As humans, we have a tendency to not live in the present moment, but rather, to either be reaching for the future or bemoaning or idealizing the past. We seem to be constantly on the lookout for both what’s missing in our lives and why our lives aren’t the way we had envisioned them to be.
It’s a struggle to actually fall into and rest in the present moment. It’s almost too obscure and too abstract a concept for us to grasp. Herein, however, is the problem as well as the solution to so many of our current woes.
Gratitude to Kick-Start the Process of Embracing the Present
Gratitude seems to be bandied about in popular culture today, and often these sort of trendy platitudes don’t hold water, but gratitude actually does. By recognizing the small beautiful details in the day-to-day and by giving thanks for them, this process creates an openness into the present moment.
Through engaging the mind and the senses in connected active thought, by especially noticing something new in your environment — be it the way the light falls across your desk or a never-before-seen tree on your daily walk — you secure yourself into the present moment. This might be a fleeting instance, but nonetheless, you’ve made the connection.
The more you’re able to notice things, the more your mind will switch back to the here-and-now, thereby foregoing all of the thought processes that tether you to both the past and future.
As Zen Master, author and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh said so eloquently: “Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.”
Noticing physical details in your surroundings works like a key to open the door to the present moment, where you can offer gratitude and perhaps gently smile to yourself and return to the present moment. Try doing this several times a day, and as you do this, try holding that moment of noticing and insight just a bit longer to feel the calm and peace in your here-and-now.
Criticism — Yours or Theirs — Is Most Likely a Sign of Suffering
Criticism is often a clear sign of suffering that we or someone else projects onto others which only serves to widen the sea of suffering. It’s most often not something that we do intentionally or consciously, but rather is manifested in an unconscious reaction to a situation that may be threatening, intimidating or even one that is simply on autopilot — one that we’ve employed time and time again.
Let’s look at an example: Unbeknownst to you, your partner has spent the entire day laying down a brand-new stone walkway. You arrive home, exasperated by an argument at work and perturbed with yourself for not handling it better. When you see the walkway, your first reaction is annoyance that there are three stones missing.
We all know about misplaced anger or annoyance, but do we understand how insidious it is in almost every aspect of our lives? Without a conscious look at ourselves, we tend to fall into reactionary autopilot. It’s almost as if when we feel badly about something — on an unconscious level — we want to bring down the rest of the world with us to vibrate at our level.
Somehow, for us to feel “better” (very relative here), we want to make everyone feel as badly as we feel. This false resonance reinforces our complacency in staying put in our distraught or irked state of being.
If, on the other hand, we approached a situation with a gentle pause before our blind bumbling reaction, we might find that we ease into each situation in life with greater care and thoughtfulness. The stone pathway might present itself as a thing of beauty and bring a smile to our face, taking into account all the work that our partner put into the job.
Again, by not carrying around the argument we had at work, by instead trying to anchor ourselves in the present moment, by noticing a small detail in our surroundings, we might be able to pause the autopilot reaction and instead take pleasure in our surroundings, thereby accepting the what-is with a fresh set of eyes and emotion.
Change the Focus
Noticing small things to anchor us in the present moment is the first step towards developing a connection to the present moment, which can ultimately bring you more joy. Another way to become present, and thereby accept what is, is to try to switch your focus from “lack” to “abundance.”
This is of course relative, as is everything in life, but you’ll see that by consciously deciding to concentrate on “what you do have” as opposed to “what’s lacking,” you’ll increase your awareness, thus opening up the space for possibility and more peace of mind.
By increasing your awareness, you’ll find more joy in the “what is.” If this sounds trite or glib, give it a try to see how you feel. In moments of despair, perhaps you can find three things to be grateful for. They can be simple things, like having a roof over your head, like having enough food to eat for your next meal or having a computer on which to read this article.
The more you do this, the more you program it into your subconscious. You train your mind to see the good and stop giving life and energy to all the negative thoughts. Eventually, you’ll be so good at changing your focus that you’ll start doing it without effort, thereby creating a fresh, desirable look on life.
Along with changing the focus from lack to abundance, you can also begin expressing gratitude to yourself. We carry so many beliefs about ourselves that we’ve accumulated through life from our parents, mentors, friends, inner self-talk, etc. Much of these beliefs, unfortunately, are rooted in negative self-talk, in disapproval and criticism of both physical and emotional aspects of who we are.
This is self-sabotage 101, folks, and moving beyond this will shed so much light and joy into your life — but first, you have to stop being so hard on yourself. There are two ways to get yourself out of this mess.
One is to talk to yourself as you would talk to your best friend or a loved one. Try to change your internal script. Rip it up and toss it in the trash, and instead, talk to yourself with loving-kindness, with encouraging words that you’re doing just fine, that you’re on your path, that so-called “failures” are simply lessons to be had. To read more about the fear of failure, have a look at this article.
The second way is to realize that right now, in this exact moment, everything is okay. Perhaps this sounds like a crazy idea, but think about it: You’re reading this article, you’re breathing, you’re perhaps seated and comfortable. Yes, there are troubles and turmoils perhaps that you have to deal with, but at this moment, right now, you’re fine.
Anchor yourself to this moment with the thought that you’re dealing the best you can with all of the outside factors. You’re doing the best you can and you’ll continue to do so in the face of whatever is thrown your way.
Our Stories, Our Lives
The stories we tell ourselves are steeped in the past and the convoluted ideas we have about ourselves — and our “stories” are so easy to believe, so entirely convincing. If we can train ourselves to fall gently into the present moment by noticing small details around us, we can step into our here and now and step out of our story.
By changing our outlook, by not only noticing small details around us but by also expressing gratitude and changing the way we speak to ourselves, there’s a way out of despair and heartbreak. By following these simple steps, by repeating them ad infinitum until they become second nature, we can move beyond our story-laden negative perceptions and into the realness and vibrancy of the present moment, of the right here and now.
I would love to hear your thoughts on accepting what is and living more presently — please leave your thoughts in the comments below.To learn more, download my Free Ebook “3 Steps to Feel Great Right Now Regardless of Your Circumstances.” Get started mastering your mind and transforming your thinking.