I suppose like most people I’ve heard about the concept of present-moment awareness for sometime now. It’s almost a part of the cultural lexicon to say something like “Stay focused and remain in the present moment.” But like many simple ideas, it’s easier said than done. I’m learning that my mind is a place I like to hang out–and that’s not necessarily a good thing. It seems that I’m usually thinking about the past or the future, or about almost anything other than what I’m doing in the present-moment. If you’re like me, a lot of good things can go right by you as you get caught up in thought instead of paying attention did the things around you.
For instance, when I’m taking a shower I find that I’m usually thinking about the day ahead, or about some other idea that seems to have some significance, or worse yet, getting caught up negative mind-talk. When this happens, I’m not really enjoying the beautiful shower I’m taking, instead I’m living in some fantasy place inside of my head. The same thing happens as I drive to work and walk across the parking lot to my office. This living inside of my head causes me to miss out on the wonderful things about me. I’ve decided that I need to work on this.
It’s not easy to remain presently focused. My mind is such an attention whore. It keeps telling me “Hey you need to think about this!” Or, “If you don’t think about this you’re going to be in trouble!” My mind always wants to be the center of attention and in charge. But I have found that there is another mind that can be in charge–the present moment mind.
The present-moment mind works like this. When I find myself inside of my head thinking about all the things I usually do–I gently remind myself to go outside (figuratively speaking) and paying attention to my physical environment. I’ll say things like, “I’ll come back and think about you guys later– right now I want to enjoy my present moment.” The present-moment mind is the part of me that nudges me to stop getting so caught up in my thoughts and feelings and to “go at things differently.” Some people describe it as the part of us that is always witnessing what we do. For me, it’s like the elder brother who taps me on the shoulder and gets my attention about something that’s more important. It’s a constant meditation of pushing aside whatever thoughts come up inside of me that would take my attention away from the things around me.
Doing this is having some nice effects.
For instance, I’m noticing the nice fall colors about me. I’m noticing the beauty of little children, of elderly people, and of family members. I’m noticing the air that I breathe, the smells in the air, the warm and cold temperature contained in the air–and gentle breezes. I’m looking at people more carefully and doing my best to give them my full undivided attention. I’m discovering that as I do this my anxiety levels decrease and that I’m not wasting precious mental energy worrying about the future.
Present-moment attention is a simple concept; but if you have a beginner mind it’s not easy. I’m working to string together more and more minutes of present moment awareness until it becomes my dominant state.