One of the best ways I’ve found to “lighten up” is to be present. But how to actually do that? I’ve found a trick that brings me into the “now” every time.
It was quite an eyeopener when I realized how many times a day my thoughts were either revisiting the past or imagining the future. Not a bad thing in small doses, but re-hashing a past I cannot change, or worrying over every possible future option is not a healthy place for a mind to be.
I am the queen of replaying something that happened over and over in my mind. “What if…” or “How come…” or “Why on Earth did I…” is usually the soundtrack of these scenes from my past. And the more I beat myself up for something I did or didn’t do, the worse I feel.
Which is kind of ridiculous, since there is nothing I can do to change what happened.
Even more than being the queen of replaying the past, I am the empress of playing out in my mind the possibilities of what might happen in the future. I can have full on conversations with other people in my head, that will likely never happen! And the more I play out these future possibilities, the more anxious I get.
And 99% of the time, nothing like what I imagine ever happens anyway!
Imagine my delight and comprehension when I realized how much my mind was going to these two places and that there was an antidote to all this craziness.
Yep. Right here. Right now. Typing this blog post.
Nope, not thinking about what happened this morning or what might happen this evening.
Just be here right now.
It sounds simple. It is simple in essence. But I’ve learned it takes just a teeny bit more than just thinking, “Be here” for my mind to actually stay here for more than .005 of a second.
I don’t even remember where I stumbled across the idea, so forgive me if it’s yours and I’m not giving you credit. But I feel like I’ve read it in several places now. So here goes. This is my trick to coming to the present moment and staying there a minute.
I pay attention to my five senses.
Really. That’s it. And it works.
I take just a minute or two, focusing in on each of my five senses to see what they are taking in. The focus it takes to do that keeps my mind on the present moment. It stops the flow of thoughts from the past and the future as I check in on the status of my own body in that moment.
I’ll often start with my eyes. What do I see? What is right in front of me? Is it my computer screen? Is it the big brown eyes of one of my little boys? Is it a blue sky with puffy white clouds? What is coming in my eyes? Once I’ve really connected with what I am seeing, then I’ll move on to another sense.
What do I hear? The hum of electronics? The laughter (or screams) of the little boys? The birds in the garden? What is coming in my ears? When I really hear it, I move on.
What do I smell? The strawberries I just gave the boys with their snack? Their sweaty little heads? The lilacs that just bloomed in the backyard? I breathe in deep and see what smells are around. I really take them in and then move on.
What do I taste? Those strawberries we just had for snack. And the carrots. Luckily both really good flavors. Sometimes when I do this I realize the taste in my mouth is not great! And then I want to go find something tasty!
What do I feel? On my skin? In the air? Is it warm? Cold? Windy? Today my clothes are soft knits and the sun shining in the window of my home office is warm. I want to fit my whole self in the trapezoid of light on the floor and feel the warmth from my head to my toes.
Once I’ve given attention to each of my five senses, and really paid attention to what each one is sensing, I let myself sit with it for just a few moments. Just feeling. Just noticing.
So much of the day my senses are taking in information but my mind only pays attention if there’s something I need to do about it. For the most part, my mind ignores the information that is coming in through my senses. And it needs to, because there are a whole lot of other things that my mind needs to be thinking about in the course of a day.
But. When I need to get my mind quiet and give it a break, especially if it’s on a slow stroll through the past or a mad dash into the future, I can get it to a place of stillness in the present by taking a minute and seeing what my senses are taking in.
It works! At least, it works for me. It’s a quick trick to get my mind to be here. Right now.
Will you let me know if it works for you?