The only place you can exist is in the present, the here and now.
Source: Sunset, Â© 2021, Linda Gray Photograph used with permission
Looming deadlines, angry customers, piling up bills, shrinking bank accounts, screaming kids, overdue school projects, and now … some idiot just cut you off!
Lions, tigers and bears … oh my god!
Can you say, âOh? “
Overwhelm doesn’t just happen at this time of year (like every time you read this); it can happen anytime. With today’s fast and busy daily schedules, a stress base seems to be the new normal. The good news is that there is a great way to deal with this.
Be here and now
This is called mindfulness, or living in the present. It’s about being actively engaged in the present moment, where you are and what you are doing right now.
It seems easy enough until you realize that a lot of your time is spent brooding over the past (missed opportunities, failures, bad decisions, or good times you’ll never see again), or worrying about the past. future (the possibility of illness, failure to achieve work goals, inflation, war, etc.).
Mindfulness involves being continually aware of what you are feeling and feeling without interpreting or judging those emotions.
The main thing is to avoid interpretation or judgment. It is normal to feel your feelings; let them arise and then pass by without complimenting or wallowing in them. Recognize that a past loss makes you sad or that strangers in the future make you nervous; the trick is not to dwell on it.
It’s impossible to live in the past or the future
Keep in mind that you cannot exist in the past or the future. The past has come and gone, it is static and you cannot change it. The future is completely uncertain and will always contain endless possibilities. The only place you can exist is in the present, the here and now.
For me, it took hurting myself, being unable to walk, and having to go to bed for two months to finally understand this concept. Nonetheless, it was still a gradual change. At first, because I couldn’t do anything, my anxiety got worse; I started listening to the guided meditation just to help me calm down enough to sleep. Later, I was able to do breathing exercises as needed to refocus my thoughts.
The concept of living in the present really crystallized for me when I came across these wise words from Lao Tzu: âIf you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. While I had heard similar things before, like the Prayer of serenity, Tzu’s words really resonated with me. I realized that when I was depressed I had fallen into this feeling while thinking about the past. And, when I got anxious, it was because I was worried about the future. I found that when I focused on the present and tackled the things that were in my power to change at that time, I finally found peace.
How to make mindfulness part of your day
I find that starting my day with a few minutes of stretching (or yoga) and then a few minutes of meditation (or breathing exercises) really helps me start the day off right. I like to start and end my meditation with these words: âI release the past and the future. I embrace the present. I find that clearing my mind and focusing on my breathing allows thoughts of clarity and creativity to enter. It also gives me energy for the day. If this energy decreases, I can do a five minute refreshment by closing my eyes and doing my clearing the mind and breathing exercises.
Then I mentally plan the day, make a to-do list if necessary, and then visualize achieving the goals for the day. It’s very satisfying to check off items as I finish them.
Whenever you catch yourself stepping out of the present and into the past or the future, refocus your thoughts by focusing on what needs (or should) be done in the next hour. If you can’t commit to an hour, select a duration that works for you. Then build up until you can live your whole day mindfully in the present.
Planning or preparing for the future is practicing mindfulness
Living in the present doesn’t mean you can’t plan or prepare for the future. You can take the necessary steps to achieve your goals; don’t worry about everything that may need to be done right now. Free the future until the future arrives.
If you have to think about the past or the future, do it in small, time-limited doses. Use reliving the past to remind you of past success (for example, keeping a journal of your accomplishments or reviewing them to build your confidence) or remember how you got there. You can think back to the past to figure out what went wrong in order to fix it, as long as you do it without wasting time judging yourself. Accept the past, what you learned from it, and carry on with it today.
Dale Carnegie, in his book How to stop worrying and start living, suggests learning to live in airtight compartments during the day. The method is to divert your thoughtful energy into practical projects. Carnegie suggests that we focus on doing our best one day at a time, and the future will take care of itself. In other words, get busy! Get so wrapped up in your work that you don’t have time to think about all the âwhat ifsâ that have rolled like a broken record in your mind. It also suggests that you ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Then he says either to accept that or to seek the answers you need to fix it. If you choose the latter, you have to gather all the facts, analyze them, make a decision, and then act on them.
Here are some more ways to practice mindfulness
Attentive listening: When having a conversation, instead of anticipating sharing your next thought, focus on what the person is telling you.
Walking mindfully: Go for a walk in nature, focus your attention on the plants and animals you see; fully experience all the sights, sounds and smells that surround you.
Eat mindfully: When eating, focus on what you are eating. Chew slowly and savor every texture and flavor. Don’t eat until you are hungry, then stop when you feel full.
Mindfulness also works for negative thinking
Besides avoiding thoughts of the past or the future, you can also use these techniques to ward off other negative thoughts.
I suggest muting your phone when you need to concentrate; There is nothing more annoying or distracting when you are fully engaged than being surprised at your momentum by the sudden ringing of your phone. Finally, I encourage you to turn off your TV, especially the news – this is often just a scary factory.