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Have you ever gotten into your car for your 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 life on autopilot.
In your mind, you tend to live either in the past or future. You flip through the events of the past with regret, analysis, or with envy to relive what once was. Your mind can fast-forward to a potential future by scanning the to-do list or some future goal. Rare is the moment when you allow yourself to be fully immersed in the present.
Even as a yoga teacher, I have to constantly remind myself to stay rooted in the present moment. Follow these tips on how to bring yourself back to the now.
1. People Watch
People watching simply means sitting down in a place and getting into observation mode (without checking your phone’s text messages or emails).
You can also extend this activity beyond people, to include nature watching or any other type of environment watching. It’s an incredible experience to schedule in observation time to simply 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 “people watching” time—you can even do it with friends and share observations when you’re done.
2. Listen Fully
Have you ever noticed that when your lips aren't moving, you find your mind wandering to either 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’ve heard it a million times before. 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. Try to increase the amount of listening in your daily life, so you speak less and listen more. This can be an enriching experience that can lead you to feeling happier and start living in the present.
3. Savor Magic Moments
Tony Robbins says that life with others is made up of magic moments. You may 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. 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.
4. Savor the Senses
Have you ever seen anyone have a genuine love affair with food? It’s an absolute joy to watch people fully immerse themselves in the flavors.
Take one sensory experience and allow it to halt time and quiet the mind. Enjoy a meal, savor an essential oil, spend time with a painting or sunset, feel the warmth and energy from a campfire, listen to enchanting music—this will not only bring you into the present moment, but it can even create a spiritual experience and can be a mindfulness practice. When you do this, other senses will be drawn in by habit, but try to keep your focus and pay attention to the sense you chose. The practice of creating focus can pump your present moment awareness muscles and calm the mind.
5. Appreciate the Absolute Ordinary
Have you ever walked through your own house during a quiet time and just enjoyed the moment and appreciated the seemingly menial things?
- Feel the carpet under your toes and feel so grateful for it.
- Notice the heat of your electric heat pump, and remind yourself of how fortunate you are to have heat.
- Open your refrigerator or cupboards and appreciate the food and items at your fingertips.
- Open the door slowly, offering gratitude for the key, the shelter, your address, and location.
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. Something as simple as your fingers moving to grasp your coffee cup is a thing to celebrate. There are so many ordinary things to appreciate each day.
The more you practice mindfulness and 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 full of happiness.
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