“Present-moment living, getting in touch with your now, is at the heart of effective living. When you think about it, there really is no other moment you can live. Now is all there is, and the future is just another present moment to live when it arrives.” ~Dr. Wayne Dyer
Have you ever been so absorbed in something that you felt like you blacked out? Psychologists refer to this as being in the “zone”, where you are so intensely focused on a task that you lose track of time. You feel alive in the moment. Joy and peace dominate. While this experience exemplifies what it is to live in the moment, for the most part, it’s not common. You can though experience it more regularly by becoming more aware of the Now, the present.
How to Live in the Moment
We so often place ourselves in the past or future. Nothing wrong with this but when we dwell too much on the past and worry about the future, we rob ourselves of experiencing what’s in front of us. And the Now, as Dr. Dyer says, is all we really have. But how do we put ourselves in the present more?
Eckhart Tolle’s bestselling book the Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment talks about “directing the focus of your attention into the Now.” Tolle writes, “Just become intensely conscious of the present moment. This is a deeply satisfying thing to do. In this way, you draw consciousness away from mind activity and create a gap of no-mind in which you are highly alert and aware but not thinking. This is the essence of meditation.”
Tolle says that you can practice being in the moment by taking a routine activity such as washing your hands and paying attention to all the senses related to that activity. So you would focus on the feeling of the warm water on your hands and how they are moving, the smell of the soap and so on. You can measure your success of truly being in the moment, Tolle says, by the degree of peace you feel.
You can also try these practices to live more in the moment:
1. Truly listen to what people are saying and how they are feeling about what they are saying. You can then acknowledge their feelings forming deeper connections. You can even practice active listening where you say, “Let me see if I understand you” and then repeat what the person said to you. This makes him or her feel heard and helps engage you in the conversation instead of thinking how you’ll respond, which is the way most people listen.
2. Become aware of your thoughts – This is not an easy one. It’s been estimated that we have as many as 70,000 thoughts a day. But if we consciously take notice of what we are thinking, even if it’s for a few moments a day, we can take charge of these thoughts and redirect them to be more positive. You can write your thoughts down or monitor how you feel throughout the day and catch the thought that attributed to the feeling.
3. Eat more slowly and savor food – Most of us eat in a hurry or unconsciously, not really enjoying our food. At your next meal, slow down your eating and really savor the food. Notice the aroma, different flavors and the sensation of the food in your mouth. Bring all your senses to one of the most enjoyable experience of humankind.
4. Breathe consciously – “Healing is every breath” says Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Conscious breathing, noticing our breath, is paramount among all things that can help put us in the present. When we focus on our breath, we can slow it down, breathe deeper and more evenly. The health benefits that ensue are reduced stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and improved energy. Plus, we get the benefit of grounding ourselves in the present which halts negative thinking and creates more peace and clarity.
5. Focus on one task at a time – We are great at multi-tasking but this is not always effective. Often though, for the sake of productivity, we comply. Well, juggling competing tasks is not so effective according to psychological and neuroscience research. Research shows that “multitaskers are actually less likely to be productive, yet they feel more emotionally satisfied with their work, thus creating an illusion of productivity.” We can do ourselves a favor by focusing on each task to give our best and lessen our stress.
6. Do an act of kindness – When we are being kind with intention to make someone’s day or bring a smile to a person’s face, we are actively engaged in the moment. Our focus is on the task and attributing to another’s delight. There are many ways to practice kindness and doing so, will not only help you feel good, but will have a positive and sometimes lasting effect on someone else.
7. Practice gratitude – Being grateful gives us a boost in happiness – by 25 percent – according to Professor Robert Emmons, PhD, a gratitude expert. When we practice gratitude, we actively engage in our mind’s activity, which puts us in the present as well as brings about positive feelings.
8. Relish the day – Do you ever think about what a blessing it is to get another day? Brother Steindl-Rast, a Catholic Benedictine monk, says, “Each new day is a gift to us and the only appropriate response for this gift is gratefulness.” Watch this beautiful video called A Good Day and gain a new perspective of all that the day brings.
With these practices, you’ll start to notice how much more peace and even happiness you feel by living more in the moment.