To remain present is to remain at one with yourself, with your thoughts and your surroundings at an exact given time. Not to think about the past, or the future, but to just simply remain focused on what is here at this given moment.
Very recently I was sent a challenge, a challenge which truly tested my ability to remain wholeheartedly in the present moment. Not to fret about my past, or worry about my future, but just to simply be, as I was in the here and now.
During a quick morning shower, just before I headed off to work, my attention was suddenly grasped by a small, but very tender lump situated in my left breast. Initially my mind played games with me, as the mind so often does. It couldn’t be so, I was obviously mistaken. But on closer inspection, there was no getting away from it, a small pea sized lump that was as hard as a marble, was most definitely there, accommodating a small space of my anatomy.
The next three weeks can only be described as a constant inner battle to keep my mind from straying, and going on to create all kinds of scenarios and outcomes in my own little head. My mother had battled breast cancer, and although I hadn’t been diagnosed with the condition, during the 3 weeks between the initial appointment with my doctor, to undergoing tests at the hospital and then awaiting the results, it was very difficult not to wonder ‘what if’.
I am pleased to say, everything was fine, just a small but very stubborn collection of cysts that were soon treated by an amazingly compassionate team of medical staff. The whole experience was a little stressful I admit, but it also taught me much about how certain situations can actually teach us the benefits of being mindful of what is, rather than, what may be.
When your mind starts to wander, focus on your breath – Bringing your focus back to your breath, reconnects you to the life force energy within you. Focus on inhaling and exhaling 10 or 20 breaths, do not force them, just focus on your natural breathing rhythm and watch how you mind starts to calm and how it gradually brings you back to the present.
Focus on current action – whatever it is you are doing, truly focus on every detail of it. If you are eating, eat slowly. Turn off anything that may distract you, like the television or your computer. Savour the flavours, the colours and the textures of your food. If you are driving, truly focus your mind to the road ahead, notice your surroundings, the car in front of you, the pedestrians that you pass. Do not become frustrated at a red light, or the slower driver in front of you, because in that moment you are irritated, for you are trying to live in the future, hurrying to your destination ahead. So often we try to undertake so many different tasks at once, that our full attention is rarely truly focused on the present one.
Close your eyes and listen deeply – During my spiritual training, my tutor would often take me to the woods to meditate. I was told to sit, close my eyes and simply listen. I was amazed, that when I truly focused my attention on the present task, I would suddenly be gifted with sounds I would ordinarily miss or just simply ignore.
Think of one thing you are grateful for now, in this current moment – You may be warm, you may be happy, you may feel loved, you may have just eaten and have a stomach full of delicious food, you may be wearing a new top you love, or a pair of your favourite shoes. Embrace whatever physical or emotional feeling you have, that you are grateful for, and explore it. How do your favourite shoes feel on your feet? Are they sung, or so comfortable that you sometimes forget you have them on? What do they look like? Touch them, feel them, truly experience them.
Be aware – The best way to remind yourself to be present is to be aware of when your mind begins to recall the past, or starts to over analyze a situation, or starts to wonder how a situation may turn out. The more mindful you become of staying the present, the more aware you are of when you are not.