I met a friend for coffee last week and she commented on how she appreciated that I always put my phone on silent when I was with her and how she always felt that I gave her my undivided attention whenever we met.  Her comment lingered in my mind for a few days and finally I decided that this was going to be the topic of my new chapter. I have been practising the art of being present for quite a few years now, and I have found that it helps me to cope with physical and emotional challenges.  However, it has not been a smooth road. 

My Road to being in the present moment   

A few years ago, my youngest daughter at age six was involved in a serious car accident which required for her to be induced into an artificial coma for a week due to a major brain injury.

For the first few months we lived in total uncertainty as to whether she was ever going to fully recover from the injury. I cannot even begin to describe the emotional upheaval and stress that our family went through during that time. All I can remember of that time is how I learned to cope with the situation by letting everything which was not related to my family fade away and disappear for that period of time, leaving me to only deal with what mattered to me in that present time, which was keeping my family together and focusing on my time spent in hospital with my daughter. All my energy was focused only on what mattered to me, and I shut down everything else for a short time.  It was my way of coping with everything.   

Present Moment and the Key to Solving Problems 

It did not click at that time that I was practicing being in the present moment. By nature, I am an addicted overthinker and most of the time I cannot help myself as my thoughts take over and get the better of me.

It results in negative thoughts, self-induced stress and burning energy on things which are not even likely to happen! Take the simple example of being on holiday. Whilst on a holiday I have caught myself already thinking of planning the next holiday instead of enjoying the moment of the PRESENT holiday!  I use the word “Addiction” as it is the term used by Eckhart Tolle in his book “The Power of Now” where he described how overthinking is a way of escaping the present moment, and just like any addiction, we cannot help ourselves to overthink just like a drug addict who cannot control the use of drugs. 

It was only when confronted with the traumatic experience of my daughter’s accident that I instinctively made the choice of shutting down all my overthinking processes to focus on the current moment as a way of coping with the stress and emotional drain.  I guess I can now say that I discovered the power of being in the present moment by accident, and this was indeed the silver lining of this traumatic experience.  

Can I now adamantly say that I live totally in the present moment? The answer is no! However, I can say confidently that I am now more AWARE when I am not in the present moment and can recognize when my addiction is starting to flare up and want to take over.  I have taught myself to visualize a bell in my mind that I have named the “Awareness Bell” which triggers and reminds me to come back to the present moment.  The key is practice, practice and more practice.

Practice Makes Perfect 

So how do we start practicing to focus on the present moment?

I talked about the “Awareness Bell” above, and that is exactly what I did at the beginning, except that it was not an alarm in my mind, but one that I purposely set on my phone to ring every 3 hours, where I would stop, reflect on how well I did, and then set it up again for another three hours. It might sound tedious and I can see many of you lifting your eyebrows whilst reading this. Trust me! It works! I did this every day for three months solid (weekdays and weekends!) and every time when the alarm went off, I reflected on the past three hours for a few minutes. If I have been overthinking and stressing, I then made at that moment a conscious decision to rectify it in my mind, then put the alarm back on again for another three hours and so it went! I am proud to say that I no longer need the physical alarm to remind me of my addiction, as I have now managed to create an Awareness Bell in my subconscious, simply by physically practicing this over and over again. If this is not for you, there are other more conventional ways of being in the present moment.      

Steps to be in Present Moment   

  • Overcome your addictions, be it overthinking, alcohol, or any other, as it prevents you from being completely free and from being able to focus on the present moment.  If you cannot do it alone, seek help. You will need a key ingredient which is “Self-Discipline”. (check out Chapter 3 on Self-Discipline). 
  • Surround yourself with things that can bring a smile to your face. Do not underestimate the power of smiling. 
  • Let Go! You need to let go of resentful feelings towards those that harmed you in the past, or painful memories that keep on haunting you. They might have caused you harm and heartaches but the choice of allowing them to carry on harming you is entirely yours! In fact, the power of “Letting Go” would be the subject of another forthcoming chapter. 
  • The PAST is past. You cannot change the past whether it has been successful or not, BUT you can control the PRESENT and this gives you an amazing opportunity to create achievements that in the FUTURE you can look back on and create memories of successful achievements that you did TODAY
  • Be in love with what you do. Many of us do a job not because we love it, but because it pays the bills. It reflects in our state of mind, when we go through the week, hating every second of it, waiting for the weekend to arrive! Remember that there is a silver lining in everything, open your mind to the present and look for enjoyment in what you do. If you cannot find it, then it is time to move on to find something else.
  • We have all read books on how to be successful in business and in our lives. We learn that we need to dream BIG and set goals to achieve them.  Remember that in order to achieve your dreams in the future, you must not forget to work hard TODAY to get there! Or else we would just be dreaming our life away and never achieving anything. 
  • Don’t worry, be happy! We have no control on what is going to happen tomorrow. All it does is drain our mental energy. However, we can focus our energy on the present which is in our control. 
  • Last but not least, appreciate the little moments of today! The beautiful sunny day, the flora and fauna, your children’s smile and voices, the smell of a cooked meal in your kitchen, just to name a few!  We often take them for granted.  

“‘Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

See you soon for another chapter of Health2bfree.com