We all live in one of three time zones (as described by Leo Babauta on ZenHabits):
- “The Past—Reliving things we messed up about. Being embarrassed about something we did. Wishing we could have something back that is gone. Living in memories of good times past. Being angry about things done to us. You get the idea.
- The Future—Worrying about things we need to do later. Worrying about what might happen, or a big event coming up. Being anxious that things might go wrong, or that we might mess up. Hoping for something wonderful. Dreaming of great things to come.
- The Present—What is happening right now, at this moment. What we are doing now.”
When we spend a lot of time in the first two time zones, we miss out on life in the here and now. We miss our son’s smile, our wife’s glance, the amazing colors of that flower bouquet, or the sound and performance of that beautiful 1953 Chevy Corvette.
Life happens in the here and now. It is always the here and now, never the future or the past.
Checking Out And Getting Lost
You might find that you have a hard time staying present. You fight day dreaming or playing the “If only I had….” game. Being overwhelmed with regret and disappointment, or being filled with anxiety and shame about the future can steal the really good moments of life.
The good news is, these things can be overcome as you learn how to become more present.
4 Tips To Becoming Present
The following 4 Tips really work well. Give yourself 2 weeks, try them out every day, and see how your perspective starts to change.
- Pay Attention – When you have idle time at a stop light or in a line at the grocery, for example, pay attention. Instead of letting your mind run ahead of you thinking about the route to your destination and possible traffic delays, or the list of errands that have to be completed after the grocery run, take a moment to pay attention. Turn off the radio in the car, roll down the windows and witness the traffic going in the cross direction, the jogger getting his morning run, the trees dancing in the wind, listen to the birds chirp, and the rustling of leaves. You only have to do it for a few moments, but it’s a good start.
- Observe – Next time you’re in a meeting, observe what is going on. It’s a bit more than paying attention in duration. Paying attention is on a trigger basis. Observation is like watching a movie on a screen. Watch the players in action. Watch the body language. Listen for intonations. Do not speak. This can be a very powerful tool as you sit and take in everything that is playing out. You have nothing at stake in the grand scheme of things, but watch as you are able to respond perfectly when questioned. You will be surprised.
- Breathe – When you’re ready to go beyond moments and minutes, try paying attention to your breath before you drift off to sleep. Before you drift off to sleep, spend 15 minutes paying attention to the rise and fall of your belly. If you feel yourself drifting off to sleep, or notice that your mind has wondered, gently bring it back to your belly. You could even put a book on it and watch it rise and fall.
- Meditate – You can now begin to establish a sitting practice. It is the practice of sitting still for about 30 minutes in silence. Let your thoughts go. When you realize that your mind is chasing your thoughts, bring it back to your breath. Just be still. Nothing to do or think about. Nothing to ponder, just be.
By the way… thanks to ZenHabits for allowing the use of these great tips.
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