Anyone who has ever tried traditional meditation will tell you that it is not an easy skill to learn. Shutting off our brains is hard. It is also necessary if we want to “be present.” Fortunately, spending 20 minutes a day in a trance isn’t the only way to practice being more mindful.
Being present means to stop thinking.
If you pay attention, you’ll notice that most of your thinking – the result of your brain being on – is about the past or the future. It may be the recent past or the not-so distant future, but it is beyond the bounds of the present moment. To be in the moment, then, you need to stop all that thinking. How?
I’ve been meditating at least once a day for about three weeks – and I’m loving it – but it requires a time investment. And frankly, sitting quietly with your eyes closed for a long time just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (Jared tried it and hated it.) These little exercises can help you practice being present any time. No pillow or chanting required.
5 Ways to Be Present without Meditating
1. Turn off the radio when you drive. Don’t use your cell phone – put it away, not just down. Focus on the trip you’re taking. Notice the sites, the other cars, and the way the steering wheel feels in your hands. Try to dismiss thoughts about how much longer you still have to go or what you’ll do when you arrive. Enjoy the journey. Literally.
2. Watch your breath. You can do this any time, anywhere. Stop and pay attention to the way the air feels moving in and out of your nose or mouth. See where in your body you feel your breathing most strongly. Just spend a few moments following the air in and out of your body.
3. Just eat. Don’t read or watch TV. Don’t scroll through Facebook on your phone. Sit down. Look at each bite as you pick it up with your fork, chew it completely, notice the tastes, then swallow. Don’t take another bite until you’ve finished the previous one.
4. Pay attention when someone is speaking to you. Put your phone away (are we sensing a theme here?) and know that all messages or emails can wait. Watch the other person’s face as they speak. Do not anticipate responding. In fact, you may even consider contributing very little to the conversation and just showing up to listen. Commit to hearing and understanding instead of adding your two cents.
5. Listen for the birds. Close your eyes and see if you can hear birds chirping. You can go outside or sit in your office. You may have to listen past copy machines or traffic noises. Keep searching for the sound. (Um, don’t do this at night. Maybe listen for a cricket or something then.)
These simple practices are helping me – and can help you – wring more happiness out of each day.
Of course, we have to do some thinking in life. A lot of it, even. But if we can balance all that thinking with moments of mindfulness, of being present, we can experience something really, really cool.
Trust me. Try it. Then let me know if it was good for you, too.