The Power Of Living In The Now
How to Live In the Present (continued)
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. If discontented thoughts start to creep in, think of 5 things you are grateful for in your life. You could be happy that your mother is such a difficult person because she helps you practice patience, or thank your boss for showing you how NOT to run a company.
You can also focus on positive things in your life, such as your wonderful spouse or the joys of chocolate ice cream.
- Just do it, and pay attention while you do it. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you really want to do now. Sadly, everyone in the world dies with a to-do list. Carpe diem, as the Ancient Romans said. Seize the day. Grab the opportunity and make the most of it. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Eat the chocolate ice cream and savor every mouthful. Delight in the way it feels so cool on your tongue, and so on. And if you are worried about your weight, walk around the block a few times to burn off the calories.
- Set your intention for the day and for each action. This may sound like goal setting or living in the future, but it is actually a way of focusing the mind to keep it going in the direct you wish. If your intention for the day is to get through it without strangling your boss, great. It’s a start. If your intention is to benefit all living beings by heading off to the nearest soup kitchen to help cook the daily meal, do all your work joyfully.
- Stop judging. Humans tend to slap labels on things, good, bad, black, white, up, down. It is all a question of perspective. If you and your friends are each standing on a different floor in the house, for the person on the top floor, up would be the ceiling or sky, and down would be the next floor. For the person on the bottom floor, down would be the basement, or the ground.
Accept that things are neither good nor bad, they just are. This is particularly important in relation to your thoughts. Don’t judge, just observe. There’s no need to feel guilty about how much you detest your aunt. As long as you aren’t mean to her or say anything nasty, no harm is done. On the other hand, you could be grateful to her for presenting you with problems that enable you to learn and grow as a person.
Always begin where you are. The path of self-improvement can be a long and winding one. If you are lacking in self-confidence, you may feel like a complete mess that needs a great deal of work. You might even be told what’s ‘wrong’ with you by (not so) helpful and kind relatives and so-called friends. Choose one area of your life to focus on, being more present and mindful. If you struggle with overeating, for example, studies have shown that eating without the TV on ensures you focus more on the food you are eating, and eating slowly, chewing and really tasting every mouthful, will make each meal more satisfying and leave you less likely to overeat.
- Your best is good enough. Most of us dread public speaking, but the truth is that the only way to get really good at it is to practice, to keep doing it over and over again until you improve. With each opportunity for failure comes a chance for success, and a teaching moment, that is, a time in the present when you can learn valuable lessons and use them as the foundation for doing better next time.
You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to try your best. If you procrastinate at work because you are a perfectionist or worry about getting judged, remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be completed by your deadline.
- Stop watching the clock all the time. Of course we have to stick to our timetables, but we should not be a slave to our schedule and not leave time for things that will rest and rejuvenate us, including things that we love, and savoring those things in the moment.
- Go with the flow. Most people have trouble going with the flow, that is, living life moment by moment and seeing what will happen. Type-A personalities and real control freaks will actually try to do the opposite. Instead of going with the flow, they will try to re-direct the river. They might succeed up to a certain point, but the effort will be exhausting and the stress of trying to hold everything together so it doesn’t all just wash away can be overwhelming.
As the famous quote by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr says, “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
- Divorce yourself from media. It is true that cellphones are very convenient, but studies have shown that they eat up a lot of time with talking and texting, checking emails and so on. Cut the calls and cable and try to have a technology-free weekend in which you get away from the computer, mobile, DVDs, video games and so on, and get back to basics.
- Make regular time for loved ones. One of the greatest things you can ever give to a loved one is the gift of yourself through the quality time you spend with them. If you’re all acting more like roommates than a married couple or a family, schedule family time regularly and enjoy it moment by moment.
Dinner is a great time to connect, catching up on each other’s day and discussing a range of interesting topics, which fosters open communication and enjoyment of the present moment. Studies have shown that families who eat dinner together regularly are a lot closer than those who do not. They have also shown that the children in those families tend to be a lot less likely to experiment with alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and sex.
There’s really no greater gift we can give a loved one that to be present for them, listening supportively and relaxing together, even if it just for a few moments each day. As American cartoonist Bil Keane said, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”
Being present is a gift that will keep on giving, to your family, and above all, yourself, as you discover the power of living in the here and now.
So, what’s the best way of practicing living in the now? Let’s look at mindfulness meditation in the next chapter.