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One of the things I wrote about in 9 Great Ways to Make Yourself Miserable is how we tend to spend a lot of time in the past or the future. We spend much time thinking about what was and what could have been. And we spend much time projecting into the future and wondering about what may happen.
This way of thinking is indeed a great way to make much of your life a lot more miserable and limited than necessary. The key to solving this problem is of course to live as much as you can in the only moment that you ever really live in and control. This moment right now. The moment that is all there ever was and – probably – will be.
There are more advantages to being in the moment besides being able to decrease mindmade suffering. Some of those advantages are:
- Clarity. When you are in the moment you have a much better focus and things flow naturally out of you. This is very useful in conversations, at work, while writing or while on the tennis court.
- Calmness. You feel centred, relaxed and whatever you do you do more easily. Since you are not projecting into a possible future or reflecting on previous experiences there is very little fear holding you back.
- Positivity. Since there is little fear, there are few negative emotions when you are in the present. Instead you move around on positive part of the emotional scale.
Now, that sounds nice and useful.
But how can you step away from the thought loops that whirl back and forth through your memories and fantasies?
How do you actually return to the present moment?
Here are 7 ways. But before we get to them I’d just like to add that this is a skill. You will slip back into involuntarily thinking about the future/past. But the more time and effort you spend connecting with the moment the easier it gets reconnecting with it. And staying there longer.
1. Focus on what’s right in front of you.
Or around you. Or on you. Use your senses. Just look at what’s right in front of you right now. Listen to the sounds around you. Feel the fabric of your clothes and focus on how they feel. For the last three days the dark winter seems to have left us here in Sweden. It’s been clear skies and sunshine all the time. So I have been using the unexpected light and warmth of the sunshine on my skin to reconnect with the moment.
2. Focus on your breathing.
Take a couple of dozen belly breaths and just focus your mind on your inhaling and exhaling. This will align you with the present moment once again. You can learn more about belly breathing in this article.
3. Focus on your inner body.
This is a bit similar to focusing on your breathing. In both examples you focus on what’s inside you rather than the outside. What is the inner body? Well, I guess you could say it is energy inside of your body. How your body feels from the inside.
A practical way to do this just to focus on your hand. To just put your focus there and feel how the hand feels to you and how the energy is flowing through it. Yeah, this suggestion may sound a bit weird to the mind. But if you actually try it a few times you’ll probably find that inner energy within your hand.
4. Pick up the vibe from present people.
If you know someone that is more present than most people then you can pick his/her vibe of presence (just like you can pick up positivity or enthusiasm from people). If you don’t know someone like that I recommend listening to/watching cds/dvds by Eckhart Tolle. His books work too. But cds/dvds are better than books for picking up someone’s vibe since the biggest part of communication is voice tonality and body language.
5. Surrender to the emotion that is already there.
It’s easy to get stuck in a loop of old memories. You may want to move away from them but there is a feeling there that brings them back over and over. So you need to decrease the power that feeling has over you. And you don’t do it by fighting it. You do it by surrendering to it.
The feeling is a loop within your mind that you are feeding with more energy by resisting it. When you accept the feeling then you stop feeding it and it vanishes.
Here’s how you it:
Say yes to the feeling.
Surrender and let it in. Observe the feeling in your mind and body without labelling or judging it. If you let it in – for me the feeling then often seems to physically locate itself to the middle of my chest – and just observe it for maybe a minute or two the feeling just vanishes.
As you can see, this way is similar to ones above. They are all about observing.
6. See things as for the first time.
This one pretty similar to the first way. But it can be useful when you have a hard time just observing your surroundings.
That’s when you can look at things as for the first time. Imagine it like that, take that role. Like someone who has never experienced this before. Like a child or someone who has never been here before. I like this one and I have been doing it from time to time for years (although back then I didn’t really understand why it felts nice when I did it).
Note: These last two ways are certainly not the best ways to reconnect with the moment and I’m not really recommending them. They aren’t that healthy (especially in the long run). But they work to some degree. It’s up to you if you want to try them.
7. Punch your leg.
Try punching your leg. Or pinching your arm. Or have someone else do it. And focus on that sensation to quickly bring yourself back to the moment.
8. Drink a beer or two.
It’s Friday so I thought I’d include this one. This is probably the most common way to connect to the moment (at least over the weekend). You may have said or heard that it’s nice to grab a beer or two after work to “take edge off”. What is this edge? I think it’s the clutter of thoughts that can run around in your mind after a long and busy week at work.
The alcohol quiets down these thoughts (and the decreases the number of thoughts in your mind). And you feel more relaxed. You don’t think about the past or future as much. You just enjoy your beer and the company. You enjoy the moment.
Drinking a couple of beers – or getting really drunk – can remove the past or future from your mind. It can add calmness and positive feelings. However, it throws the clarity out the window.
So besides the health aspects of drinking, this isn’t exactly an ideal way to be in the present moment. Use it at your own risk. Or just try out a few of the more healthy and effective techniques.
What other ways can you use to return to the present moment?
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