Living in the moment or present moment awareness are terms that we hear all the time but what do they actually mean? How do we do it and why would we want to?
Living in the moment or present moment awareness simply means being fully engaged in what is happening now rather than thinking about the past or worrying about the future or trying to multi task.
We have become so busy in our daily lives that it constantly feels that there is never enough time and so we are often trying to do several things at once and not giving ourselves to appreciate any one task in particular.
For example, how often are you having a conversation while scrolling through your phone or looking at something on the computer ?
You aren't really giving anything your full attention and consequently you are existing through life rather than being engaged and living it.
So to live in the moment or have present moment awareness means to be concentrating on one thing at a time. This gives us a sense of space to breath, we are able to think more clearly, we don't feel under so much pressure and we can enjoy the task at hand.
No matter how dull or monotonous a task may have seemed before, if it has to be done, why not find a way to enjoy it and make it a meditative and enriching process?
Choosing to look for the positive in any situation helps us to feel lighter, stay healthier and welcome more joy into our lives.
So, if you are talking with someone, give them your undivided attention. They will blossom under your focus and will find it easier to get their point across and you won't miss any subtleties that may cause conflict in the future. The other person will also feel more valued and less stressed because you are treating them as if they are all that matters to you at that time.
This is such a valuable communication tool for improving relationships both within the family, socially and in the workplace.
You can live in the moment or have present moment awareness when you are washing the dishes simply by keeping you attention on the job in hand. Notice how the water feels on your hands, what the sponge feels like when you wash the plates etc. If jobs have to be done, surely it's better if we do them to the best of our ability, with a sense of calm and be fully engaged with what we are doing so that we can notice our thoughts and feelings.
By slowing down and focusing our mind, most tasks can become relaxing and help us to regain and maintain a sense of balance.
Living in the moment or having present moment awareness also means dealing with the reality of the situation as it is rather than wanting it to be the way you think it should be. For example: You end up doing all the work in the office because your colleague is lazy and no one is picking them up for this and you don't think it's fair.
It isn't fair and your colleague is being paid to do a job that they aren't doing. Your thoughts make you angry about it because they are not being made to do the work and seem to be getting away with it. This makes you stressed and unhappy and can cause you to behave in a certain way that you are not proud of. This way of thinking is only making you unhappy and hasn't changed the fact that you are doing all the work
If you were present moment aware, you would be able to see that is not the person not doing the work that is making you unhappy but your thoughts about the person. Your thoughts are causing you misery and once identified, this realisation will allow you to see that you are focusing on how you think the situation should be instead of dealing with the situation as it really is. You can then step back from the emotions that your thoughts are producing and problem solve the reality of the situation.
You could choose not to do the work.
You could raise the matter with your colleague, maybe they don't know it's their responsibility, maybe they feel overwhelmed by the task, maybe they are afraid to ask for help.
You could report it to your line manager or you could accept that this is how things are and choose to do the work with good feeling (negative feelings hurt us more than anyone else) or you could look for another job.
The point is that when you are mindfully aware of your thoughts and emotions, you can choose to manage them rather than allowing them to control you. This acceptance of how things are doesn't make you passive or a walk over. It stops the flow of thoughts that are distracting you from what really needs to be done to address the situation and enables you to respond with kindness and compassion so that the issues can be resolved without causing further upset.
Why would we want to live in the present moment?
There are several reasons:
Because it is impossible to be depressed, stressed or anxious in the present moment. Depression comes from living in the past and anxiety comes from living in the future and stress can be caused by our attitude to the events of the past or the expectation of the future.
Because we notice so much more. We can miss so much of our lives by living on autopilot or multitasking that we are not living the experience of life to the full. We are merely mindlessly existing in our lives.
Because by being aware, we can identify the thoughts and behaviours that are not adding pleasure to our lives and choose to work on them.
Because it is less stressful, can improve memory and focus and enables us to manage our mental health and wellbeing more effectively which in turn improves our resilience, relationships, productivity and quality of life.
Because we can then begin to identify the unhelpful thoughts that we are having and stop them from controlling us by changing them for a more proactive, solution focused mindset to minimise conflict, overwhelm and frustration in our lives
How do we live in the moment?
There are lots of ways to train our brains to focus on the task at hand and can be applied to any situation.
Take some deep breaths.
Become aware of your surroundings, notice the colours, shapes, textures and smells.
Be grateful. We have so many things to be grateful for, but we can become so focussed on what we want to achieve or acquire next that we are constantly living in the future
Accept things as they are – not how you what them to be
Don't multi task
Put your phone down.
Scan your body and notice where you are holding tension and let consciously let it go.
Listen without judgement. We tend to listen to reply. Try listening to learn.
Notice the thoughts that you are having and the language that you use. Both hold much power.
The brain is a muscles that need to be trained. It takes time and can be uncomfortable in the same way that our muscles hurt when we first start going to the gym but with consistent practice, we quickly improve and can see the benefits of our work. It's the same process when we embark on a journey into mindfulness and the rewards are huge.
If you would like to work with me to bring mindfulness into your life, please get in touch.