Creating an awareness of the present moment is one of the basic principles of mindfulness and mindful living. We tend to live our lives and present moments – planning, worrying, anticipating what is to come. We do this many times at the expense of dismissing the moment.
So what can we do to quiet our thoughts and begin being present? There are a few exercises we can try to recognize the present moment. A simple way is to listen. Yes, listen. Find somewhere to sit in your home where you will not be disturbed and notice the sounds around you. Perhaps you hear the subtle humming sound of the air conditioner, your dog walking on the tile, water dripping from a faucet. Try not to label the sound or create a story behind the sound. Just recognize the sound. Now listen deeper. What can you hear? Perhaps further from the room. Maybe the background sound of birds chirping, your neighbor’s dog barking, or cars driving by. These sounds are more than likely always around you. In our distracted selves, we have labeled them as unimportant. It is in listening to those sounds that bring us to the present moment.
Concerning listening, here is another practical exercise. Practice listening to others. In your next one-on-one conversation, try to listen to what the person is telling you. Many of us get lost in our thoughts, trying to come up with the next best thing to say while the person is still talking. I challenge you to listen. Focus on their words. Catch yourself when you start crafting a response and bring yourself back to listening fully.
Another great exercise to practice present-moment awareness is taking the time to observe and see what is around you. Our lives are busy. As we move from one thing to the next, we rarely take a moment to pause. Take a break from your device. Go outside and take a moment to look around. Look up at the sky. Notice the contrast of the blue sky and the shape of the clouds. Look at the details, shadows, and movements. Look at the trees or the path of the birds as they fly by. You can do this anywhere, and it involves just pausing and taking in what is around you. It can even be done on the drive to work.
Mindful living also teaches us to feel without judgment. Sometimes we find ourselves feeling happy, sad, excited, anxious, etc. Allow yourself to feel the emotion without judgment. Do not try to fight or extend it. Just acknowledge it and let it be. Feelings, whether positive or negative, will pass. It is our human experience to feel these emotions and be present.
Just like our bodies need rest from exercise, our minds can benefit from a pause. Incorporating any of these exercises can help us step away from the commotion and help us be more present. What we are hearing, seeing, and feeling right now is our present-moment. Creating the moments where we pause, listen, observe, and feel without judgment, helps shape the present moments in our lives.
QUOTE FOR THE WEEK
“Wherever you are – there you are.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn