The Power of Being Present

How often do we sit down to eat and even though our bodies are at the table, our minds are not. We race through our meals with our cell phone beside our plates as if it were an equally important piece of cutlery. Our minds constantly drift throughout the day, consumed with what’s coming up in our day, week, month… we completely miss what’s happening in the moment.

My wife and I were “playing” with our daughter one day when it hit me. We were both sitting on the floor beside our daughter as she assembled her blocks, Dora ( the explorer ) was shouting in the background and my wife and I were both fixated on our phones.

Is this what we want our daughter to remember? Were we sowing into our relationship with her? How much value did those 28 photos on Instagram/Facebook/Pinterest add to our lives?

At that point I realized a change was needed in my life. It’s been a few months since starting this practice and I’m far from perfect. I catch my mind wandering all the time still, but I’m getting better. Like meditation, being able to catch yourself and bring yourself back to the present moment is the first step.

I’ve learned a lot about being present the past few months, and I’d like to share this to help encourage other who are struggling.

What are your options?

There are really only three options that you can choose to focus on:

  1. The past. Reliving events that have already happened, beating ourselves up for doing something again that we said we’d stop, saying something we shouldn’t have, dwelling on things that we can’t change. Or reminiscing about past events that have come and gone.
  2. The future. Day dreaming about things we wish we could do, places we would rather be, items we wish we could have. Or worrying about events to come, looming deadlines, meetings, etc.
  3. The present. What is happening right now, at this moment.

You’re never going to be able to stop thinking about the past and the future, and you shouldn’t. It’s healthy to relive past moments with loved ones, times worth remembering, and also thinking about the future, and planning things out, but these things can also consume us. You can’t change the past, there’s nothing we can do about it, but we can learn from our mistakes and be aware of them for the future.

We also can’t control the future. You don’t know that your meeting is going to be a disaster. You also don’t know that being somewhere else would be any better than where you are in the moment. Plans change, and we need to be prepared, but you can also overprepare and miss out on what’s happening in the world around you.

Benefits of Being Present

There are countless benefits of being in the moment, but these are some of the things that have stood out to me:

  1. Your relationships are better. One of the biggest things I noticed when I started being more present was my daughters attitude. When we invest our time in her rather than best distracted, she’s so much happier.
  2. You get more done. How can you get anything done if you’re not focused on what you’re doing in the moment? I’ve tackled a lot of projects that I’ve been putting off by simply acknowledging them in the moment and not letting myself get distracted. Focus on one task until it’s complete, then move on.
  3. You’re less stressed. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re consumed with the future, or you keep beating yourself up about the past. Focusing on the moment helps you appreciate where you are right now.

Tips on Being Present

  1. Set reminders. This is the first and most important step. For me, it took setting an alarm for every hour to remind myself to be present.
  2. Be aware. Now that I’ve been practicing on being in the moment, I don’t need the alarms any more. I catch myself drifting off and I ask myself what’s really important right now.
  3. Write it down. Just because certain thoughts keep popping into your head doesn’t mean that they’re always bad. Keep a journal, or a daily log to brain dump and set aside time to go through this list and assess what’s really important. I would often catch myself overthinking things before bed trying to complete the thought that I was on, only to forget by morning time. Now, I write down anything brewing in my brain before bed and stop worrying about it, because it’ll be there for me when I wake up.
  4. Eliminate distractions. Something that really helped me was getting rid of Facebook and Instagram on my phone. I noticed that I started spending more time on Medium reading articles, do I got rid of Medium on my phone as well. These were triggers that allowed me to step out of the present moment. Do you have a trigger?
  5. Pay attention. If you’re eating, eat. Think about the food that you’re tasting, experience the different flavours, the textures. If you’re working out, focus on you’re workout and the muscles that your working. If you’re having a conversation, be present and pay attention to what they are saying, stop thinking about what you want to say next.

My Challenge to You

Most of us know when we’re going to be having supper each day during the week, when we’re in the routine of getting ourselves to work. Set an alarm for when you know you’ll be sitting down for breakfast, or maybe it’s lunch for you, and try to be present during that time. Turn of your phone, find a quiet place to yourself, and just experience the food that you’re eating.

If you have trouble with that, find something else that you could work with. Maybe it’s running and simply paying attention to your steps and breath, or something as simple as focusing on each dish while you clean up the dishes.

The most important part is that you practice. Don’t beat yourself up, don’t get discouraged. Just acknowledging that you’re not living in the moment is an incredible first step that you should be happy about.

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