The Gift of Being Present

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I sometimes spend way too much time in the past and the future. I replay conversations or experiences in my mind and second guess how I handled them. I focus on what the rest of my day will bring when I go a walk instead of enjoying the walk. I'm not saying the past and future are not valuable. We can and must learn from our past and in many ways it has shaped who we are. Planning, dreaming, and goal setting can help us find joy and fulfillment. The past and future definitely do and should play a role in our lives, but is so easy to let the present slip by us without ever really experiencing it. If we never learn how to be truly mindful of the present, we will not experience our lives as fully as we could. 

Being present has a lot to do with being mindful. What is mindfulness? According to Mindful.org, "Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us." Sounds great. It's a basic human ability so easy peasy, right? Well, not quite. Mindfulness is a skill and while most of us can get to the point of living mindfully and being present, it takes practice. But, it is worth the effort! 

Benefits of Being Present

  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Increase joy and contentment
  • Enhance performance
  • Gain insight into ourselves and others
  • Improve memory of our experiences

Becoming Present

Like most good things in life, being present takes practice. We have to train our minds to really experience the present moment. Here are some ways to work towards being present.

  • Practice meditation. Train your mind to let go of distractions and to experience the present moment. Your mind will wander and that's ok. Each time it does you get to practice bringing it back to the present. Try a guided meditation app like Calm or Headspace if you want a little guidance.
  • Breathe intentionally to quiet and focus your mind. Keep in mind the goal is not to reach some elusive state of bliss or enlightenment. It is simply to learn to experience the present moment as fully as possible.
  • As you go through your day, focus on your senses. Ask yourself what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling?
  • Look for the joy in what you are doing. Anything that keeps you focused on what you are doing will help you be more present.
  • When you start to feel frustrated by distractions, ask yourself if there is another way to experience those distractions? I'm a podcast junkie and will sometimes wear headphones while I clean or complete other tasks around the house. My children inevitably want my attention when those headphones go on. Sometimes I set boundaries and they know not to interrupt. But, I have learned that sometimes it is better to take the headphones off and be present with my children. Maybe I have to wait to hear that podcast, but I typically have a positive and more meaningful interaction with them when I let go of what is competing for my attention. Again, not always. Being present doesn't mean letting go of self care and just being there for everyone else. The point is to mindfully decide what you will be experiencing in any giving moment and to try to experience fully.
  • Let go of distractions. Too many commitments keeping you from really experiencing your life? Cut back and learn to say no. It's ok. Really.
  • Diffuse or apply your favorite grounding essential oil. Try Balance - Grounding Blend, Cedarwood, or Frankincense.

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