‘At what cost do you ignore this present moment? The cost is incalculable as you pay for your distractions with your very life.’
For many of us, today marks a change. Schedules change and the pace of our days quickens. The feeling in the air and the quality of daylight signal approaching autumn. The darkness arrives early and lingers a bit longer. In the midst of all this change, it is easy to lose yourself. In that spirit, I offer you ten suggestions for remaining present in your life.
None of these suggestions are new or complex. In fact, it is easy to dismiss them as trite or simplistic. Each of these suggestions, however, is beautifully effective, like bicep curls for your brain or a dust-n-sweep of the cobwebs. Pick one suggestion or try them all. Repeat them mindfully and you will gain strength and resiliency you never dreamed possible.
One note of caution: As you begin to integrate any of these suggestions, be prepared to feel a wee bit uncomfortable. Maybe a little uncomfortable. Maybe a lot. Rest assured that the discomfort will pass and your dedication will be rewarded. The gift of each suggestion resides squarely on the other side of all that discomfort. I promise you, it does. And that gift, those gifts, they eagerly await you. Generously. Hopefully. Patiently. Yours.
- Unplug Fully – Our devices can be such marvelous servants. However, I firmly believe they have become the socially acceptable addiction of our time. They are like undisciplined children that have been allowed to run a muck, barking and screaming and demanding our attention, allowing us not a moment of peace or mental rest. In order to reclaim your life, power down for a period of time each day and notice what happens. The world will not stop. I promise, it won’t. I can guarantee this will be wildly uncomfortable at first. So be it, my friend. Listen to that discomfort. What is it telling you? Today, for a few minutes, give your mind a rest. Turn your attention away from the noise. Look up. Be present. Start living your life.
- Set Boundaries – So, if Tip #1 feels overwhelming, try this instead. Just as with that unruly child, set firm boundaries around distractions and devices. If it feels necessary, give yourself a time out. In doing so, you place the caterwauling child in its place in your life and not at the center. (Definitely not behind the wheel, in the lead or in charge.) Begin with meal times, even if you eat alone. Create a window of attention and appreciate the gift of nourishment.
- Breathe Deeply – There is very little that can do more for your well-being than deep, diaphragmatic, from-the-belly breathing. Breath = life. Full breath = full life. While this may sound obvious, it is easy to forget when we become distracted, hunched over and gazing down, shoulders curved inward, lungs compressed. Stop often in a day and sit up tall. Pull your shoulders back and out of your ears. Shine your heart light outward, let it shine, shine, shine! Take a few deep breaths, slowly and deeply. You will be more calm and grounded, peaceful and refreshed.
- Move Kindly – Move, for pity sake, move! Get up and move. You need not run a marathon, unless that’s your thing. Take a walk around the block. Gently stretch for five minutes. Turn on some music and dance – shake your stuff, baby! Move! Your mind will miraculously clear, your mood will lighten, questions might be answered and your body will thank you.
- Listen Closely – Distraction and listening cannot co-exist. Chose one. And as you consider which you will chose, call to mind the countless images these days of children trying desperately to get a parent’s attention as mom or dad yack on the phone or mindlessly text. Listening is one of the most generous and loving gifts you can give. Your attention says, ‘You matter. I see you. You exist.’ Yes, listen to your loved ones. Listen to your body too. Listen to the natural world around you. Is there something you need to hear?
- Notice Completely – Listening and noticing go hand in hand. Don’t simply look but really, truly see. Try being curious. Study things closely. Learn and wonder. In your noticing, set aside your judgement and simply observe. Is there something right in front of you that can enrich your life?
- Choose Consciously – Disengage the auto-pilot! So much of life is lived in a rut of familiarity. For example, how many times have you pulled into the garage and can’t remember the drive home? Today, choose consciously. Take a different route home. Try a new food. Respond differently rather than reacting. Mix up your schedule. Set aside ‘have to’ and choose ‘want to’ instead. You are in charge, so choose your life.
- Feel Fully – Are you feeling your feelings? Alcohol, our devices, food, activity, TV and drugs are just a few forms of anesthesia that create systemic numbness emotionally and physically. Re-acquaint yourself with your feelings and notice a fullness return to your daily experiences. If it is a fullness of pain, dear one, so be it. Seek a safe place to breathe into it and move through it toward healing. Don’t just stuff it or numb it into submission. The fullness of life resides in feeling it all.
- Focus – Do just one thing. Just. One. Thing. Bring all of your attention to what you are doing now. Be present to your interactions and to your movements. Dilute nothing by multi-tasking, rather bring your most resourceful self to all that you do.
- Sit Quietly – Sixty seconds. Try being still for a just one minute. What do you notice in that minute of your life? If it drives you out of your mind to be still with your own company, gently notice that too. The gifts of stillness are myriad and expansive. Over time, my friend, stillness becomes fullness.
The list above is by no means exhaustive. It may even feel trite or simplistic. I have found great wisdom, great comfort, a fullness in the simplicity of each. Joy as well. In fact, I have found unfiltered, unbridled and untethered joy. But do not take my word for it. Pick one today and give it a try. And please, if you will, take a moment to share what is working for you.