How to accept the now, by being present

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” ― Thomas Merton

Contrary to popular belief, humans cannot multitask. We get ourselves so wrapped up in trying to do a number of tasks at the same time, it stresses ourselves out. What we are capable of doing is handling a number of serial tasks in rapid succession, or mixing automatic tasks with those that are not so automatic.  

It’s like how we think. We can only think of one thing at a time. However, with upwards of 70,000 thoughts going through our heads, we believe we are able to multitask our thoughts. Our brains are incredibly clever at rapid thought change, but in reality, our conscious thinking is a sequence of thoughts; one after another.

We can only think of one thing at a time. However, with upwards of 70,000 thoughts going through our heads, we believe we are able to multitask our thoughts. Our brains are incredibly clever at rapid thought change, but in reality, our conscious thinking is a sequence of thoughts; one after another.

Most of our thoughts are spent in the past or in the future, rather than the present moment. What we end up doing is passing through that moment on the way to somewhere else and, in doing so, we miss the moment. That’s how life ends up passing us by – we do it to ourselves.

So, how do we stay present?

The first thing to recognize is that try as we might, we really can only do one thing at a time. Ruminating over the past, and that’s all we’re doing is ruminating over the past; is problematic because the past is something that can’t be changed. Certainly, we can change our relationship to past memories, but staying “back there” is simply ruminative and, for some of us, baldly destructive. There are a number of techniques that are used that can help you if there are past memories that badly affect you – Reframing; Integral Eye Movement Therapy; Talking therapies; NLP; Hypnosis; literally hundreds of different techniques. What they all do is change your relationship to the past memory.

Anticipating the future is also problematic, even futile, because, no matter how much we’d like to convince ourselves otherwise, we can’t really control the direction in which things will go. We can have an intention or goal in mind, but, in the end, the fates, God, the universe or something has a way of deciding.

Staying present, then, means staying here, right here, and there are a few simple techniques that can help us all experience the moment that we’re in.

Observe what you are doing right now

What you’re doing right at this moment? For most, right now, you are reading this blog post. Are you just reading? Where are your thoughts? Your emotions? Your hands? Your sense of time? You are reading – that’s it…so, just read. Not being present is easy. It is so easy to let our minds wander. Back and forth across our lives. The next time you are doing something, try to just focus on that task. I tried this, this morning when I cleaned my teeth. I focused my attention of the brushing motion; the froth created in my mouth and the tingle of the cleansing toothpaste. For a few moments, I was completely present.

Take a breath:

Our breath, along with change, are the only constants in our lives. Being present starts with the breath. All Mindfulness teaching starts with the breath. After all it , s always with us. Simply draw a deep breath through your nose rather than your mouth. When we breathe through our mouth it triggers a subtle anxiety response, which increases heart rate and redirects blood flow. A slow release of breath through the nose has the opposite effect of mouth-breathing, and draws a relaxation response. One of the quick mindfulness techniques is to breath in for half the amount of time you breath out. You can say breath in for a count of six and out for a count of 12, whatever works for you. I try to notice the difference in the air temperature between the in breath and out breath when I practice. It is always cooler on the in, than the out.

Take a moment:

Our 24*7 lives seem to be always on. When was the last time, you stopped and took a moment, even a few minutes to stop what you are doing? During the day, we rush to get to work; we try to cram in as many emails, meetings and tasks as possible and then rush home again. When we get home, we fill our task list with chores and activities. Even when we go on holiday, we seem to try to fill up every waking moment. Instead, take a mindful moment.

That is what mindfulness meditation teaches you. Whether it is 3 minutes, 10 minutes or even longer, try to take a moment every day. There is going to  be a follow up blog post with a fun way to bring attention to te now. In the mena time, if you have a ay of being present in the now, do share.

I leave you with the following quote.

“The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live, and that is the present moment”

Gautama Buddha

Stress and the pressures of life

“The reason many people in our society are miserable, sick, and highly stressed is because of an unhealthy attachment to things they have no control over.” ― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

I have been silent for a while.

Not in the speaking sense, but from a blog posting perspective. Life and mostly work have been the focus for the past month. A major transformation programme got to launch position and from that day on, it has been full on. Not just for me, but for a whole group of people.

The teams involved have been working long hours, resolving issues as they came up. As someone said “Fixing the wings, at the same time as the plane was flying”.

This put a huge amount of pressure onto everyone involved, me included.

Some people reacted to the stress and pressure by going silent. Some by shouting and swearing. Others still, looked like they were carrying the world on their shoulders. Everyone was impacted in some way. I, too, felt the stress, but, I feel I dealt with it in a slightly different way.

I became more focused; but at the same time, more focused only on the moment at hand; rather than the whole situation. This is part of the mindfulness training and background that I have developed over the past few years. Experiencing “present moment awareness” and only the “present moment”. It is one of the cornerstones of Mindfulness practice and it is something that you can use, not only in a formal manner, but also day to day, even moment to moment.

So what is Present Moment Awareness?

So often, we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush past unobserved and unseized, and squandering the precious seconds of our lives as we worry about the future and ruminate about what’s past. Present-moment awareness involves monitoring and attending to your current experience rather than predicting future events or dwelling on the past. In effect focusing all your attention on the “now”. The present moment is all there ever is. If you don’t believe me, let me give you another premise.

I will do a follow-up article on some of the steps you can take to develop present moment awareness, over and above formal Mindfulness practice.

How long is “now”?

Ugghh? What on earth is Martin banging on about now?

Well, according to a number of studies, it is approximately 3 seconds. Yep, 3 seconds. Whether it is giving someone a hug (I would not necessarily recommend that at work), through reading an e: mail marketeers latest e: mail to you extolling the virtues of xyz; different studies suggest that “now” or the present moment is about 3 seconds in length. In fact, we go through life perceiving the present in a series of 3-second windows. Outside of that timeframe, we then start to either use memory as an aid, or we start to store what is going on around us in short term memory.

Part of my mindfulness awareness, is that I can not change the past, nor can I impact the future. I can only exist in the present moment. Neither can I influence the actions of others, or correct the mistakes that other have made. In addition, I am not responsible for the outcomes of others.

Does this make me more detached? Nope. In fact it helps me increase focus on the present activity and helps me deliver the task at hand. It also helps, as I am more calm and for those around me, that can help them as well.

Nope. In fact, it helps me increase focus on the present activity and helps me deliver the task at hand. It also helps, as I am calmer and for those around me, that can help them as well.

So being present is literally, as short as 3 seconds. I would not advocate using that as a reference when being at work, but I would say, that recognising life is lived in the present moment, is key to dealing with the stress of life.

If you would like to read the article on e: mail marketing or the article on hugs, which both reference the 3 second effect, check out the following links.

https://www.digitaldoughnut.com/articles/2016/march/your-marketing-email-has-only-3-seconds-to-capture

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2011/01/hugs-follow-3-second-rule
In the mean time, I leave you with the following quote.

“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.” ― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience