We all spend time planning for future events, and reflecting on the past, but spending too much time thinking about things we should have done yesterday or things that we are meant to do tomorrow can result in us being unable to savour the present moment.
Often we fail to notice what is happening around us, and even to what we are reading or what someone is saying to us. Sometimes we try and do more than one thing at a time, and as a result we miss much of what each moment has to offer. As you are reading this stop to consider:
Are you thinking of something that happened in the past or something that’s coming up in the future?
What does your body feel like right now? Pay attention to it. Do you notice any spots of tension or physical pain?
How are you breathing? Are you taking full, deep breaths, or are you breathing very shallowly?
Depending on the tone of our projections, not living in the present moment can make life more painful than it needs to be – perhaps we anticipate negative outcomes, or negative judgements about our work or appearance. Perhaps we project that someone will let us down which makes us feel angry or upset even though nothing has actually happened yet. Or maybe just thinking about past events makes us emotionally upset, which then interferes with whatever you’re trying to do at the moment.
To help you live in the moment and tolerate distressing events more skilfully try this exercise:
Where Are You Now?
The next time you find yourself feeling distressed try asking yourself the following questions:
Where am I right now?
Am I worrying about something that might happen, or planning something that might happen?
Am I reviewing mistakes, reliving bad experiences, or thinking about how my life could have been under different circumstances?
Or am I in the present, really paying attention to what I’m doing, thinking, and feeling?
If you find that your attention is not in the present moment, refocus on what’s happening to you now.
Notice what you’re thinking about, and recognize where your attention is focused. Bring your focus back to the present moment.
Notice how you’re breathing. Take slow, long breaths to help you refocus on the present.
Notice how your body feels and observe any tension or pain you might be feeling. Recognize how your thoughts might be contributing to how youre feelimg, and let them go and bring the mind back to the breath.
Practicing mindfulness of breath can be a really helpful tool in terms of emotional regulation – start small, five minutes in the morning is a great way to start – remember bring an attitude of curiosity and compassion to your practice – there is no right experience. When you have finished your practice please remember to thank yourself for doing this great thing, contributing to greater peace for your self and the wider world.