Episode 59: How To Live More In The Moment.
Life is happening in this moment, not in the future or in the past but right here and right now. When we are more present in the moment life feels so much richer and meaningful. Inside this episode are my top 4 tips to help you to live life more fully in the here and now.
I speak to a lot of people who find themselves worrying about the future or going over the past. This takes up a lot of time and energy - I know this because it was me a few years ago. Now I’m not going to say I never worry but I have become much more aware of my thoughts and and I can take a step back and not get so caught up in the worrying, over-analysing or limiting beliefs.
For example, we might be thinking about that comment you made at work, how you will manage to fit in some jobs before the school pick up, what you need from the shop and what you will make for dinner, how you will afford that bill or what someone will think of you if you say no to that invite or request. Maybe you’re worrying about elderly family members or the health of your family. Perhaps things in your life are changing and you’re not sure what that means for you.
Whilst there are things in life that need to be addressed and managed, we can also find ourselves thinking the same things over and over each day. Stuck in the same cycles and patterns. And whilst we are judging ourselves for the past or worrying about the future we are not living in this moment, we aren’t focusing on experiencing life right now, we are somewhere else up in our minds. At the end of the day this moment is the only time life truly exists and we can try and enjoy it!
When we are more present in the moment life feels so much richer and meaningful. We can be enjoying what we are doing, notice the smile from a stranger, really see and hear the person that is talking to you and form a deeper connection. Rather than multi-tasking with what you are doing plus all the thoughts, we can feel less overwhelmed and like we have more time. Or imagine 1 or 5 minutes spent doing something you love with your utmost attention, with present moment awareness, can feel really nourishing, helping us to create moments of joy throughout what might be a challenging day.
So here are my 4 tips to find yourself more in the moment..
1. Be The Observer-
Be the observer of your thoughts and create some space between you and your thoughts. How often does that worry or worst case scenario you are imagining become true? How often do we say “oh that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be”. This gives us the evidence that our thoughts are not facts. They are influenced by the thought patterns and beliefs that we have created over time. Sometimes we can look for evidence that our thoughts are true, for example you think nobody is going to like you at a meeting, so you sit quietly in the corner and perhaps therefore nobody interacts with you much and you think nobody likes you - however this isn’t likely the case! What if we believed people were going to like us, that we were worthy and our points in the meeting were valid - this scenario would likely play out differently. If you need to refocus, perhaps consider what could go well?
Often the mind wants to keep us safe so by planning ahead for what could go wrong we may feel more secure and in control in the short term, however it’s only often perpetrating a cycle of fear which saps a sense of safety, along with our energy and joy. When we can create space between us and our thoughts we can focus our energy elsewhere. This begins with awareness, noticing when the mind is wandering, observing your thoughts from a distance and choosing to pay them less attention. I often used to find my mind spinning down a rabbit hole of doom, and it’s blimin’ stressful and exhausting! Now I can notice and pause and focus my mind elsewhere, more consciously and if in doubt I always bring my focus back to my breathing because the breath is always with me.
Over time I have developed this skill to easily connect to my breath from practicing breathing meditations, whereby we notice when the mind has wandered off and we bring it back to the breath. I often guide this in a yoga class or to bring the focus to the hands or the feet for example, so that we are coming down out of the mind and into the body, here in this experience here on the mat, in the present moment.
Do you notice when your mind has wandered off and is running the show? Do you think thoughts are facts?
2. Utilise The Senses-
Like I’ve said, when we focus on something that is happening right here right now, we are in the moment where life is actually happening. Life isn’t happening in the past or the future, it’s happening right here, right now. Sometimes experiences can pass us by, we can forget to appreciate their beauty because we are so up in our heads. Ever been for a walk and not really paid attention to anything around you? I know I certainly have many times!
One things that I love to do is to focus on my senses. I’m grateful to have the 5 main senses; sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. If I’m out on a walk and my mind is whirring I ask myself, what’s 5 things I can see, 4 things I can hear, 3 things I can touch, 2 things I can smell and 1 things I can taste. This really makes me pay attention to what is around me at that moment in time. It connects me more deeply to the moment and I appreciate it much more. It completely takes me away from the whirring thoughts which I find very calming. I also love using the senses when there has been a longer relaxation at the end of a yoga class or a yoga nidra, to gradually bring people back into the present moment in the room.
We can also apply our senses to other activities such as eating. Ever got to the end of your plate and felt like you’ve not really noticed or tasted what was on it? We can appreciate that meal or piece of chocolate much more when we savor it, take a moment to pause and notice how it looks and the smell of the food, how it feels in your mouth (- if it’s chocolate perhaps let it melt and notice the sensation and different flavours coming out), then begin to start to chew and taste it some more. I know I have scoffed a bar of chocolate and I barely remember eating it - why not savor the moment! Does this sound familiar to you?
3. Reduce Distractions-
As humans we often want to turn away from pain and discomfort, it makes sense we want to feel safe. Sometimes we even ignore the signs and push on through anyway! Sometimes we learn coping mechanisms that no longer serve us well. Maybe we spoke our truth and feel uncomfortable afterwards as we are worrying what the other person thought. Often we may push this pain and discomfort to one side, not process what is going on for us in the moment and instead we reach for our phones for a distraction, rather than sit and be with how we really feel. Maybe we grab a glass of wine or a comforting biscuit. For some of us the sensation in the body can simply feel too much to sit with and we need tools or guidance to let it move through us.
As a school teacher I had very little time to process the constant stresses that happened throughout the day and would be filled with worries about how to get a complicated concept over in a lesson the following day. I would constantly be worrying about time running out and was fearful of showing up without an engaging lesson plan with 30+ teenagers sat staring at me. I threw myself into my work but really this was masking all of the underlying thoughts I had about myself, dysfunctional relationships and feeling shame and a failure.
So I guess what I am trying to say is sometimes we need to take the time to be in the moment and process what is really going on inside of us so that we can then begin to heal and move forwards with more energy and vibrancy. So how can we be more in the moment?
By not always having our phone with us as a crutch to place our attention on, by getting more comfortable with silence, by writing down what’s coming up for us to see it with greater clarity and what the real issues are and perhaps letting some of it go or making some new choices or seeking professional help and support if we need it. If you needed to hear this, it’s ok to ask for help.
Often in todays world we are eager to have our say and we can forget to listen. I mean truly listen to what someone is sharing with us, to listen with curiosity. After all, someone's perspective may expand our own understanding. We are limited to the knowledge we currently have and we can learn so much from others. We all like to be seen, heard and understood. When we communicate whilst watching TV and whilst on our phones or just doing a quick job we aren’t giving someone our full attention.
Whilst this is often life, I think it’s helpful to be mindful of creating times when we are really present with people. If you go to my nan’s she will always turn the TV off to sit and speak to us. Sometimes this can feel intense and maybe we just want to switch off and relax, but it is very much appreciated, especially because we don't see her that often.
But, the same can go for the people we perhaps live with or see on a regular basis. I believe it’s really important not to take them for granted and really take the time even if it’s 5 minutes to actually stop everything else and listen. In todays online world, we are connected far and wide but not always in a deep and meaningful way, just a few minutes of really truly listening can make such a difference to someone, don’t underestimate it. How would you feel if you had someone's undivided attention?
Let’s summarise the 4 tips to help you to be in the present moment..
-Be the observer and create some space between you and your thoughts,
-Utilise The Senses perhaps on a walk or whilst eating,
-Reduce distractions and practice noticing what is really going on for you,
-Really listen and form deeper connections,
Which one of these 4 tips would you like to try? I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.
If you would like to listen to the full podcast of this blog, why not grab a cuppa and click here to listen to the 24 minute episode.
I hope you have enjoyed reading.