Cultivating the ability to be present in our lives is one of the most important skills in today’s modern world. Increasingly common mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety are often rooted in living in the past or worrying about the future:
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” - Lao Tzu
Our ability to stay present and experience the gratitude in joy in being alive at this moment is a muscle we have to train. By working daily to increase our skill at being present, we can transform our lives.
When we are present, we fully inhabit our lives. We recognize the mundane moments in life that are in and of themselves small miracles - the first sip of coffee, a smile from a stranger, a hug from a loved one, the feeling of sunshine on our skin.
When we are present in the smallest moments in life, over time we develop an immense sense of joy. This is less of a learning and more of a remembering - joy, the gift of now, never leaves us. Peace is always here. It is a constant practice to tune back in. The time to start is now! Here are three tools to help cultivate this transformational skill of being present:
Eckhart Tolle’s transformational story and practices have lead him to become one of the world’s most sought after spiritual teachers. His first book, The Power of Now, has sold over two million copies worldwide and has been translated into over 30 languages. This book is a powerful guide in how to cultivate presence in your day to day life. Personally, I read the book in full twice, and have referred back to particular sections throughout the years. This is one of those books you will have for your entire life, and will learn something new from each time you pick it up!
The average attention span of humans is now less than a goldfish, so it’s no wonder the idea of meditating may sound as exciting as watching paint dry. My recommendation is to start small. This practice is truly transformational, and the best part is that you can do it any place at any time. The essence of meditation is awareness. Whether you find it useful to focus on your breath for 5 minutes right upon waking up, practicing a formal mantra meditation where a word or phrase is repeated in your head, or diving into visualizations and spiritual practices - meditation is for everyone! Apps like “Headspace” have made it even easier for everyone to get on board with this practice.
Becoming aware of our breath is a meditation we can do any time, even for a few moments. I encourage you to set a timer for 5 minutes and to draw your attention to your breath. Do this right after waking up, before bed or at some point during the day. Do not be intimidated if you can’t focus for more than a few moments. The practice is about guiding your awareness back, again and again. Be gentle with yourself. Even simpler, set a reminder on your phone for a few times a day to take three long, deep inhales followed by three long, easy exhales. Deep breathing brings you right back to the present moment and relaxes your entire nervous system. Try it now!