Have you ever gotten into your car for your early morning commute, only to find yourself in your parking spot and having no recollection of driving there? If you’re like me, it happens quite often. You’re so absorbed in your thoughts that you go through many things on autopilot. In our minds, we tend to live either in the past or future. We flip through the events of the past with regret, analysis, or with envy to relive what once was. Our minds fast-forward to a potential future by scanning the to-do list or some future goal. Rare is the moment when we allow ourselves to be fully immersed in the present. As a yoga teacher, I have to constantly remind myself to stay rooted in the present moment. It can be all too easy to even teach yoga on autopilot. Below are suggestions of five ways to bring you back to the present.
- Observe yourself doing nothing.
When was the last time that you decided to do absolutely nothing? In nothingness I mean, nothing premeditated, scheduled, or rooted in doing. Checking your phone’s text messages and emails is doing something. Doing nothing means sitting down in a place and getting into observation mode. When I was younger we referred to this frequent activity as people watching. You can also extend that to include nature watching or any other type of environment watching. It’s an incredible experience to schedule in “nothing time”. During this time, you can notice everything around you fully. In complete observation mode, you learn so much. Every time I travel to a foreign country, I love sitting in a local café and putting on my people-watching hat. I learn more about a culture, mannerisms, and customs through simple observation. But you don’t have to travel to do this. You can observe anywhere. Schedule in your “nothing time” and when a loved one asks you what you’re doing, you can truthfully reply, “Nothing.”
- Be quiet.
Have you ever noticed that when your lips are moving, you are usually either in the past or the future? Fully listening is a wonderful way to stay rooted in the present moment. When a person is talking to you, pretend you are hearing what they’re saying for the first time, even if you aren’t. Notice the tone of voice, inflection, and body language while they speak. Take note of your internal reactions to the words said. Observe your body language while listening. Catch yourself jumping into the future, in your mind, as you formulate an answer. Spend one day weekly and listen more than you speak.
- Savor magic moments
One of my favorite teachers, Tony Robbins, says that life with others is made up of magic moments. We have a tendency to think of the big moments such as weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, and other big events as being the special times in life. However, most of life is made up of little moments. It’s your child rushing into the room just to give you a hug and say, “I love you.” It’s your husband buying toothpaste without you telling him. It’s your work colleague bringing you your favorite coffee in the morning. Or it’s catching a beautiful sunset on the way home from work.
When my son entered high school, I started this silly tradition of taking him to coffee one day after school, just he and I, without his brother. My intention was to get him alone with me, at least once weekly, because I knew as a teenager I might not get a lot of talk time with him. Four and a half years later, he still reminds me, that when he’s home from college, we need to get our coffee time together. It was nothing huge or eventful, just coffee, where we sat sometimes and said few words. But those magic moments made a huge impression on a growing boy, who without saying it, needed those quality moments with his mom.
- Take one of your senses and fully absorb the moment.
I’ve often told my boyfriend, who’s a fabulous chef, that I’ve never seen anyone have a genuine love affair with food. To watch him eat is an absolute joy. He immerses himself in the flavors of food with such intensity that you can’t help but be drawn into the experience.
Taking once sensory experience and letting it halt time can give you a present moment spiritual experience. When you do this, other senses will be drawn in. But keep your focus on the sense and the sense organ you pick. The practice of creating focus can pump your present moment awareness muscles.
- Appreciate the absolute ordinary.
Walking through my home early in the morning or late at night, I often have these strange moments of deep appreciation for seemingly menial things. I feel the carpet under my toes and am so grateful for it. I look at the winding staircase and feel the heat of my electric heat pump and I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to have such a lavish home and heat. When I was going through some financial struggles recently, my mom said something to the effect of, “Oh, you can’t afford that, you’re poor.” And I said to her, “How wrong you are. I’m not poor at all. Look at all of this abundance surrounding me at all times. I have an overabundance of health, love, friends, family, and living space. I am one of the least poor people that exists in the entire world.”
Have you ever felt that you don’t have enough at times? While lack, in some respect, may certainly be present in your life, take stock of what you do have. You might have clean air to breath, water that flows out of a faucet, food in the fridge, and a place to sleep at night. If nothing else, appreciate the sun rising and setting each day bringing the planet light and life. There are so many ordinary things to appreciate each day that it’s insane. Something as simple as your fingers moving to grasp your coffee cup is a thing to celebrate.
The more you practice living in the present moment, the more aware you will become. Practice one of these five things daily and watch your life transform into a more peaceful and joyful existence.