous energy being used by worrying or anticipating and allows you to use it instead, for creative endeavors.
Writing things down is also a perfect solution for those who find that when they sit to meditate their minds are especially crowded, and they have difficulty just observing their thoughts pass through their mind without judgement.
Every moment that you can stay in the moment, you are freeing your mind to achieve miraculous new levels of awareness. Can you be present right now?