Sometimes routine can numb our senses. It’s easy to get consumed, almost lost, in daily to-dos and happenings. We become so habitual that we forget to look up and observe our surroundings, breathe deeply, and connect with others genuinely. We forget to be present…
It’s helpful to think about it like this. Imagine you are straddling a chasm between past and future. One foot is planted firmly in the past, reminiscing the good times and possibly, ruminating mistakes and hardships. The other foot has its toes holding strong to the future; dreaming, planning, scheming future goals, achievements, relationships, etc. The constant tug-a-war between past and present leaves little room for the present moment: the sights, sounds, smells, nature, people, etc.
What ends up happening is that we pass through the present moment on the way to somewhere else and, in doing so, we miss the moment completely. That's how life ends up passing us by - we do it to ourselves.
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
So, it’s time we pause, evaluate our footing, and maybe even find the courage to plunge into the chasm, the present, and find beauty in each lived moment.
Vacation is a great way to break routine and enter the chasm. A new place brings fresh sights, smells, nature, activities, and people. This newness can re-awaken our senses and help center us back in the present moment.
On vacation one experiences their days differently; going to new places, trying new activities, eating new foods, taking new adventures. This departure from normalcy can remind and motivate a commitment to the present moment. It offers appropriate, rewarding distractions that remind us to stop looking back and stop scheming the future. Instead enjoy the happiness and the beauty of the current moment. Soak it in and let it impact you…
While time away from typical routine is the best way to re-condition a sense of present focus, if you can’t vacation just yet, here are other practices to gain back awareness of the present.
Engage in single-task thinking and doing. Here’s an example. On your walk to work try not to take your phone out and multitask. Instead, just walk. Observe the buildings, the park, and the other people on the go. Take a deep breath, inhaling the fresh, cool morning air. Instead of trying to cram in last minute texts, calls, and mental to-do lists—just be present to the act of walking. Observe your stride length, the funky-hip shoes of your neighbor at the crosswalk, and the wafting smell of fresh coffee and donuts. Take it all in… That’s being present.
Rein in your thoughts. One way to stop a thought spiral and regain an awareness of the present moment is to find an object (that’s readily visible) and focus on it. Describe what the object looks like to you, it’s beauty or simplicity. How do you imagine it feeling or smelling? What’s the objects purpose? Engaging in this thought process helps one tune into an object that exists in the current moment, thus, re-directing attention back on the present.
Truth is, being present in the moment is tricky. It’s hard to maintain. Finding a way to break up routine, to get away and reset, is a great step in re-awakening yourself to what it feels like to enjoy the present moment. Commitment to practicing these techniques may also boost your ability to stay present.
Remember that there exists only one time and place where you can be and have any control over… and that is the present moment.