I’m here right now, but I can’t wait to be some place else. Whether you realize it or not, that right there, is something you tell yourself all the time.
Truth is, being in the present moment isn’t always fun.
You’re washing the dishes, but you’re thinking about other things you still need to get done. You’re thinking about finally going to bed, maybe watching a movie, finishing that book you’re reading or doing some window shopping online.
Because washing dishes isn’t fun. There are other, fun places and things you’d rather be doing right now.
The thing is, there are so many other “fun” things to look forward to, that this present moment, whether you’re stuck in traffic, doing laundry or lying on the couch, just doesn’t seem worthy enough to have your undivided attention. So, you reach for your phone, your laptop, or you get lost in thoughts of your future or past.
You have all these thoughts “attacking” you- sort of like a radio that’s playing just a bit too loud for you to concentrate.
See, there’s this amazing thing that happens when you start being kind to this present moment- you become happier. And it’s been scientifically proven. We spend over 45% of our time, thinking about something other than what we’re doing.
So, if you’re not careful, life can pass you by, while you’re wishing to be “some place else”.
HOW TO BE PRESENT
IT ALL STARTS IN THE KITCHEN
As many of you know, I lost my grandmother right before Christmas. I was and still remain, devastated by my loss. It wasn’t until I lost her though that I’ve realized, that she was everything I strive to be in this life.
As I’m continuing this journey of self-growth, exploration, and slow-living, I realize that it’s exactly how she lived her life; long before mindfulness became such a buzzword.
And it all started in the kitchen.
I loved waking up in my grandparents’ house, the house I practically grew up in. My grandma would always rise early- minutes before her alarm clock went off. I’d go downstairs and walk into that tiny kitchen filled, already with the smell of freshly brewed coffee, radio silently buzzing in the background, the sun rising and shining through the window. We’d sit by the table, drink coffee and look out the window. It was my favorite thing in the world. It was something so simple, but brought me the kind of joy that can’t be replaced- and it was all because no matter how busy or tired or grumpy I was, in that moment, in that kitchen, with her, I was always present.
I loved taking long walks to the grocery store with her, holding her arm. You know, just walking, enjoying the fresh air and chatting away. We’d then come home, unpack the groceries and… spend more time in the kitchen.
I think that kitchen has always been my favorite place to be and it’s also a great place to practice being present.
Washing dishes, can be one of them- and it’s all about being aware of your sensory perceptions. Instead of rushing through washing the dishes, wishing you were doing something else, be present. Feel how warm the water feels on your skin, smell the dish-soap, notice your hand movements.
When you brew your morning coffee, enjoy the process- the smell, that comforting, funny noise your coffee maker makes. Those simple, everyday tasks are a great place to start practicing being present. When you do this, all of the sudden everything becomes more enjoyable.
Using mindfulness bells is also one of my favorite and simple ways to practice being present. Your bells can be pretty much anything; it can be a certain color you notice, a number, a sound, a stop light. Using these as a mindfulness tool will remind you to come back to the present moment.
I have a few: a sparkling light- like when the sun hits the key chain that hangs on my rearview mirror, or a certain sound or number. If I walk around the office, or my house, and happen to hit my elbow on something, or when I accidentally drop my keys- I use that as a reminder, too. Whenever I hear, see or feel those “mindfulness bells” I stop and think “what am I doing right now, right this moment? Where are my thoughts wandering?”
Pick a mindfulness bell (or two, or three) and use them to bring yourself to a present moment, whenever you feel, hear or see them. It’s a simple way to train yourself to ask “what am I doing right now? Am I paying attention?”
Focus on your breathing, on what’s right in front of you, on your inner body, your senses, on the sounds and colors around you. When you spend time with your friends or family, put your phone down. Pay attention. Trying to have a conversation with or spending time with someone who is constantly reaching for their phone, is annoying (to say the least). You wouldn’t want someone else ignore you or not pay attention to what you’re trying to say.
We are so easily distracted these days, and a lot of times when we’re with our loved ones, we aren’t actually there. Physically, yes, but our minds are often distracted, already thinking what to say next, or worrying about something completely unrelated. When you talk to someone, listen to their voice, focus on their words, notice their smile- then, rather than just meeting or seeing someone, you’ll actually connect with them.
I mention multitasking quite a lot and it’s probably because it’s something I, myself, still struggle with. I know that if I focus on one thing at a time, I’ll do a better job and get it done faster. When I try to split my focus between several different things, that focus can lose some of its power and my work isn’t as efficient.
When you eat, do nothing else but eat. Whatever you’re doing- playing, working, washing the dishes, drinking tea- do your best to focus on one thing at a time. If you also struggle with multitasking, check out this article on Zen Habits.
The only way to being in the present to become natural is to practice. Being present isn’t always easy to do and it might feel a bit unnatural at first- especially if the concept of “slow living” is completely unfamiliar to you. This is why you need to practice it. Using tools like “mindfulness bells” is a good way to start. Practice it when doing simple things like washing the dishes or folding laundry. When you start paying attention to these things, without thinking about your next task or chore, they become more enjoyable. You can find pleasure even in those very simple things; like sitting in the kitchen, next to someone you love, early in the morning, drinking coffee.
Being mindful every single day, isn’t easy. Being present every single moment, isn’t easy (not quite sure if it’s even possible). Even as little as 5 or 10 minutes of being completely aware, making the most of the moment and not wishing to be somewhere else, can change your day.
There is something magical about being present- when your mind is free of judgment in every single moment, every single thought. When you don’t worry about the future or stress about the past.
If you think about it, all you ever have is now. Now, is the only time that’s important. So be present.