Ahhh … this is the key, isn’t it?
The key to unlocking calm and peace to the middle of a stress-ful, chaotic day.
What tends to knock us out of equanimity is the little monkey in our mind; the one that is cheeky, playful, frustrated, angry, bored, and it expresses itself in different ways. Our cheeky chimp can be made worse by external factors such as the stress of being a single parent, a bully for a boss, doing the dishes or the draw of Facebook. However, if we are to remain completely present, those external forces are no longer an issue.
But what does being present actually mean? According to one dictionary, to be present means to be in existence at the moment in time at which an utterance is spoken or written. Interestingly, the word “present” comes from two latin words that are taken to mean “before” and “existence”. So, that messes with my head.
If you are completely present, then the external factors no longer affect us because in that present moment, we only need to think about what is at hand. We do not have to let these factors add to what is already worrying us. For example, if your child interrupts your yoga practice, by being present, there is then only you and your child. You can appreciate your child for who they are and be thankful for that moment.
If your boss demands that you focus on an urgent task, you can choose to stress out because you have a million other things to do and not enough time to do them. Or you can be present, and focus completely on that task, and now there is only that one task and you. When you’re done, you can move on to the next task.
By practising being present, it allows everything else to fade away, leaving only you and whatever you are dealing with right now.
How to Practice Being Present
Like anything, it takes practice. When you practice something regularly and consistently, you become good at it. And the following method is fairly simple to do.
Whatever you are doing, right now, learn to focus completely on doing that one thing. Pay attention to every aspect of what you are doing, to your body, to the sensations, to your thoughts. You will notice your thoughts, if you are paying attention, jump to other things. And that is OK. You are not trying to force all other thoughts from your mind, but instead, by becoming aware of that jumping around in your thoughts, you have found the tool for gently bringing yourself back to your present task. Just notice the jumping thoughts, and patiently come back to the task at hand.
Do this once, then do it again.
Now this practice is not meant to be exhausting and you should start to notice how your worries melt away and you enjoy your present task much more.
Be joyful in whatever you are doing, grateful that you are able to do that task, and fully appreciate every little movement and tactile sensation of the task. Anything can be an amazing experience.
Set yourself little “mindfulness bells” are useful to remind you to come back to the present. E.g. The red light could be your mindfulness bell as you drive. Meditation is a fantastic way to practice because it can be done anywhere, anytime. It removes much of the complexity of the world and allows you to just learn to be aware of your mind, and to bring yourself back to the present moment.
Practice, repeatedly, in small easy beautiful steps. Each step is a wonder in itself, and each practice helps you to find that calm in the middle of the traffic of your life.