A simple and highly effective way to upgrade your thoughts, part 2.
Following up on my last blog post, this is the first of four follow up posts diving just a bit deeper into a few concepts. These four protocols as I have come to know them are simple, proven concepts and when applied individually yield great results. Though when used in concert with each other, consistently the results can be truly powerful.
I’m going to focus today on being present in each moment. We’ve all heard this before, and the idea of being present in the moment has been a topic as far back into history as we can find. It’s for good reason too. The best things always stand the test of time. The best things are often also simple in concept and powerful in result, yet not always easy in practice.
I’m going to focus on the practice part today instead of the value behind being present, you’re probably aware already of the benefits of being present. However, to give a similar example between of the difference between knowledge and practice, just because you understand how an airplane flies, doesn’t mean you can actually fly one.
Why is it so hard to be present, and in the moment? For one our society basically programs us to be anything and everything BUT present. We’re taught to worry about the future and plan for what’s to come. Think about the concept of retirement, work your whole life so you can spend a few quality years of “enjoyment” at the tail end of life. The entire idea is rooted in future tense.
Advertisements bombard us from billboards, to online ads, print, TV commercials etc. of things we need to have to be happy. Social media is a another platform(s) which by it’s nature creates a thought pattern of comparing ourselves to others, of wanting to have what the “influencers” have, be it a rockin’ body, a custom car, or the latest fashion or the new vegan, gluten-free, grain-free, soyless, what-cha-ma-call-it-but-its-not-meat-substitute!
All of this and we still haven’t walked out the door and interacted with people yet!
Our brains are moving a billion miles an hour, slowing them down, even for a short time takes patience and practice. Even when we do slow them down we tend to still think about all the things we should be doing, want to do, forgot to do, etc…
Now I ask you to notice the thought(s) you are having right this moment.
Stop reading and notice if you are only reading this, or if you are reading this while thinking of something else. Notice what is going through your mind in this moment, without judgment of good, bad, simply notice it and be ok with whatever it is.
I am going to challenge you to practice something for one day. Once you do this for one day I ask you do it for two, then three, then four, all the way to ten days, one day at a time.
Pick a thing you do each day, for instance driving to/from work. Pick something where you have a defined period of time allocated each day, and take a five minute chunk of that time and dedicate it to noticing what is going on around you, and nothing else.
When you first try this, and realize in less than a full minute your mind has already moved on to something else, notice you are thinking of something else and bring yourself back to what you area doing at that moment. DO NOT JUDGE yourself or be harsh, simply notice the mind wandering and come back to what you are doing. Peacefully and calmly.
Even when your mind wanders 30 times in a 5 minute span, simply notice it and come back. Judging yourself for a wandering is counter-productive. If you do reactionarily judge yourself, notice this too, notice the act of judging yourself. Notice it for what it is, a reactionary emotion which is neither good nor bad in this moment.
I like to do this while driving because I can turn off the radio and it also helps me release my judgement of how others drive, which gives me a much calmer and more peaceful trip to the office and back. The idea though is to pick a segment of time, the same time (roughly) and activity everyday to practice noticing your thoughts.
This will help build consistency and a habit of doing this while you do the activity everyday. This won’t be as easy as it sounds, and even if you think you “failed” at it don’t give up, it’s all the more reason to keep trying. Practicing a thing means you will get it wrong, alot, before you start to get it right.
Notice, without judgement your thoughts. While you are practicing being “in the moment” focus on the smells you are smelling, what you are feeling physically (like the material of the seat, steering wheel, clothing) and what you are feeling emotionally.
Are you happy, sad, frustrated, joyous, something else altogether? Notice the scenery around you and the details of it. If you’re driving you can notice the other cars around you, how is the traffic flowing together, or is it stop and go? What kind of cars are travelling with you?
If you’ve taken note of all these things and then simply sit with the feeling you are having, the emotion you are experiencing. Feel it, breathe it, welcome it.
The simple act of noticing our immediate environment is the best way to begin the process of presence. Soon, you will find yourself in a conversation with something totally engaged with this person or persons and thinking of nothing but the person in front of you.
This is easy with an “important” person. It’s more difficult when you find yourself interrupted unexpectedly by someone who you want to blow off, but now you notice your desire to blow them off, and instead of reacting on this desire, you engage with them wholly.
This is where the miracles of life happen, in the most unexpected places, and they happen often when we are paying attention.
I’d like to hear from you on how your practice is going, I invite you to send me a note directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me about your experience with this.
Stay tuned for the next installment, which will focus on finding the good in any event.