Have you ever been driving and realized 15 minutes later you do not know how you got to where you were going? (yes, unsafe I know) but it happens! And it happens because we aren’t being present in what we are doing. Our mind drifts off to a million places – did I turn the curling iron off before I left the house, what am I going to eat for lunch, what are my kids doing this afternoon, who’s going to let out the dog… the list is endless. It doesn’t only happen when you are driving either – it happens during work meetings, it happens when watching television, and it even happens when you are in the middle of a conversation.
So, what does this mean? It means that we (pretty much everyone) has lost touch of what it is like to be fully present. It does not mean you can’t blink when talking to someone or that you should hang on to their every word, but it does mean that you focus on what is in front of you. What are you doing in the current moment? What do you hear, what do you see, what do you taste, what do you feel?
When you look at all the problems you are faced with in a day, a majority of those problems are entirely in the mind. Sure, there are external forces at work: an uncontrollable job, the stress of kids, chores, interruptions and Facebook distractions. But it’s how our mind handles all that static that is the problem.
If you are completely present, those outside issues are no longer a problem, because there is only you and what is in front of you, in this moment, and not a million other things you need to worry about.
If your kid interrupts you, you can a) stress out because you have other things to worry about which means your kid is adding to your worries or interrupting your calm. Or you can b) be present and then there is only you and your child. You can appreciate your child for who they are and be grateful you have this moment with them.
If your job demands that you focus on an urgent task, you can a) stress out because you have a million other things to do and not enough time to do them. Or you can b) be present, and focus completely on that task and only that task at hand. And when you’re done, you can move on to the next task.
Facebook and other social media distractions don’t interrupt us if we close them and learn to pour ourselves completely into the present task. And if we need to do email, Instagram, or read blogs, we can set aside everything else and just be present with that one media task.
Being present then becomes a way to handle any problem, any distraction, any stressor. It allows everything else to fade away, leaving only you and whatever you’re dealing with right now.
Take three deep breaths and focus completely on the one thing you are doing right now. Focus on your body sensations feeling your breath travel in through your nose, filling your lungs, and out through your mouth…paying attention to every aspect of what you’re doing, to your body, to the sensations, to your thoughts. Your thoughts are going to jump around, but that’s completely fine. The goal is to be able to notice when your thoughts are getting away from you and bring your mind back to the present again.
Do this a few times. It takes practice. Feel your body relax, think about the task at hand, and when you feel yourself calm, complete that task.
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” -Mother Teresa
By Chelsi Simmons, LPC – Thriveworks Chesterfield