In a world full of constant distractions, finding an authentic connection with the beauty and simplicity of the present moment has become a challenging thing to do. Rather, we have found ourselves in the midst of an epidemic of stress and anxiety. With the fast-paced nature of our lives, we can become so absorbed in our worries about what has happened or what will happen that we are never fully aware of what is happening in the present moment.
While it’s easy to attribute this phenomenon to the increasingly hectic nature of the world around us, the truth is much more related to our inner world. If our minds are anxiously dwelling on future fears or ruminating on past losses and regrets, we miss all there is for us in the here and now. To be in the moment, fully and completely, we must embrace a new level of awareness and actively work to become more mindful individuals.
Mindfulness is certainly a buzzword these days but where does this term come from and what is it really calling us to do? Nineteenth-century Buddhist scholar T.W. Rhys Davids translated mindfulness to mean “constant presence of mind”: focused, channeled, consistent awareness. Under this interpretation, mindfulness invokes our collective human capacity to remember who and what we truly are and what connects us all to each other.
But what happens when we lack the presence of the mind? What are we failing to notice? How much of ourselves and the world remains invisible to us?
Mindfulness asks us to tune in to the world we habitually fail to actually see. It is a state of being, a shift of consciousness from passivity into awareness. Through mindfulness, we are able to experience the fullness of the world rather than its scarcity. We notice all of the subtlety and nuance of our surroundings and take in the beauty of it all. We don’t need to worry about or fix anything. In the present moment, nothing is lacking and everything is complete.
What Does it Mean to Live In the Moment?
Living in the moment is all about the presence of the mind. But considering the complexity and malleability of the mind, just how often do we really have our wits about us? How often are we fully present-minded as opposed to absent-minded?
It is important to note that our minds contain more than just our thoughts and ideas: it also holds our emotions, our pain and pleasure, our physical perceptions, and the entire scope of our feelings and senses. To truly be present at the moment we must attune to the full scope of our being. We must slow down for long enough to take it all in and simply be with it.
The truth is, we are programmed to live life reflexively. Rather than intentionally choosing for ourselves, we react to things in whatever way makes us feel the safest. Without embracing the gift of mindfulness, our actions will continue to be bound by our conditioning. Our lives will continue to be dictated by our subconscious programming, leaving us victim to the limitations of our own perspectives. Instead of co-creating with the universe, we will fear it.
Living in the moment means breaking free from this conditioning so we are able to experience life as it really is, not through the clouded eyes of our fears and traumas. We are blessed with the uniquely human ability to deliberately give our attention to whatever it is we choose, whenever we choose. That’s what separates us from animals – we can separate our consciousness from our instincts, our reflex judgments. We can give our awareness with intention.
Giving our awareness with intention allows us to experience the expansiveness of the present moment. We are able to find deep interconnection between ourselves and the world around us. Through the power of intention, we are able to be present with all that is.
Benefits of Being Present
When we are present and living in the moment, a new world becomes visible to us. We see things as they actually are rather than through the limited lens of our own understanding. Using the evidence of our five senses, we are able to escape the stories in our heads that twist our perception of reality. Instead of letting stress and anxiety creep in, we can finally dial into what is calling to us at the moment and consciously put our attention towards it.
At its core, that’s what mindfulness really is–paying attention to purpose in the present moment, not just reactively or absentmindedly. Attention is its own kind of muscle; a tiny muscle we have the ability to either strengthen or suppress. If it’s well developed and within our control, we have the ability to direct our attention anywhere we choose.
Being in the moment also allows us to retrain our minds and nervous systems towards healthier patterns. When we practice mindfulness, we are able to consciously change our behaviors. Our heightened level of awareness and a general sense of ease allows us to make decisions that are more aligned with who we are and what we want to be. When we are in the moment, we are the truest versions of ourselves.
Tools For Being Present
There are several mindfulness practices that are excellent tools to help you slow down and be in the moment. These tools let us drop our preoccupations with what was and what could be and instead be totally present with what is. Here are four ways you can practice being in the moment–take some time to see which ones speak to you and make them your own! 10-15 minutes of each can make for a great hour of self-connection and self-care!
Through meditation, we are able to observe the shifts and twists of breath, mind, and body all at once. Meditation allows us to slow down, reset our nervous systems through the nourishment of breath, and hopefully achieve a higher state of consciousness.
Practicing yoga allows us to disconnect from the chatter in our heads and drop directly into the body. By combining the sweetness of pranayama with the physicality of asana, yoga is essentially a moving meditation. Through yoga, we can separate from our stresses and past traumas and reconnect with ourselves. Yoga can be done anywhere, anytime– all you need is your body and your presence!
Reading is another excellent way to practice being in the moment. Similar to meditation, reading takes focused concentration. It requires us to separate ourselves from the chaos and noise of everyday life and turn our attention inward. When we slow down to read a book, we give our full attention to the words on the page. We drop directly into the here and now free from distractions.