“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.” Eckhart Tolle
TEN Essentials to Living Fully in the Moment
In the words of Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace, “We're living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, decoherence.” Notice the first two words - both suggest destruction or brokenness! A state of brokenness causes pain, and needless to say that it’s opposite, a state of wholeness, causes well-being. Similarly distraction or decoherence creates confusion, whereas coherence causes understanding and order.
Imagine sitting down to complete the task that you had planned to complete, and just when you got into the flow of work your mobile goes ping and you can’t resist checking the WhatsApp message. It’s from your school buddy sharing a poor joke. You smile wryly, send the appropriate emoticon, and then catch up with some messages that you had missed, and by the time you get back to your task you have lost the flow. So you decide to whip up a quick coffee hoping it will help you get back your focus. And just when you were picking up the thread, your mobile buzzes, with your Dad on the other side reminding you to fill gas, as he had noticed the night before your dashboard indicator showed your fuel tank empty. This raises the alarm bell in you, since you had completely forgotten to fill your tank on your way to work as you were busy on a call. You grow really anxious thinking of all the negative possibilities - the nearest gas station is quite far, will you reach or will the car stall; would you rather leave your car behind and take the public transport; and the list goes on. With great uneasiness you force your mind back to the task you needed to finish and you start hurrying through it. The output is far from satisfactory...
Ellen Langer, creator of the psychology of possibility, explains, “Overriding the distraction reflex and awakening to the present takes intentionality and practice.” It is certainly not an easy task considering our ‘monkey mind’. However, meditation and mindfulness practice would be a good place to start.
Draw your Boundaries
Our smartphones and tablets are incredible pieces of technology that allow us to be efficient and do so much more than ever before. The social media has made the world a small place and help us connect to each other easily, but we really need to take a break from our phones and social media at least periodically. However good we might feel about our smart gadgets and the social media, they certainly intrude more heavily into our private space than any human interaction ever did.
We need to say “no” to responding every time the phone buzzes, pings, rings or notifies. Set a time for yourself - say every one hour you can check and respond. This will help you get more value out of our own time.
In a day how many times does this monkey mind jump from the past to the future, not allowing you to savour the moment, whether listening to music, doing a task, preparing a meal, watching the sunset, or spending time with your family? Are you really savouring the moments in your life without the compulsive need to take a selfie, a video or shoot out a post announcing your activity to all and sundry?
Multitasking Takes you away From the Present Moment
We are often mislead to believe that multitasking is the smartest thing to do, but in reality you are merely shrinking your attention span. Also you are dividing your attention between two different activities, so you cannot be wholeheartedly involved in either one of them.Say, if you were to help your son with his Math, whilst playing with your daughter at the same time, would you call that spending quality time with either of them? It’s important to prioritise and allocate your time wisely.
Running around like a headless horse causes us a lot of anxiety. Slow down...allow each activity to mean something to you. Feel into the moment instead of rushing past it.
Do not Confuse Hedonism with Living in the Present
The thought - it’s just one life so enjoy without denying yourself any experience - leads one to live in a hedonistic way. This is counterintuitive thinking. By wasting time can you have more of it?
So instead of wasting time if you plan your day, week and month, it is a good way to start. Structure your week in the order of importance - activities that are necessary ( related to your financial well-being); activities related to your familial responsibilities; your health goals; quality time with your loved ones; time for yourself doing what you love.
Spending time in a random manner leads us to feel out of balance, and finally stress takes over. We don’t need to be in constant motion to make the most of our time here on Earth. Rather be mindful of each moment and do only those things that resonate with you at a deeper level - this can bring you contentment.
What You Value will Grow
If you value your garden you will likely grow a beautiful garden, if you value your relationships you will form great bonds, if you value money you will be money-wise and not squander it.
Likewise if you value time you will be time-wise and not squander time. Your brightest future hinges on your attention to the present. If you value your time you will not waste it by engaging in negative and unproductive thoughts. You will not bother to compare yourself or your situation to that of others; you will not indulge in replaying the same incident or words, spoken to you unkindly, over and over in your mind; nor will you care to spend precious time in idle gossip. You will rather do things that are creative that add value to your self or others; learn a new skill; promote a cause because you feel deeply for it; do things for people you love; or simply do things that make your soul sing.
If you idle away your time, you will not have much to look back at. However if you add value to your time, you will look back in satisfaction of the time gone by.
Balancing the Past, Present, and Future
Often, we're so trapped in thoughts of the future or the past that we forget to experience what's happening right now in the moment. We sip our green tea and think, "This is not as good as what I had last week." We have a slice of homemade cake and worry, "What is this doing to my weight!" It’s good to think about the past and future sometimes. When we look back at our past successes and mistakes we have so much to learn from. We also need to plan for the future to some extent and have a preparedness for future events, but do we need to obsess about them?
Usually our problem is focusing too intently on the past, harbouring many regrets or having a host of anxiety for the future. A key factor in living a happy life is to balance your thoughts of the past, the present, and the future.
The only time that is actually available to us is the present, so the more time we spend in the NOW the more at peace we will be, since we will not be lugging around the burden of our past nor that of the future. Keeping the three in balance will help us to be more happy and calm.
Accept the present moment just the way it is. Way too often we wish things were different, we imagine things are greener on the other side or desire to be in someone else’s shoe. Instead you can just choose to accept the present moment to be perfect for you, because it is the experience you are calling forth in your life whether consciously or subconsciously. Simply savour, appreciate, have gratitude, expand in love, or allow sorrow to move through you, observe, learn the lesson in an experience, and finally let go of the moment to move on to the next.
Resistance causes undue suffering because of the inner battle and struggle that goes on. When we are in acceptance we can let go of the inner struggle, and find inner peace. If we live in denial it is difficult to overcome any negative or difficult situation. It is in a state of relative calm that you find the right solution.
Acceptance of an unpleasant state doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to fate and become passive. It just means you accept that certain things are beyond your control. The sadness, pain, longing, stress,or anger is there whether you like it or not. Nor does acceptance mean that you have to like what's happening.
Suppose you've had a break-up with your girlfriend or boyfriend and you're heartbroken. It is likely that you are overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and longing. You could try to fight these feelings away or try to suppress them or even be in denial, projecting a ‘I don’t care’ attitude. But either by suppressing the pain or by focusing on it, you only prolong the sadness. You will be doing yourself a favour by accepting your feelings, saying instead, "It's OK for me to feel this way. It is natural to grieve my loss...”
What you choose to do next will come out of acceptance and understanding of the present.
The ideal way to make the most of TIME is to slip into the flow state. This happens, ironically, when you're so engrossed in a task that you lose track of time as well as everything else around you. It is a state of total absorption and possibly the most intense way of living in the moment. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, first defined the concept of flow.
When does a flow state occur? Usually when the activity is deeply personal and rewarding - although the task is difficult the action feels effortless. The attentional focus narrows to a point where consciousness merges with the action and the awareness of self disappears. The absorption is so complete that nothing around is a distraction and hours can pass by without you even noticing. Artists, scientists, and writers are often found to enter into this state of pure engagement.
Although you can’t force yourself yourself into a flow state, you can create the ideal condition for it to thrive. Take up tasks that resonate with you intrinsically. Establish a deep connect with it.It should be something within your reach, yet challenging enough for you to stretch out of your comfort zone.Your final goal as well as your milestones must be clearly defined, so that you have your next step to anticipate.
Practice Present Moment Awareness
Life unfolds in the present. But so often, we let the precious moment slip away, allowing time to rush past unobserved and unseized, and squandering what is available to all of us in equal measure. When we're at work, we wish we were on an exotic vacation; on vacation, we worry about the work piling up on our desks. It struck me when a young client of mine told me that she was having a dream holiday in the hills and how sad she felt that it would be over in two more days. If you allow yourself to be present to the moment there is nothing more you would wish for, nor anything less. You experience time in it’s completeness.
Most of us don't direct our thoughts in awareness. Rather, our thoughts control us. Cultivating a nonjudgmental awareness of the present has a multitude of benefits. Present moment awareness has been proved to reduce stress, boost immune functioning, lowers blood pressure, and reduce chronic pain. If you spend even a few minutes everyday to being in the moment, it can reduce the risk of heart diseases.
Adrienne Glasser who is the founder of Present Moment Psychotherapy & Coaching says that present moment psychotherapy is about “regulating our nervous system through an integration of traditional therapeutic modalities with modern, experiential modalities and meditation.”
The more one becomes mindful of the present moment, the more one understands that ‘time’ is a three-dimensional, man-made construct. The past, present and future has been constructed to help us organise time. In reality the only time we have is NOW.
I feel Author Myrko Thum explains it very well when he says : “The present moment is the only thing where there is no time. It is the point between past and future. It is always there and it is the only point we can access in time. Everything that happens, happens in the present moment. Everything that ever happened and will ever happen can only happen in the present moment. It is impossible for anything to exist outside of it.”
Mindfulness is not about trying to get to a better place, but merely observing where you are in your immediate experience, without any judgement or wishing it to be different. A simple way to practice mindfulness is to dispassionately observe your surrounding and how your senses and feelings respond to it.
Mindfulness is brilliantly depicted in a classic Gahan Wilson cartoon (1980s) from the New Yorker: Two monks are sitting side by side, meditating. The younger one is looking around expectantly, to which the older one responds, "Nothing happens next. This is it."