Simple exercises like breathing, visualization, and being aware of thought patterns ground us in the present.
“To be alive is to totally and openly participate in the simplicity and elegance of here and now.” Donald Altman
Five years ago, my life was a mess compared to now. I was anxious, worried, afraid, and running away from my feelings—I was running away from the present moment.
So, what happened?
I started applying what I knew, which were really simple things, such as breathing, visualization, and being aware of my thought patterns. I haven’t found the Holy Grail, I simply took action. I had no idea how much my life was about to change, I just knew something had to change, because the way I was living (and feeling) wasn’t cutting it. I’d had enough of suffering. I wanted more. I’m not perfect, no one is, but I’m moving forward. If you’d like to do the same, I recommend:
What would an article about being present be without breathing at the top?
I stumbled onto old Buddhist texts early on in my life, and they emphasized breathing, so I started doing that. At first it was hard, because my mind was racing all over the place, but after a while I became aware of the muscles and subtle energy sensations in my body. When I focused on one part of my body, I started noticing a tingling of energy there. When I anchored myself into this very moment through my breath, I felt good, sometimes amazingly good.
2. Know your triggers
I also started noticing triggers in my life. I noticed the small things that suddenly, almost out of nowhere, had me feeling angry, depressed, or even irritated.
I had a lot of triggers around my parents. (Don’t we all?) My mother might have walked into the room and just looked at me a certain way, and I would spiral into a sea of irritation. This is what I call a trigger. Triggers can be eliminated by simply becoming aware of them. However, sometimes it’s not that easy if the trigger has been practiced for many years. I also use Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) to help the process along.
Triggers are conditioned responses that you have to external stimulus. It could be someone using a certain tone of voice with you, looking at you in a certain way, or you picking up a book with small-print and feeling discouraged, because it reminds you of school.
When I became aware of the negative triggers in my life, I realized there had to be positive ones.
It only made logical sense, right?
Mine were around good books, movies, and specific moments and achievements in my life, just to name a few examples. It wasn’t always pleasant for me to be in the now if I was feeling bad, so what I did was I remembered a good time, and I noticed where the positive feelings started in my body. I’d then bask in the good feelings and enjoy.
4. Try mini meditations
I’ve never liked sitting still for long periods of time. I do meditate, but I also like doing mini meditations anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes at a time.
Many people believe meditation has to be sitting down, but it can be anything, such as walking, washing the dishes, or cleaning your house. As long as you are here and now, you are, in a sense, meditating. It’s chemically impossible for you to keep a feeling inside your body for more than 90 seconds without throwing more wood in the fire. That means that when you’re feeling bad, you’re doing something to keep the bad feeling there. When you meditate, you’re in the present moment, and those feelings simply dissipate, because they run out of fuel.
I’ve often started a meditation feeling horrible, and by simply focusing on my breathing, my whole emotional state changed. I even like to play with my “negative” feelings by becoming curious. What shape is the feeling? Where is it? If it had a color, what would it be?
Who says you have to be serious?
If you’re in the present moment, you can play with questions designed to quiet your mind, such as “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
Other questions could be:
- What would it feel like to double my awareness of this moment?
- Where in my body does relaxation start when I focus on my breathing?
- What does peace feel like?
There’s no right or wrong. These kind of questions are designed to get you into a pleasant state, or get you more deeply into the now.
Simple, yet powerful.
6. Observe (yourself)
I’ve had a lot of fun observing myself. I look at the thoughts racing through my head, and I wonder whose thoughts they are.
Are all thoughts you have your thoughts? I’m not too sure about that.
We are energetic beings that influence each other all the time. We also have radio waves, satellites, 3G, wireless connections, and a lot of other equipment that goes through our magnetic field all day, every day. The same is true for other people’s thoughts. Haven’t you walked into a room and felt the energy there?
This affects us in one way or another. It is when you identify with your thoughts and whatever is happening within you that the problems start.
7. Utilize suffering
Just in the last few weeks, I’ve suffered because of something that happened in my life. However, I’m becoming better and better at letting go and staying the present moment. I use these moments of intense suffering to become mindful. I challenge myself to see how present I can be with even the most painful events. Suffering almost always happens when you’re not paying attention to something in your life. Is there something you want to do but are afraid to?
Look at where in your life you’re suffering, and ask yourself what your life is trying to tell you. You might be surprised at the answer.
8. Seriously mindfulnay!
Life is way too important to take seriously.
I read that somewhere. I don’t remember where anymore. Most people take their life so seriously that they forget to have fun. Most of the perceived problems in your life (and in mine) are not problems at all. I could make up problems if I wanted to. I could worry about money running out, or about my business failing.
When you stay in the present moment, you notice that everything is fine. If you’re reading this article, you probably have a computer, a roof over your head, and enough food to keep you alive.
The present moment is always there waiting for you.
9. Let go
We all have layers around us. If you imagine an onion, and start peeling the layers away, you will eventually reach the center.
And that center is you. You have all the resources you need to be happy. The problem is that you have all these layers on top to protect you. A simple way to be present is by letting go of the problems that pull you away. You see, it’s not the outside world that causes problems, it’s us—you and me.
Why do you think two people can experience the same event and come out of it with completely different stories to tell?
That is the power of your mind.
10. Practice patience
I am extremely impatient, or at least I used to be. Nonetheless, I have to admit that just by taking small steps every day, you will go up very far away in your personal evolution.
The only way you can stay stuck is by doing nothing.
You are making progress just by reading this article, because it naturally opens up new pathways in your mind. I often become angry at myself for not making progress fast enough, but I’ve started mellowing out and being okay with small steps and making progress in my own good time. It feels much better, and it allows me to accept the present moment and just be with whatever is, because everything is fine the way it is right now.
There is really no thing you need. Most people want wealth and security so they can feel good, but what they don’t realize is that the things “out there” are middlemen, because you are in control of how you feel. It may not feel like that, but that’s just because you haven’t learned how to operate your mind.
It’s funny that you can buy a $19.95 watch that comes with a 60 page instruction manual, but when you’re born, no one gives you a user’s manual for your brain. It’s been a long journey for me that started when I was 16 and discovered lucid dreaming through a TV series called Ed. Some days have been better than others, but I’ve always been willing to move forward.
And, to me, that is the best way to grow. If you spend that time in the present moment, it’s even better.
By Henri Juntilla (originally published on Tiny Buddha) | Henri writes at Wake Up Cloud, where you can get his free course: Find Your Passion in 5 Days or Less. And if you liked this article, you will enjoy one of his top articles: 21 Things You Can Do to Change Your Life.