Living in the moment seems to be a popular goal. It used to be that everyone wanted to have life balance but now I hear people say all the time:
I want to live in the moment.
That’s great but I have a question:
Which moment are you talking about?
This present moment?
As mindfulness becomes more widespread everyone seems to be on a quest to be fully present to what is happening right now all the time. We have a picture in our head that we all need to be living some blissed out zen like life.
Good luck with that.
In our desire to be more mindful, we seem to have created an expectation that the present moment is somehow inherently better. Maybe that’s because we tend to spend so little of our time there.
But that is not what is at the heart of mindfulness practice. It’s not about constantly holding our attention moment to moment to moment. It’s more about being aware of which moment we are currently inhabiting.
Here’s a little secret:
There’s nothing wrong with past or future moments.
The past holds lots of valuable information about what we did and how we did it. It holds our memories. So thinking about the past is not bad or wrong.
The same is true for future thinking. That’s where we plan and organize and dream.
We just happen to give far less of our time and energy to the present moment.
If we spend the bulk of our time flitting between the past and the future and skipping over the present, we miss out on the experience that is happening right now.
You’ve probably know what that is like. You are thinking about what you didn’t get done (past) or what you still have left to do (future) and you don’t really pay attention to what is happening right now around you.
Here’s the thing:
Mindfulness is conscious awareness of the present moment.
So we are being mindful as soon as we become aware of which moment has our attention. When we have awareness that we are future planning or replaying past experiences, we are practicing mindfulness. We then have the choice to bring our attention to the present moment if we wish.
Most of us don’t need much practice in future or past thinking. We’ve got that handled. But we all can likely be better at paying attention to the present.
So how exactly do you live in this moment?
Check in with yourself.
Ask “Where am I right now – past, present or future?” One is not better than another. It all depends on what you are doing. If you are planning a trip, then future thinking is a great thing. If you are having a conversation and thinking about the past, you might want to bring your attention to the present. Simply noticing where your thoughts are is an act of mindfulness.
Pause and breathe.
That always helps to bring our attention back to the present. When we stop and focus on our breathing we allow our minds to take a break from thinking and we can settle back into our bodies for a moment.
Have a sensory break.
Pause and check in with your five senses. Bring your focus and attention to the sensory experience of this moment. Right now what do you see, hear, taste, touch and smell?
You are always living in the moment – a past moment or a future moment or sometimes even the present moment. Mindfulness is not about trying to continuously stay in the present moment and avoid thinking about the past or future. Instead practice continually returning your attention to the present moment.
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What helps you return to the present moment?