How to be more present
The biggest gift we can each give ourselves is the gift of being present — engaged with life, connected with each other, listening with kindness, staying open-minded, free from judgment.
These are the words of Headspace co-founder and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, because the ability to be present, no matter what is going on around us, is the cornerstone of meditation and mindfulness. It’s why we sit to practice, to learn how we can better show up in life, for ourselves and for others.
We hear a lot of people say it: “I want to be more present”. But how does that look in reality? On the most basic level, it means being focused on one thing — a conversation, a project, a task in hand — without distraction, without wanting to be somewhere else, without being in your head, lost in thought.
At a deeper level — and this is what meditation teaches us over time — it means being able to sit with challenging emotions as and when they arise, when we sit to practice or when we are triggered by circumstances or situations in everyday life. Be present with joy. Be present with anger. Be present with sadness. Be present with excitement. It is about being present with a particularly strong emotion, without getting caught up in it.
Of course, learning to anchor yourself to the present moment is easier said than done, especially when most people have a tendency to dwell on yesterday or worry about tomorrow. Meditation can help bridge the gap between emotions from the past and eagerness of the future...and that’s why it teaches us how to be more present in life.
There are countless reasons why it’s beneficial to learn how to become more present. Some of you might notice a pattern of restlessness or indecision throughout the day that has drawn you to mindfulness, and some of you might have a goal that you are looking to accomplish. The idea of being in the present moment while simultaneously having a goal for the future might seem counterintuitive, but cultivating the skill of becoming more present is imperative when it comes to reaching your goals.
When you understand how to live more in the moment, you can maximize your results for any given pursuit by using mental stamina versus purely physical. It’s all about how we show up, which is where the practice of presence comes in.
When you mentally scan how your body is feeling from head to toe, you are bringing awareness to every ache, pain, or sensation you might be feeling. When you breathe into these senses, you are learning to sit in the present moment and pay attention to every physical and emotional feeling that comes to light. You’re not changing anything, you are simply noticing everything — which is the first step in becoming present.
Body Scan Meditation - 3 minutes
Believe it or not, eating can become an incredible tool to help cultivate mindfulness in the present moment. Many of us are on the go so much that we are often eating on autopilot between meetings, at red lights, or even in conversation. Be honest: How many of you have chowed down on a plate of food mindlessly, without really savoring the food? When we practice mindful eating, we engage all the senses and take time to savor a meal. You can recycle the practice of engaging the senses even when not eating, which gives you the opportunity to cultivate presence physically and mentally — similar to the body scan. Eating is something that we experience every single day, so it’s a simple time to start encouraging this practice.
With constant notifications stacking up on your devices from the moment you wake up until the moment you fall asleep, it’s incredibly difficult to stay in the present moment. However, in a world where we have all of these seemingly involuntary alerts buzzing around, we always have a choice. Allow yourself a few moments each day to willingly close your screen and turn off your volume — to think about the here and now — your priorities, how you’re feeling, your breath. This allows you to take back control on the trajectory of your day, versus the distractions taking control and piling up lower priority items in front of you.
Routines can help us stay on track and feel empowered. Finding a routine that is built on the precedent that you are a priority can help you feel anchored when it comes to decision-making throughout the day. When we are learning how to be more present, finding time for daily mindful meditation sessions can be instrumental. If you have more leeway in the mornings, consider opting for daily morning meditations, if you have a few moments during your commute, consider using the Headspace app in your car. Once you find stability in a rhythm of your meditation cycle, you have the opportunity to strengthen your mental health — which supports the quest of learning how to be more present in life.
The benefit of learning how to live in the moment goes far beyond productivity and goals, but it allows you to trust yourself, spend quality time with those you love, and find great joy in all of your experiences. If we can do this, then we will experience an increasing sense of confidence, in being at ease with both comfort and discomfort, difficult and joy.
If you’re looking for more mindfulness techniques, the Headspace app offers subscribers several courses on topics including: Putting Down Our Phones, Self-Esteem, Taking a Break, Restlessness (And if you’re not yet a subscriber, you can give it a try before committing — the first meditation for each course is free!) Or, check out Headspace’s entire collection, a selection of recommended meditations and Headspace animations to guide you on a journey to strengthen your relationships with yourself and those around you. Be kind to your mind today and every day. Sign up for a free trial.
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