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Esedess's avatar

What are some good methods for living in the present?

Asked by Esedess (3439points) April 9th, 2015

It’s an annoying habit of mine that I’m just now starting to realize. Even when I’m having fun in the moment, some part of me is lost in thoughts of the past or future. I don’t want to spend my whole life in anticipation of a future that always stands ahead of me. Besides, plans for the future are only of use to those who can live in the present. What good is working for tomorrow if when I get there I still can’t live in it?

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8 Answers

Safie's avatar

Simplify things in your life leave the past in the past without regrets, stop worrying about the future but build towards it, let go of old grudges appreciate the moments of today, and enjoy your job is another one many of us don’t… the biggest one would be for you if you have any to conquer and old addictions, and focus on what is in front go with the flow when do this you are instantly present/in the present moment and also mindful.

thorninmud's avatar

The key to staying centered in the present is developing some discipline in how you use your attention. That’s what meditation does.

Your attention can either be engaged with the experience that’s unfolding at this moment or it can be engaged with the channel of your mind that creates and maintains the story of your life. That storytelling channel takes your past experiences and weaves them into a personal history. It also plays around with various scenarios about the future. Your attention can’t really be both in the moment and in the storytelling channel; it can switch back and forth between them, but then it does neither of them justice.

Unless you train your attention otherwise, it does a whole lot of switching back and forth, often only occasionally checking in with what’s actually going on in the moment so you don’t run into trouble. The problem with this is that what’s going on now is your actual life. The stuff in the storytelling channel is just a story. It’s very easy to get so caught up in the story that you confuse it with your actual life. The story begins to feel like the important thing, and so it’s where your attention gravitates by default.

Most forms of meditation involve resting the attention on some aspect of your present experience and following it carefully as it unfolds. Often the breath is used as this home base for the attention. So you engage as much of your attention as you can in the ins and outs of your breath, investigating it and tuning into its nuances, all without manipulating the breath. Just see how it is.

You’ll find that while you’re doing this, the storytelling channel continues its work in the background. You’re aware that there’s this narrative activity going on somewhere. But—and this is crucial—that’s not a problem. It’s not a problem because you have the ability to keep your attention from tuning into that channel and listening to its feed. You can, with practice, stay resolutely rooted in the breath channel instead. The more of your attentive resources you can pour into the breath, the more the storytelling recedes into the background.

Fair warning: this takes a great deal of determination and practice. You will find this difficult, frustrating and boring. You will rebel against this on some level. As appealing as the idea of having a steady, centered attention is, getting there is a whole lot of work. If you can do this with your breath, you can do this with all the other aspects of your life as well.

marinelife's avatar

Re-connect with your body. Find a way (exercises, yoga, meditation) to learn to center and ground yourself.

Every time you catch your mind wandering to the past of the future say an affirmation to yourself (use your own words, something like) “I can’t change the past and I can’t predict the future, but I can enjoy where I am right now.” Then take note of your surroundings. Is there music? Are you outdoors or in? Are there interesting people there? Etc.

I once was enjoying a walk right at sunset in the woods, the light through the trees, the singing of the summer insects, the rustle of animals in the underbrush when I passed on the trail a guy staking along talking way too loudly on a cell phone. At that moment, I felt so sorry for him that he was oblivious to his surroundings.

Coloma's avatar

Sit quietly in nature, as a means of meditation as @thorninmud mentions. This is my preferential meditation practice. Just looking, being fully present with what is in the moment.
Nature is a great theater for mindfulness. I had the best moment the other day watching a lizard capture and eat a caterpillar. I was so fully focused on that present moment that everything else just evaporated except for that witnessing.

JLeslie's avatar

I think the secret is becoming more aware of when you are enjoying yourself. You focus on the moment, the bliss, and time slows down and those moments last longer and longer. Once you practice it in times of happiness you will find more moments of happiness and even be in the present more in general. You have to compartmentalize, leaving thoughts of the past or future for very specific times of focus.

If you learn to be in the present more and focus on the happy it truly is a gift.

For me I began to experience great joy in the natural beauty around me. I recognized when I wasn’t in pain (I had lived many years in chronic pain). I also became more interested in experiencing different and new things. Simpler things became a huge source of happiness for me.

I’ll add that really focusing on the people I’m with and listening to them tell their stories and opinions and experiencing their presence really became something very special. Each person has incredible experiences and perspectives. Especially as I get older and my peers have experienced and learned so much in life.

Put away the texting and internet when you are with friends and family and when visiting new places.

hominid's avatar

Everything that @thorninmud said!

In addition to that, some people find other small practices throughout the day are helpful. One thing is to single-task. Do the dishes (I love this). When you do the dishes, however, do the dishes. Don’t decide that there is nothing interesting about your task so you are free to plan your night or worry about a conversation you had yesterday. Doing this dishes can be as interesting as anything else – if you pay attention. You’ve probably never actually washed the dishes in this way, so you might think I’m crazy. But if you pay close attention to how you turn on the water, the sound of the water coming from the faucet, how it dances off the bottom of the sink or other dishes, the warmth and how it feels to have it run over your hands, the rag/sponge’s texture, the smells, the sight of different size bubbles as they form and pop and are washed away by the water, the oiliness of the dishes and how it changes to a squeeky feeling, the actual shapes of the dishes and utensils, the varying perceived temperatures between a ceramic bowl and metal spoon, etc. you’ll likely realize what you have been missing out on.

There is something extremely pleasurable about the act of focusing full attention on any task, and you’ll find that with each task you apply this to, you’ll realize that you’ve been blind to most of it up until that point. And of course, while enjoying these daily activities, your mind will wander. Note that it has wandered, as minds do, and just come back to the task. Again. And again.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I’m not good at this myself, however one thing I’ve tried to do to improve my awareness and particularly my writing, is to sit with a notepad and to write down all my sensory experiences at that moment. What am I hearing? Seeing? Smelling? Feeling? etc. It’s amazing what’s going on around us that we’re oblivious to.

I should do this a lot more. I’d also like to take up meditation. I even subscribed to a programme to help me do that. Sadly, and typically, I didn’t find the time which is sort of ridiculous!

yankeetooter's avatar

Goodness, if I wasn’t able to live in the present (at least somewhat), I don’t know how I would be dealing with everything I’m going through right now. Just thinking of meeting my deductible for my three recent hospital stays is enough to send me hyperventilating. But I haven’t received one bill yet, and I know they will come in more manageable portions (for the most part), and so I have decided not to dwell on them until they do start coming in. Right now, I’m not sure how much I’ll have to pay, or how soon, so why worry about it overmuch? Granted, I’m not going out and buying a yacht in the meanwhile…

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