The only moment you truly have is this one. The past is done and the future hasn’t happened yet. However, if you’re like most people, the present moment is constantly slipping away from you. We squander away the precious present as we ruminate over past transgressions or future worries. At work, we fantasize about vacation; on vacation, we worry about work. It’s a vicious cycle.
So, how do you break the cycle and relax into the present moment? It takes practice. Here are some simple suggestions for cultivating an attitude of mindfulness and finding peace in the present moment.
Meditation: It’s no secret that meditation is the silver bullet for achieving mindfulness—but that doesn’t make it easy. Meditation, also called imagery or visualization, refers to full concentration of the mind. Meditation generally involves techniques designed to control and discipline the mind so that it is not overrun with useless thoughts, fantasies, and fears. By training the mind, we can slow down and relax into the present moment.
Single Task: Multitasking is the enemy of mindfulness. As Publilius Syrus, a Roman slave in the first century B.C., said, “To do two things at once is to do neither.” Multitasking has actually been shown to be inefficient and to increase anxiety. If you want to stay focused on the present moment, stick with one task at a time. You’ll feel more relaxed and able to focus on the task at hand.
Sacred Pause: Embrace the idea of a “sacred pause.” Our society rewards speed and efficiency, but that fast pace increases anxiety and prevents us from relaxing into the present moment. Instead, find ways to incorporate the sacred pause into your day. When walking to your car, stop and notice the flowers blooming. Before answering the telephone, take three deep breaths.
Try Something New: Nothing captures your attention like doing something out of the ordinary. If you’ve ever tried to learn something new, you’ll recall how singularly focused you were on the task. Learn to surf, try your hand at pottery, or take up the tango. Travel to a new place or learn a new language.
Lose Track of Time: Psychologists refer to a state of total absorption as “flow.” When you’re in the flow, you are so engrossed in a task that you lose track of everything else around you. Incorporate activities into your daily life that promote a sense of flow. Some people experience flow while running, or playing the piano, or painting. Find your flow and go with it.