How To Be More Present
I’d say that the question I get the most from my friends and clients is: “how can I be more present?”.
If that’s you, I’d like to give you a round of applause. Because, unlike so many people, you’ve realized that you are currently living in one of two places: the past or the future. Both of which we have no control over. What’s gone is gone, and the future’s not ours to see.
Some people don’t even recognize they’re not living in the moment, but you’re not one of them. So, props to you.
I, too, used to be unable to pause for a moment, always having to be on-the-go, doing something, and worrying about the future. My mind would be busy 24/7. What’s more, if for some reason I couldn’t do something I wanted, I’d start attacking and judging myself for not being good enough. You can probably relate to some of these situations.
For example, my clients often tell me that they’re always chasing something. Sometimes they don’t even know what it is. They feel disconnected from themselves, and they’re always overthinking--not because they have to, but because they’ve become so used to it. They don’t know what it’s like to not overthink.
If you’re like them, you’ve tried meditating in order to stay grounded and present. How has it worked so far? Sometimes, that internal monkey chatter won’t leave you alone, and your racing mind won’t allow you into the present moment.
But that’s not even the biggest problem.
We’re so invested in our busy mind chatter, even the little things in life go unnoticed.
The other day, I was having lunch with a friend of mine. I’d tell you what we were talking about, but the thing is, I have no idea.
After lunch, I couldn’t remember a word she said to me. I don’t even remember what was on my plate, for that matter. That’s because before my friend and I went out to get food, I had an important conversation with my boss at work, which I couldn’t stop thinking about.
I was completely lost in thought, unaware of the wonderful conversation I was having with a dear friend. Whenever I replied to her, it was fully automatic.
That’s exactly what I mean when I say we need to be more present. If you also experience this kind of situation often, it’s the equivalent of letting life pass you by. You’re not present when you’re having dinner with your kids and spouse, or even when visiting your parents.
Like I said at the beginning of this article, you’d love to be more present. You just don’t know-how. Yet.
In order to be present, you first need to choose to be present. You have to want it, so you’re halfway there. You need to practice being in that state, a little bit every day since you’re not used to it, and be mindful of the moment you’re in.
Let’s start small.
A beginner-friendly way to be more present.
A lot of people think they need to wake up at 5 am to meditate every day in order to be present. That’s not true.
The secret is to be mindful of the way you’re breathing right now. Not your thoughts, not your feelings. Just your breath.
Are you taking deep, slow breaths, or quick, shallow breaths? The average adult breathing rate is 12 to 25 breaths each minute. Is your breathing rate under, over, or just right?
That’s all! Here’s why this exercise is so effective.
When you pay attention to your breathing, you’re involved in something you’re doing right now. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but right now. This, in turn, brings your attention to where you currently are, and you might tell yourself “oh! I wasn’t breathing correctly!”.
It’s pretty amazing when you stop to think about it.
You can do this exercise three times a day: first thing in the morning, after lunch, and before you go to sleep.
It’s also useful if you can take a few minutes to do it during your work break. After all, it’s very common to hold your breath or breathe shallowly without noticing when all of your attention is focused on replying to emails, right?
What’s more, switching your breathing pattern from shallow to deep signals to your parasympathetic nervous system that “hey, it’s time to calm down!”. Hence the importance of being aware of how you’re breathing. ;)
The most beautiful thing about this breathing technique is that you can’t focus on your breathing and have a busy mind at the same time. Notice that you aren’t trying to run from a busy mind--you’re simply replacing your racing thoughts with more useful ones.
Once you choose to be mindful about how you’re breathing, the busy voice in your mind will fade. However, it takes practice. That’s why I’m inviting you to engage in this exercise at least three times a day to see the best results.
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