Why is being present key?
Because when we can be present, we are in touch with reality. When we are suffering from what one of my anxiety mentors calls a fear disorder (anxiety), our conscious awareness is rarely in the now. We are so wrapped up inside of our heads, absorbed in our anxious thoughts.
The more time we spend inside of our heads, the less time we are present in the moment, where life is. You will see that this is true in your experience. Think about how many things you have lost interest in because you are so focused on your anxiety. Think about how hard it is to fully concentrate on anything.
By the way, we don’t truly lose interest in the stuff we used to love. It’s just that temporarily, our attention is so focused on our anxious thoughts and sensations so they have become more important.
We believe that we can get rid of the anxiety by reasoning with it. By trying to force it out of our consciousness, but does this really work? Of course it doesn’t. It keeps us trapped in the prison and actually makes the anxiety worse.
So, what if we left that all behind by training ourselves to have our attention on the present moment. This is something that can truly be done when we practice it on a continual basis.
Just one thing to point out. We are not doing this because we are trying to stop ourselves from feeling anxious. We are not doing it to escape from the anxiety either. From my personal experience, this was just self-torture.
You cannot escape anxiety by actively trying to escape from it because the brain just thinks that we are in danger and will activate more anxiety as a consequence.
This is nothing to do with thinking ourselves out of our anxiety or trying to distract ourselves. None of that actually works. Especially in the long run.
How can we become more present in the moment?
From my experience, I’ve found three simple ways to become more present in the moment.
The grounding exercise
What I love about this exercise is that we can do this literally anywhere at anytime. It’s amazing. Although you might not feel the benefits immediately, keep practicing because it will be very helpful and another tool to have in your toolkit.
I’ve written an article about this exercise before but I’ll write about it again because I do find it to be really helpful and I hope you will too. Whenever I find myself lost in thought, I remind myself of this exercise and then do it.
It always helps me connect with what’s real in my experience, as opposed to being caught up inside my head, lost in thought.
This exercise is very simple. It’s what I call the five sense immersion exercise. so, what you do is become aware of what you can hear, see, smell, taste and touch.
Focus on one sense perception at a time to avoid confusion and overwhelm. I ask myself the question: What can I hear right now? This question helps me to have my attention anchored on what I can hear. I don’t label what I hear. I just notice any sounds that are happening in my environment.
I do this for each sense perception. I spend about 30 seconds to a minute on each sense perception before moving on to the next one.
Focusing on feelings rather than thoughts
One of the obstacles to becoming present is getting caught up in our thinking. This is how we lose our connection to the present moment. I spent many years completely unconscious.
I don’t mean unconscious as in like dead, I mean completely wrapped up in my own mind. This is what Eckhart Tolle calls spiritually unconscious. When we feel so disconnected from reality, not paying attention to anything because the pull of our mind is so strong.
A gateway into the present moment is to fully give our full attention to what we are feeling right at this moment. So, even if we are feeling anxious, we don’t want to run away from it as this creates inner resistance and more anxiety.
What we want to do is to sit with the feeling and fully focus on it with our awareness. When we fully feel the anxiety in whatever form, we can transcend the negative, dense energy into more of a free-flowing one. Stay with the feeling no matter how strong the urge is to escape.
This urge is self created. It’s something that we have done for many years. We’ve conditioned ourselves to never allow a feeling to be there due to how uncomfortable the feeling is. However, nothing creates more suffering that non-acceptance.
Keep practicing this. Whenever you find yourself caught up in your anxious thinking, bring your attention back to the feeling of the body.
Something that I can really relate to is when Eckhart Tolle said feel the aliveness of the body. When you can fully allow yourself to feel the sensations and emotions with an attitude of deep acceptance, you will notice a shift in your inner state.
Everything is energy, right? So, when we stop fearing how we feel and stop running away from our uncomfortable feelings by fully feeling them and placing all of our awareness on them, then we can transmute the negative energy into a positive energy.
I know I always say that we shouldn’t focus on the anxiety. However, this is a different kind of focus. This focus leads to healing because it allows us to be present in the moment instead of caught up in thought.
When we are lost in our thinking, we are no longer present. We can spend hours inside our heads. Someone with an anxiety disorder can spend years trapped inside the prison of their own minds.
During anxiety, the thoughts we experience are usually about the past and future.
Remember, it’s the fear and resistance to our anxious sensations that gives them more power. By focusing on our bodily sensations without judging them, and without fighting and fearing them, we can come into the present moment.
When our attention is in the present moment, we can give our nervous system the chance to unwind.
Immersing ourselves in our favourite things
One of the easiest ways to have our attention in the present moment is to focus on the things we enjoy doing.
Here’s the trick to making your experience with hobbies more enjoyable: You don’t want to have the mindset that you’re doing a hobby because you are trying to become present or stop the feelings and thoughts of anxiety. No, this will just keep you trapped.
In fact, give up trying to be present. Just give yourself to the things you enjoy doing. As a product, you’ll become present because it’s impossible not to be when you are focused on things outside of yourself.
Expectations lead to disappointments, so don’t expect to become present. Just read or play a video game without any agenda.
I hope this post has helped you see just how important it is to be present. Please give these exercises a try and stick to them no matter how you feel because with practice, they will help you to become more grounded and present.
If you have any questions about this post, then please let me know. I’ll happily respond.
Until next time