Hi friend. Are you okay, right now, in this present moment?
Last week I talked about how, if you’re reading this email, you’re probably okay.
If there were a problem right now you would go deal with it, instead of taking time to catch up on email. I’m not talking procrastinating—but a real problem that required your attention.
Unfortunately, our brains are conditioned to go toward what’s familiar, which is why we tend to repeat the same patterns over and over, even if we want them to be different. What becomes familiar is our minds wandering away… ruminating in the past, or anxious and worrying about the future.
In the present moment, though, everything is okay—probably.
If we want to make change in our lives, we have to see clearly where we’re at right now. NOW. As in, this present moment.
And so, it serves us to learn how to be present—to practice it, if you will.
Mindfulness can really be defined by simply asking the question: “what’s happening now?"
Anything that can remind you to ask this question can help you tune into the present moment.
Here are some of the ways I turn to the present moment:
Meditation can help to relieve stress and anxiety—but that’s not really the point of it.
The point is to practice being present. We sit down, bring our attention to our breath, and just watch it right now. The mind will wander away (if your human), and then, without any judgment at all, we notice we’ve wandered, and bring it back to the breath—that’s what’s happening now.
This is my favorite way to intentionally practice being present every single day. The more we practice, the more it will start to happen when we’re not practicing, too. I have an intro video to meditation if you want to try it out.
Take 5 breaths.
If I’m not meditating or am too activated to do so, taking some intentional breaths helps to bring me back to what’s happening now.
If you’re experiencing anxiety (and we’re only anxious if we’re lost in the past or future), then consider trying some of these breathing exercises to help find solid ground.
Name 5 objects.
Another one I turn to in a moment of stress, panic, or activation, is simply naming objects in the room. I’ll start with “one generation,” which is simply the noun itself—table, flower, shoe, etc.
And then name a few with a “second generation,” adding a descriptor—round table, pink flower, smelly shoe, etc. Look around and name what you see right now in this room. It’s about what’s here and happening now—not in a thought about something you saw yesterday.
Anchor with the senses.
One aspect of mindfulness that fascinates me is the senses—they’re one of the ultimate ways to tune into what’s happening now, because we can only experience the 5 senses in this moment.
Whatever we see, feel (sensation), smell, taste, or hear is NOW. If we’re thinking about something we saw or heard earlier, this is not actually a sensation—but a thought.
Thoughts can really keep us from the present moment, because most thoughts are not about now. Of course, we have to live and think about things—so the goal is not to abandon thoughts, but to learn how to choose when we give our thoughts attention, rather than letting them control us.
Regular, daily-life activities.
Meditation is an opportunity to practice being present—but if we only meditate and never bring it to daily life, what’s the point?
Really, we can meditate anytime—without sitting down! Washing the dishes is one of my favorites—I have a delicious smelling soap that gets me excited to tune into the senses. I feel the warm water on my skin, smell the sweet soap, see the foam moving across the dishes, and hear the clanking.
We can tune into the present moment with any regular activity! Showers, walking, eating are some of my other go-to’s.
Get in touch with your body.
Exercise has always appealed to me—I struggled with exercise addiction for years, and in retrospect, I can see that I clung to it without any other tools to manage emotions, feelings or sensations.
It was one of the only ways I knew how to connect with body—even if I was doing it to escape uncomfortable feelings. Now, I have more tools and can embrace and partake in exercise in a healthy way.
Dance is one of my favorite ways to connect to the here and now. I can’t dance yesterday or tomorrow, after all! I have to pay attention and get into my body now.
Remember—you don’t have to go searching for the present moment. It’s always here!
We don’t need to “do” anything to get here now. The only thing getting in the way, really, are our thoughts about the past or future.
If we want become present and feel we’re not right now, the best thing we can do is ground, and be willing to let go of thoughts for a period of time. Don’t worry—they’ll always come back.
Light and love,