How To Stay Present Even When You Feel Like You Can't
If I had a dollar for every time someone has mentioned Eckhart Tolle’s The Power Of Now recently, I’d be buying every MindBodyGreen reader a big green smoothie with it. So I took the hint and read it. Well ... I say that I read it, but it actually took me a few attempts to really appreciate what the amazing Mr. Tolle says.
Why did it take me so long? Because living in the present, or the "now," is an incredibly foreign concept for many of us. We’re already here, so how can we not be in the now?
How are we supposed to stop and think about exactly what’s happening in this moment? I’ve got so much to do this afternoon. I haven’t cleared out my inbox for weeks. I’m worried about how I’m going to be able squeeze it all in. I should probably stop by the chemist on the way home and pick up some sunscreen … and maybe some extra toothpaste, just in case. I’ll get something for dinner tonight as well. Curry again? But we had that on Sunday. Anyway, I suppose I should probably get this email over with first. God, my job is boring. Right … let’s get on with it.
Our brains race from one thought to another, and if you analyze them very carefully, only a few of them are actually focused on the present moment. Most of them have either a step in the past or the future.
But moving into the true present is addictive. For me, it feels like falling into some kind of crazy vacuum — you become so sucked into the present that the past and the future become impossible to contemplate. You know this feeling if you’ve ever had it, and it’s completely irresistible and addictive.
So how do you do it? Here are five ways to remain in and love the Now:
1. Realize that the now is all we have. The past is just a story and the future is a complete mystery. This is it. Now.
2. Realize that you can’t predict anything, even if it makes you feel better. How many times have you played over possible future scenarios in your head to find there’s no way you could have predicted what was going to happen? You feel silly for even thinking about it. It’s wasted brain energy and time that could be spent really listening to people, looking at nature and feeling totally and completely fine with yourself.
3. Meditation, meditation, meditation, practicing mediation, more meditation. If all else fails, take five big, deep breaths.
4. Accept your thoughts and tendencies and work with them. Are you a past-focused person or a future-focused person? I’m a future person for sure. If you tend to live in the past, know that you did exactly what you could with the knowledge you had at the time. Write down all your feelings about the event that triggered your thoughts. If you’re a future person, write down why a certain event or person is worrying you and read it over. Do you really, genuinely have cause to be anxious? If you do, act on it. If you don’t, let it go.
5. Follow your passion. There’s nothing better than that feeling of being completely engrossed in what you’re doing. That, my friends, is the now. That’s why what you’re doing feels so good. Make time for your hobbies and passions — write them in your diary and make sure you feed your soul with them. Recognize the feeling of complete presence as you do it and learn to incorporate that feeling more and more into your every day life.
If you still need more inspiration, let me encourage you to think about this quotation from Eckhart Tolle himself — in the present of course:
“Nothing has happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.”
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