If you had a calendar sitting in front of you right now, and you had to mark every moment that you are looking forward to, how many marks would you make? Would there be something every few weeks? Every few days? Every second month or so?
The problem is, most people believe that the next moment is better than this moment, so their attention is usually rooted in the past or future, rather than the present. If you’re not experiencing and living in every moment, then you’re always waiting for the next moment.
Waiting is a state of mind. You see it, hear it, and feel it everywhere you go. You hear it in such comments as “It’s only Monday,” “Is it 5 o’clock yet?” “Thank God it’s Friday”. You ask someone how their weekend was and “it’s never long enough”. We wish all of our weeks away so we can enjoy those two little days in between, and then before we know it, we’ve wished our whole life away. When the highlight of our week represents the end of some drawn-out mindless activity that we consider a chore, rather than something that is enjoyable in its own right, we need to get present.
If you are not present, you are wasting your life. It means that you are missing out on life’s most magical moments because you are too busy anticipating the next moment. If you only appreciate the big things such as social events or weekends, then everything that happens in between becomes a means to an end, while your mind goes off into time travel.
To be in the present moment, we need to move our focus and attention beyond our mind.
The mind is a filtering system that analyses, distorts, interprets, judges, categorizes and labels – formatting the data that it perceives through our five sense according to our beliefs. Most of all, it loves to label.
Once we have filtered the sensory awareness through our mind, it is no longer what is, but instead only an interpretation of what is. Our mind is not capable of consciously understanding what we perceive through our senses.
Presence is the pure consciousness, and the space that exists in between thoughts. It is imbued with the qualities of love, joy, compassion, and abundance – our true nature. Our mind perceives life from the fear-based zone: fear, lack, greed and limitation. Negative thoughts release negative chemicals into the brain, and the resulting bad feeling triggers more negative thoughts! So we must learn to escape the mind in order to become more mindful.
Here are five tips to get out of the mind…
Practice sensory awareness without labelling. Practice sense perceptions without the compulsive need to name things. As spiritual leader Eckhart Tolle says, “You get a stronger sense of who you are in your essence when you are not telling yourself who you are in your head.”
Venture into nature. Go for a walk in the bush, a swim in the ocean, or just get out in the fresh air – someplace where you are not being bombarded by advertising, messages, social media/emails – anybody or anything that is trying to steal your attention away from the present moment.
Practice acceptance. The key to acceptance is non resistance and non attachment. Thoughts will come and go, and the trick is to not become attached to, or identify with the thoughts. You are not your thoughts; you are an observer of your thoughts. Equally important is not resisting the thoughts. Simply acknowledge them when they arise, then let them go.
Be aware. Start practicing presence in daily activities such as washing the dishes and brushing your teeth. Appreciate everything; waking up to a new day, having access to a hot shower and a fridge full of fresh food for breakfast, going to bed with crisp clean sheets, etc. When you’re alone, turn off the TV and learn to enjoy your own company. Many people like having noise to drown out their thoughts, so this is a good place to start.
Focus on the breath. If you’re finding it a struggle to stop thinking, return your focus to the breath. Do this each time your mind wanders. The purpose is to stop thinking, and you can use your breath as an anchor when you need it. What exists in between thoughts…is presence. This is life.
Becoming more present will completely transform everything you do. You won’t need to wait for big events in your life in order to be happy.
Life is beautiful when you live for each moment. When we worry, we’re focused on the future. When we feel regret, we’re focused on the past. Eckhart Tolle says that “all the things that truly matter… Beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind.” So if this is the kind of life you want to experience, don’t wait for it. Choose to be present – right now.
Susan Mathew is a Transformational Life Coach who specializes in spirituality. She helps people free themselves from the shackles of the mind so that they find their inner peace.