Meditation and “being present” is becoming increasingly popular in US society. Not only is mindfulness practiced by yogis and spiritual seekers, but now its used in schools, by celebrities, businesses, and many other areas of society. Why is being present so important to so many people?
Time is an illusion
Some scientists, including Albert Einstein, believe that time is an illusion. Some say the past doesn’t exist nor does the future and everything is happening at the same time. And some show that there is a flow of time but that there is nothing in physics that proves that time moves forward; maybe it actually moves backward.
Ultimately, all that exists is right now. The past is not now; it is an imperfect story in our minds. The future hasn’t happened. Right now is always eternally occurring. It cannot be understood by scientists or mathematicians. It is a cut in the flow of perceived time, and anything can happen in this moment.
History of mindfulness
The practice of being in the present moment has been around for thousands of years. Mostly we know of mindfulness from Eastern cultures, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. The practice was used in religious traditions and while in prayer to the gods. However, I think most humans have utilized mindfulness at different points in their lives.
Over the years, the application of mindfulness has expanded to those not just involved in religious practice. Being present in the body is utilized by yoga lovers and secular business people alike. Many are turning to the present moment to refocus, calm their nerves, and reconnect to themselves.
The busy modern life
I think one huge reason for the rise in mindfulness popularity is that everyone is super stressed. Life is crazy in this modern world that we have created. There are more people on this planet than ever before, and we can move from place to place faster, with more information bombarding us than could ever be processed. Everything moves so fast, its no wonder heart disease is steadily on the rise!
People are looking for relief from the rat race. They need time to quiet their minds and feel their bodies. It’s too easy to go on for months or years with no break from the noise, inside and out. Brains overthinking, TV blaring, cars honking, family making a raucous, and no time to just be. Our body’s, minds and souls need our awareness!
How being present will reduce stress
Many studies have been conducted and are still being done concerning mindfulness and what it does for the human body. The physical and psychological changes after only a few days of practicing meditation are incredible. In my own experience, I struggled with depression and anxiety for decades. After only three or four days of a daily meditation for no more than 15 minutes, I effectively was able to noticeably reduce my anxiety so I didn’t need to be on medication.
Another way I have practiced being present, other than meditation, is by paying attention to my senses with no thinking involved. Such as walking with the dog and listening fully to the birds, to Charlie’s panting (my dog), feeling the breeze, and smelling the scent in the air. After these type of walks I feel absolutely rejuvenated, clear-minded, and completely at peace. I effectively gave my brain and body a break from the constant chatter in my mind.
Living in the past
There is something magical that happens when you stop living in the past or stressing about the future. That’s really what the huge majority of our thoughts consist of. If you can quiet your mind and not identify with those floating thoughts, then there is no need to stress. There is no need for fear, agitation, anxiety, none of it. You can just be.
It can be hard for our brains to turn off or stop the incessant repeating of habitual thoughts. There is an awesome book by Eckhart Tolle called The Power of Now, and he writes of the ego. According to Tolle, our ego is a function of our brains that creates our identity in order to explain our physical form. There was a time and place for our ego as we were evolving, but at this point in time our egos seem to keep us stuck. The ego is afraid of change and just wants to keep us safe, therefore it is always bringing up the past and keeping us worried about the future. But we can make peace with our egos and not give so much meaning to that part of our brain, and slowly it will evolve to the thinking that will serve us now.
How to be present
Here are some ways that you can practice mindfulness in your life:
- Meditation– When I started meditating I began with 5 minutes per day. I had a hard time sticking to anything back then, so 5 minutes made it so much easier to actually stay consistent. There are many kinds of meditation, but basically you are separating your identification with your thoughts and instead focusing on either your breathing, feeling the different parts of your body, a meditational sound, or whatever you can focus on and effectively quiet your thinking mind. Find a method that will prevent you from following your thoughts down the rabbit hole. It takes practice, so don’t think this is supposed to look perfect by any means.
- Exercise- exercise is a great way to be present! You can’t really get lost in thoughts when you are actively counting out reps or balancing on one foot. Exercise has also been shown to reduce stress, go figure! I have finally, after two years of desiring to exercise regularly, started practicing yoga every other day for a few months now. I feel amazing, which makes it easier to continue. The results produce motivation to continue!
- Art- expressing artistically is a great way to practice mindfulness. When you direct what is in your imagination out into the world, there is a magical effect that takes place. You are directly connected to infinite intelligence, and therefore free from the illusion of time. Whether you are painting, playing a musical instrument, writing a book, or learning a new dance move, you are effectively in flow (check out my blog post on flow) and in the present moment.
- Living meditation- I mentioned that you can meditate while you are taking a walk, but you can also be present while you are cooking food, doing the dishes, fixing your hair, brushing your teeth, reading a book; any of these activities you can do while practicing mindfulness. You can be fully focused on each task, feeling the physical motions and giving them all of your mind, and you will be in the present moment. Try it! Your daily tasks could end up being more interesting than you thought 🙂
How being present can help you manifest your dreams
Why do you think schools, businesses, and leadership programs teach mindfulness? Its not just for the stress reduction. Being present also boosts productivity. When you are present and not worried about the past or future, fear goes down and confidence goes up. When you are fully focused on the now and concentrated on the task you are on, you are not being distracted and you will complete the task more quickly and more completely.
Being present is not the same as multitasking, which has been shown by multiple studies to decrease cognitive ability. This reduction in cognitive function was comparable to someone who didn’t get any sleep the night before. Being present is not a frantic changing of direction every 30 seconds, which is basically overthinking. Mindfulness is focusing fully on where you are and what you’re doing. The results are quantum leaps toward your goals and dreams.
So, whether you are looking for relief from stress, over-thinking, or you want to achieve your goals at lightening speed, becoming skillful in being present is invaluable to your success. Start practicing now (the only moment that exists), and enjoy the benefits!