It seems the older I get, the more I struggle with being present in the moment. Ironically, the older I get, the more I realise the importance of being just that.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE PRESENT AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
There is so much written on this topic, and I’m by no means an expert, but for the sake of brevity here’s my quick take on what the present moment is. The present moment is now. It is the only moment we can directly control. All other moments (past and future) only exist in our minds. The present is the moment in between these two states. Therefore, “being present” is about being fully engaged in the moment without looking backwards or forwards. When I refer to being present, I’m not just referring to this sense of “now”, I’m also referring to the concept of being fully attentive and focused on the person and/or moment at hand.
THERE'S A PARTICULAR CARTOON THAT SPRINGS TO MIND WHEN I THINK OF "BEING PRESENT" AND "BEING A PARENT".
How often in recent years have you been able to have a quiet conversation on the phone, fully focused on the person you are talking to and entirely present? I’ve gotten so used to the cut-off sentences and interrupted discussions that I’ve almost forgotten how to have a meaningful conversation with my family. As much as our family and friends understand and offer us some slack, our inability to remain focused and attentive (that is, to remain present), can be really damaging to our relationships. We need to find a balance.
BEING PRESENT WITH YOUR CHILDREN IS ALSO A THOUSAND TIMES MORE IMPORTANT THAN MOST THINGS WE FOCUS OUR ATTENTION ON.
So often I’ve been distracted, by getting the dinner on or thinking about t he ten things I want to finish before bedtime, that I have not fully savoured special moments with my children. I always offer acknowledgement, but it can be slightly dismissive, inattentive and/or vague.
I’ve written before on the topic of rushing childhood, and what I’m saying now very closely relates. Our children are fully absorbed in the ‘now’. This is what makes them so wide-eyed and beautiful. This is why they smile so quickly after they cry. This is why they find fun in the smallest of adventures.
I completely understand the importance of day jobs, chores, and maintenance tasks...and I don’t for a second disregard that these are necessary distractions at times. What I’m getting at is, again, balance. We need to find the ability to pull ourselves away from the mind chatter of the past and future, and focus on the now. We need to push back on this notion of chasing the future - rushing through what we’re doing in order to make it to the next moment, only to get there to find we’re rushing through that moment too. If we fail to do so, we risk not only missing out on precious moments as we are steaming ahead to tomorrow, or reflecting back on yesterday, but we also risk damaging our children’s sense of self-worth and esteem in the process.
IN LIGHT OF THIS, I HOPE YOU'LL JOIN ME THIS WEEK IN BEING MORE 'PRESENT'...
Here are some suggestions to get us all started.
BREATHE: If you find your mind racing with past or future-based thoughts, use your breath to slow your thoughts down and pull yourself back to the present. I have read that the simple act of breathing through your nose (rather than your mouth ) can help do just that. Focus in particular on the outgoing breath.
PUT DOWN THE GADGETS: If your child wants to show you their latest dance move, or the rock they just found - put down your phone or tablet, step away from your computer and get down to their level and watch. Give them your full, undivided attention for five minutes and then resume what you are doing. I have a feeling we’ll find that doing this will actually allow us to be more productive as our children won’t feel compelled to constantly fight for our attention. Fingers crossed!
BE CONSCIOUS OF NEGATIVE THOUGHTS: Generally speaking, negative thoughts are usually based on past hurts or future anxieties, and therefore indicate that you are not entirely present. Be aware this week of negative thoughts. When they arise, actively seek to let them go or at least to acknowledge where they come from and begin working on ways to resolve those hurts and anxieties.
MAKE THE TIME: Make the time to connect with your family/friends this week. Even if it is just a 10 minute conversation immediately following the children going to bed, make the time. Relish in your ability to have a conversation involving full sentences, and focus on every word they are saying. This may require locking yourself in a white padded room with no view of dishes, laundry or the computer/TV…but whatever it takes to shut off the mind chatter and distractions for 10 minutes, do it.
FOCUS ON MONDAY'S MANTRA: “Whatever the present moment contains, embrace it as if you had chosen it.” (Eckhart Tolle) There is a great deal of power in taking control of your life in a positive way. If you can allow yourself to believe that everything that is placed in front of you has a meaning and a positive purpose (to teach you something, to send you in a new direction, to act as a catalyst to healing etc), and if you can treat each moment as if you had specifically chosen it, you’re not only “being present” but your positive and empowered reactions to the moment will mean you are making the absolute most of it too.