Imagine your life when . . . you are recognized by your boss for producing extraordinary results, you find yourself calm despite the chaos that surrounds you at work, you derive so much more pleasure from the food you eat, you experience a greater connection with your spouse, you see the beauty in nature and you feel the love as you see the elderly couple cross the street holding hands. You are fully alive, wonderfully engaged, experiencing love and joy. You are mindful, living in the moment. Being present is the best present you could possibly give yourself!
If you think about it, the present moment is all we really have. The past is history and the future is unknown. Yet, most of us spend the majority of our time focused on either the past or the future. Let me share what happens here, what steals our joy . . . Most of us have 40,000 to 50,000 thoughts entering our minds every day. Science tells us that as many as 80% of these thoughts are negative. “I hate this job,” “My boss is a jerk,” “I can never lose this weight.” You get the idea. While some past thoughts may be pleasant, many aren’t, and those are the ones we tend to focus on. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness are all emotions that can come from focusing on our past. Thoughts about the future are also a source of negative emotions. We worry about things that may never happen. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress and worry come from focusing on too much future. “What if I lose my job?” “What if my husband leaves me?” To make matters worse, we play these same negative thought patterns over and over and over again in our minds. When we do this, we are escaping the present moment that is our life now. Certainly there are times when it is beneficial to focus on your past and it is important to plan for your future but problems come in when we tend to obsess over these things.
So, how can we live in the present moment to experience greater focus and awareness, to have more joy and to live life fully? Mindfulness. To begin, start out small, perhaps, just five minutes a day and work up to longer sessions. Try this . . .
Settle into a comfortable position and bring your awareness to your breath. Feel the air enter your nose and fill your lungs on each inhalation. Focus on the moment when inhalation turns to exhalation and follow your breath as you exhale through your nose and begin a new breath. Be aware of how your stomach rises on each inhalation and falls on each exhalation. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath. Don’t beat yourself up if your attention strays. It happens to everyone. The mind is constantly producing thoughts. Eventually, you will be able to calmly watch your mind, what I refer to as, “being the observer” of your thoughts, emotions and sensations. When old thought patterns enter your mind, notice your tendency to label them but don’t identify with the label or the thought. Your thoughts are not you. You may get frustrated and question why you are wasting your time but know that this is just your ego talking. Your ego is a false sense of self base, on the stories you’ve created around past events and future apprehensions.
So, why live with guilt, regret or sadness focusing on the past? Why experience anxiety and stress worrying about a future that may never happen? Don’t let those old thoughts patterns steal your joy. So often, our minds are not in the same place as our bodies. We may be eating a delicious meal or spending time with friends, yet our minds are “miles away,” stressing over a problem at work or replaying for the thousandth time and argument we had with our spouse a few days ago. We don’t fully enjoy the food we’re eating and before we know it, we’ve consumed way more than we had intended and our diet goes out the window. We don’t really hear what are our friends are saying or enjoy the time together. Think about how much we are missing out on in life by not being present. Take just 5 minutes a day and try mindfulness. I think you will see what I am talking about when I say “being present is the best present you could possibly give yourself!”
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