“Live in the moment”, “Be present”: that’s how to be happy, apparently.
I know, we read it over and over, and hear it A LOT. But, how do we actually DO that?! It sounds so simple, it’s said so often it’s become a cliché, but it doesn’t come with any instructions. I know I used to hear it and think:
“Yeah. “Be present”. Thanks for sharing Yoda, got it, but HOW? What do you actually want me to DO?”
When we are not monks or living in a yoga ashram, how do we actually DO that in real, everyday life?
It’s a great question and one I hear often. Living in the present is intimately connected with our happiness, so taking the time to figure out a strategy that works for us in real everyday modern life is time really well invested.
Essentially, for me, what “Be Present” means – is that MY MIND IS IN THE NOW. And the “Now” is WHERE MY BODY IS NOW.
If my body is doing the washing-up and stacking the dishwasher then my now is the washing up, that’s the present. So it’s appreciating the fact I have a dishwasher, that it’s something my grandmother could only have dreamed of, and stacking the plates neatly inside.
If I am out for a run it’s the now of my feet moving over the bush track, and the sound of my breathing and the feeling of my legs working, the noise of the wind in the leaves. That’s now. Not the feeling when I finish. The feeling as I am doing.
If I am with Claire in a café then it’s the smell of the coffee, the chatter between us. Now is our connection in that moment.
Being present means doing the washing up and feeling the experience and not wishing I was doing something else and it was over. Being Present means appreciating the fact I can run (which I do after the surgeries I have had on my ankle) and not wishing the run was over and done with. Being Present means appreciating chatter with my best friend and not thinking “Kerist I have got so much work to do” and wishing the time away, but focusing on every word we exchange and listening, really listening to what she is saying. That’s being present.
Being Present is having my mind completely engaged and appreciatively connecting with wherever my body is at that point, and not trying to be thinking about whatever I want to do NEXT, but be fully in the NOW of what’s going on IN THAT MOMENT.
To commit to being more present requires asking us different questions of ourselves. Here are some questions you can use to bring yourself back to appreciating the present:
Is my mind where my body is right now?
What can I feel in my body right now?
What is perfect about this situation right now?
What sensations can I feel in my body right now?
What is my breathing like right now? Is it shallow and fast? Is it slow and deep? Is it through my nose, or through my mouth? What is the temperature of the air?
What do I like to do when I am not thinking about the past/future but just enjoying what I am doing? Painting? Running? Yoga? Do more of that.
At the start of every one of the yoga classes I teach, I ask the students to “release their day”, and to “let their mind meet their body where it is, in this room”. It is this act of initial alignment with the present at the beginning of their class that is what makes the yoga so powerful and stress relieving.
So often we are waiting for one big thing to happen for us to be happy. To meet Mister Right. To be 10kgs lighter. Getting that kick-ass promotion. Buying the dream house. When we are focused on the acquisition of that one big thing, our attention is focused on the FUTURE. ON WHAT’S NEXT. Happiness becomes something to be deferred.
Equally when we dwell on the past, the shitty day at work, the meeting that did not go as well as hoped, the break up, the chores that did not get done, our energy is projected backwards, into the PAST, and we cut ourselves off from experiencing joy in the now.
Now is where your body is.
To be more present, connect your mind with whatever your body is doing RIGHT NOW.
Suck the maximum joy from that moment, this moment, this moment right now.
The only time we can experience happiness is now.
That is why they call it “The Present” – because it’s a gift.