Learning to Live in the Moment
Would you be surprised to learn that using your precious down-time to read a good book, watch a movie or bake a batch of cookies isn't considered "living in the present moment?"
"How could that be?" you gasp. Any of those activities, if you find them enjoyable, are a great escape from the normally hectic tasks that seem to consume your days. But, that's just it—you're using any of those pleasurable activities to escape just being in the present moment. I mean just being.
Being Versus Doing
When was the last time you ate a meal while reading a book, a newspaper or watching TV? While doing that, were you aware of the taste of every grain and morsel that you put in your mouth? Did you chew each bite, perhaps thirty times, or until the food was pulverized? Do you even remember the tastes and scents and textures that you experienced from the time you started your meal until your plate was empty? When was the last time you consumed a meal, with or without another person being present, completely in silence, focusing on nothing but the taste and your gratitude for having that meal?
Now before you tune out and think I'm another of those woo-woo crackpots, I want you to know that this perspective is coming to you from a still-reforming Type A personality. Multi-tasking (even though I coached my clients not to do it) was my middle name. If I didn't have at least five things going on at the same time, or several files open on my desk simultaneously (ten was my record), I didn't feel that I had achieved anything. I fooled myself into thinking I was being super-productive, getting so much done in a day.
I did that for a long time. Until, as you may have read in my bio, I hit a wall, crashed, and burned to a crisp. Believe me, it wasn't pretty. I was physically in pain, emotionally drained and spiritually void.
Coming Back To Yourself
I had heard, countless times, how if you just become quiet long enough you will hear the answers. Are you kidding me? I didn't even know the questions! Even if I did hear a response, I would doubt it, figuring I was making it up or hearing voices in my head.
For me, the turning point in what felt like a fruitless struggle to find the answers came with an unexpected opportunity to attend a one-week meditation retreat. Quite fortuitously, a new friend emailed me on a Sunday, I just happened to be at my computer, and I was literally able to grab one of a precious few cancellations before too many other people knew about them. I didn't even know if I could really afford to go or where I'd be housed or with whom.
Was it a coincidence that all that happened seemingly out of the blue? And that I happened to be at my computer on a Sunday, which is rare? I think not. It was the beginning of starting to hear the answers. Your moment of truth may not be the same as mine (it probably won't be) but if you pay attention, you'll become aware of the right opportunity for you to figure out what it will take for you to slow down long enough to come back to yourself. But how exactly, does one "come back to oneself?"
I'm glad you asked.
Your Mission Should You Choose to Accept It
1. Connect with your breath.
As Buddhist Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book, You Are Here, mindful breathing is a kind of bridge that brings the body and the mind together. If through mindfulness of the breath you generate harmony, depth, and calm, these will penetrate into your body and mind. Don't think too hard about meditating (unless you want to). Instead, just say silently to yourself, “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” Practice doing that throughout the day, when things get hectic. You can do it in your car, when walking on crowded sidewalks, or when taking your dog for a walk.
2. Without mud there is no lotus.
Without experiencing pain, we'd not know joy. If we didn't feel anger, we wouldn't understand compassion. Without life feeling hectic and chaotic, we wouldn't recognize peace and tranquility. Be grateful that you own the "bad" stuff in order to know the good. Think about what adversities you've had to deal with, like having had a difficult childhood, being in an abusive situation or personal demons you've managed to overcome (and remember you're still a work in progress). Take the time to write those down and then journal some more on how those experiences can be used to help others with understanding, love and compassion. If you read my last article, you'll find this exercise extremely helpful to get in touch with your Blessing, Essence and Mission.
3. Catch Yourself Multi-Tasking.
For some of us this nasty habit has become so ingrained that we're not even aware that we're doing it. Curiously, even though I didn't think I was aware in the past, I recently remembered that tightness I'd feel in my gut when I was doing too many things at once. I mistook it for an adrenalin rush which was conducive to working well to deadlines. In a way it was because I ended up with almost flat-lined adrenals. Don't go there! Instead, do this: type out and put somewhere highly visible: Focus ONLY On (your task at hand) Until Completion. Alternatively, you can download a bell to go off randomly or at least once an hour, at which time you stop what you're doing, close your eyes and take three deep in and out breaths.
Until next time, remember to be authentically you and discover the magic of living in the present moment!
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