We often hear the message to ‘be present’, ‘ be in the moment.’ It sounds good. But what does it mean? How do you do it? For starters it means not thinking about the future or the past. It means no mulling over what happened – no making plans – no worrying about what’s next. Of course there are many times throughout my day when I need to make plans, or I need to mull over a difficult situation and contemplate a solution. That’s ok. The point is to develop the skill – and the habit – to also spend some time each day just being present.
So how does one actually be present? The easiest way for me to be present is to start by focusing on my breath. I notice the rhythm of it, the length of the in-breath and the length of the out-breath. I notice if it’s smooth or jagged. I notice the temperature and moisture of the air. I notice where I can feel the breath entering my nostrils, and how far into my body I can feel the breath move.
After noticing my breath I move my focus to my body sensations, scanning my body and noticing muscle tension or release. I notice that just the act of noticing my internal environment has a calming effect. As the calm settles in, my mind feels steady enough to begin focusing on my external environment. But I keep my focus limited to simply observing – not judging, analyzing, or problem solving – just noticing and observing.
I notice the light and the shadows, the colors, textures, patterns, the sounds and smells and temperature, the moisture in the air. There’s actually a lot of world to observe, explore, sense and feel in just this moment – moment to moment.
As I explore the world of just this moment, I discover delights, but also refuge. This is a giant discovery for me! To think this refuge is always available, if I cultivate my ability to get there and stay there for awhile.
The reality of life is that there are so many things to do, choices to make, problems to solve. Add to that the endless shiny objects that entertain and pull at my attention. It’s easy to forget about the refuge, the calm and the simple delights of the present moment. It comes down to how much control I decide to exert over where I put my attention.
As I walk this path I’m finding myself drawn more and more to the delights and refuge that await in this present moment. Right here. Right now. Peace is available in this moment.
Questions to Ponder:
How much of your day is spent thinking about the future or the past?
Do you spend any time observing the environment around you or within without analyzing? Simply observing?
Do you have rules, stories or values around ‘being productive’, ‘wasting time’, ‘needing to accomplish’, that interfere with your willingness to spend time just observing?