Be Here Now Ways to spend life in the present moment
A few weeks ago I was sitting opposite from a mother and her 3 year old son as they travelled to London for a visit to the zoo. I was completely transfixed by them for the entire journey. At first I couldn’t put my finger on what it was – there wasn’t anything unusual about them, they were an average mother and son having a day out. Except there was something different, something so uncommon in today’s world, that it made me stop what I was doing and just sit watching them and enjoying their interaction. What was it I found so fascinating? It was the fact that they were being completely and entirely present with each other.
For the whole journey she didn’t once get on her phone, or give him a tablet to play on to keep him active. They just chatted and played games – my favourite making characters out of blueberries and raspberries – and they laughed, they laughed and giggled so much for the entire ride that by the time we pulled into Victoria I was smiling from ear to ear. Their sense of fun, adventure and presence had a profound effect on me that morning. The simple act of being at one with each other set me up for a fulfilling day, where I made a pact to be present with each and every person I had interaction with that day.
It was this simple act of kindness between two human beings that got me thinking: in a world of quick fixes, fast technology and a million things to be done, it’s no wonder that every day can feel full of stress. Our relationships become strained because we’re trying too hard to keep all the plates spinning, and our thoughts for the future end in a hotchpotch of confusion. In a world where we’re trying so hard to race ahead, it seems that we’ve lost the ability to be here in this very moment.
So, why is presence so important? I’ve pondered a few thoughts around a quiet revolution, where we can get back into our own stride, and learn to be in the moment with ourselves and each other:
Slowing down to savour each moment
What would life look like, and taste like if we could slow down to take in the view, or enjoy every bite? Would the world come into sharper focus? Would food have more depth and complexity of flavour? Try it now. Stop, take in three breaths and focus what you can see around you. Don’t just name the big things, but the finer details in between. Get something to eat and hold it in your mouth before chewing, then chew slowly before swallowing. What different sensations and flavours do you get that you wouldn’t have got before?
The gift of attention
We can often have an ear to a conversation, whilst really listening to the thoughts in our head, or looking over their shoulder to what’s going on with the next table. Or, even worse, constantly checking in on the ‘phone whilst the person we’re with is talking to us. The gift of our attention is making a conscious effort to be present with the person we are with in that moment. Unless it’s an absolute emergency put the mobile in your bag; get your head out of your computer; stop checking your emails; Facebook can wait; face the person you are talking to and engage with them. Believe me, it’s the best thing you will do all day.
The spaces in between
Stillness, silence, pressing the pause button: they are all spaces we can give ourselves each and every day which allow us to take a moment to be present. Within these spaces, and those in between, are where creativity lives. So, daydream, doodle, stare out into space. Allow your brain and body time to be in the moment and your mind to wander in the stillness.
Rest and rejuvenation
Being present with ourselves gives us the opportunity and the gift to take a break: to recharge and rejuvenate. Whether it’s a 20 minute power-nap, a 15 minute body scan mindfulness exercise, or simply 10 deep inhalations of the breath, take some time out of each day to allow the body and brain to recalibrate and catch up on themselves.
Multi-tasking is bad for your brain
Whether you’re a man or a woman, it makes no difference: multi-tasking to get more done is a con. It doesn’t work. All you are doing is diluting what you can do well. Our brains function at their best when we focus on one thing at a time, it can’t cope when it is bombarded with too many signals or commandments. Studies have even shown that multi-tasking whilst performing cognitive tasks, such as checking emails; texting; getting bombarded by notifications; or talking on the ‘phone overloads the brain and slows it down. It literally lowering the IQ down so much that the effects are as though you’ve lost a night’s sleep, or you’ve smoked a joint! Over time, there’s a rise in cortisol, the stress hormone, as well as a reduction in density in the anterior cingulate cortex – the area of the brain responsible for empathy and emotion. None of which are good news, and entirely detrimental to our stress levels, and relationships in the world.
So if you feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions on a daily basis, or you’re suffering the guilt of wanting to spend more quality time with your kids or your partner, without distraction, then take a moment to stop and be present. Even if it’s just for 10 more minutes in your day than you are right now.