Be present, be mindful, live in the moment - nowadays we're abundant in positive buzz words like this. These are the answers to our problems. Feeling depressed, anxious or stressed? Be present, be mindful, live in the moment or throw the icing on the cake with a good oul; just breathe.
While of course this is helpful advice, it can be hard to connect to what any of it actually means. Sometimes words and phrases are used so often that they lose their definition in the repetition. So we end up sitting with this advice whirling around our minds and getting frustrated when we've no idea how to apply it. How can I be more present? What will that even do?
Being present means truly being aware, being connected to and being a part of the moment that you are currently in. You get to actually experience and enjoy it fully.
But I think for a lot of us, it can be hard to remember the last time we did actually experience something fully. We can go to amazing places, exciting events, see beautiful sights but even while we're still there the experience can feel like a foggy memory. We're there physically but we're not really engaged in the moment, we're not connected. And as such, that moment isn't ours anymore. We lose it, even while we're still in it.
Life isn't meant to be a fast-paced blur of half-appreciated experiences. There's magic in so many moments, and it's time to stop missing out on them. It's time to figure out this whole 'being present' business and make it work for us.
1. Pay Attention
We miss so much by simply not paying attention. We might think we are, but in actual fact we're distracted or our mind is elsewhere or we're thinking about so many other things that there's feck all attention left for what's happening right now. Whatever you're doing, give it the attention it deserves. Realise that you're not going to get anything out of it, if you're not giving it anything. How can you enjoy it properly if you're not paying it proper attention?
Whatever experience it is, make a point of noticing - the little things, the details, the atmosphere. Notice each element that makes up this moment. Even if it's forced initially, take in what's going on, what makes it the moment that it is and what you're experiencing from it.
2. Use Your Senses
A great way to become present is to use your senses. Wherever you are you can connect to these 5 little nuggets of mindfulness. What can you see? What can you hear? What can you touch? What can you taste? What can you smell?
Make a point of connecting to the moment via these senses. Listen harder, look closer, inhale the air deeply. Pick out points of interest that your senses can feast on. The note of a guitar, the aroma of coffee, the intricacies of a flower petal. In any event, you can decide to connect to something within it, just zoom in and find focus. It brings you out of your head and into the present.
3. Single Task
Multi-tasking may be admirable to some (and a clumsy challenge to others), but when we're not being present it can kind of just mean half-doing a bunch of things and getting little benefit out of any of them. Wherever you are be all there. When you're doing one task, just be doing one task. Everything you need to do will get done, but it won't all get done at once. Put down the phone, turn off the tv and just do the task at hand. Then you can move on to the next. Engage in your life the same way you want to communicate with others - keep eye contact, listen closely, respond, ask questions. Be an active participant in the conversation of your day-to-day.
For those of us all too familiar with the concept of the 'monkey mind', it can be tricky to pay attention to one single thing at a time. We can find ourselves getting annoyed by how easily we drift off into a plethora of irrelevant thoughts when all we want to do is be present.
So put a stop to the tangents. Pick a mantra or affirmation and repeat. Even if your mind wanders off, bring it back and repeat that affirmation. Affirm what you want to be true 'I am in this moment', 'I am present'. Let this be the breath of air you need when you find yourself detaching. Bring yourself back. Take your mind by the hand and lead it to where you want it to be.
5. Be Gentle with Yourself.
We may desperately want to be enjoying every amazing or even regular moment to the fullest, but we can't seem to shake the detachment. And that bothers us, which really just heightens the pressure and makes 'being present' a chore rather than a welcome practice. Take the pressure off. If you think about how long it's been since you last connected to a moment, acknowledge that it's going to take practice to make this a natural habit.
Plus - when we're focused on how detached we're sick of being, we can't empower our ability to connect. We end up getting caught up in the problem instead of sourcing the solution. Give yourself a chance. Don't judge how absent you've been or ruminate in regret for lost moments, realise that you're going to have so many more, deeper, richer and more thoroughly enjoyable moments when you nail this.
By constantly wishing for something better, or lamenting all the things that weren't good enough, we throw away what we have right now. You don't get to relive this life, you can't redo it, so pay attention to it.
In life, sometimes we're just fiddling with our own dials trying to get on the frequency that is finally clear. The one where we can hear the message with no interference. That's how we get present, we make little adjustments and we listen out for the fuzz to die down. That long-awaited clarity will be so worth it.