The Art of Living in the Present

Being in sync with time is an art, a true skill. As with anything else, it requires self-mastery. But its rewards are invaluable: peace of mind and greater understanding. After all, you exist in this very moment, not one hour ago or in two weeks from now. If you’re having trouble remaining in the present, take these seven actions to help return you to right now....

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After my husband passed, a whirl of past and future danced in my mind. The sad movie of every memory we shared played endlessly: there he was on the night we met, the wildly handsome young man with a heavy mustache. Then we were waltzing on the dance floor of the restaurant he owned, stepping into our new home, toasting across the dinner table, and cradling our baby daughter. My heart was anywhere but in the present, oscillating between painful “what ifs” and still more painful “if onlys.” Doubt weighed down the hours.

With time I realized that I had to release my sadness and reclaim my joy, and that I could do this only by detaching from what happened or might happen and diving into what was happening then and there. Being in sync with time is an art, a true skill. As with anything else, it requires self-mastery. But its rewards are invaluable: peace of mind and greater understanding. After all, you exist in this very moment, not one hour ago or in two weeks from now. If you’re having trouble remaining in the present, take these seven actions to help return you to right now:

Don’t try to escape the moment. Your present may involve much struggle and confusion, but trying to evade the situation won’t help you resolve it. Accept what’s happening with a calm mind and courageous heart. “Fighting the tide” will cause you to sink. Relinquish your resistance and fear, as these emotions only prolong your problems. You will be surprised at how powerful you’ll prove to be against the things that scare you the most. Your obligation to be present holds true through both good and bad, so stand tall and face each moment. 

Embrace your pain. It’s okay to feel pain; it’s as much a part of life as every other emotion. Many people are afraid to hurt because they forget that suffering actually makes them stronger. Let your pain come and go, allowing it to run its course with no hesitation. Cry if you’re upset. Yell and beat a pillow if you’re angry. Pain is your most powerful emotion, in fact, since it strikes more deeply than other feelings. Pain fortifies you, each time with a new coat of endurance. Harness its full force by using the creativity, ingenuity, and resourcefulness that come with feeling hurt. After pain subsides, resilience resurfaces.

Ground yourself. Refocus on the present when you get carried away by yesterday’s sorrows or tomorrow’s worries. Sit or stand with your feet planted firmly into the ground and clear your mind. If possible, stand outside barefoot and allow the energy from the earth to rise through you. Place your hands on something (a table, wall, tree, etc.). Concentrate on how that object feels, its surface, size, and texture. Run your palms across it. Inhale deeply and notice what you smell in the air: is it plants, food, a candle? What do you hear: the TV, birds chirping, kids playing? What do you taste on your tongue? Immerse your five senses in your surroundings to reel yourself back into the present. Understand that you need to be in no other place than where you are now.

Project a better future. No matter what you’re going through, you can always choose to see a more positive future. This helps you feel in control of what’s to come instead of feeling anxious about it. Allow yourself to daydream, imagining the best possible outcome for your efforts and the most favorable solution to your problems. Also perform actions that are reflective of the good things you’re planning. If you have an upcoming interview, for example, buy yourself a brand-new outfit in which you feel sharp and confident. Your mind is a magnet for the outside world, steadily manifesting your thoughts. Preparing for blessings to come increases their likelihood. As I like to say, reality reflects what the mind projects.

Remember what didn’t go wrong. We’re quick to obsess over the bad and hesitant to admit the good. This creates a disproportion in our thoughts, placing emphasis on the heavy, fearful ones. Remind yourself of all the times you were divinely protected and spared from something truly bad. This will break the pattern of fretting over the future. You can influence the course of events once you’ve learned to calm your mind and control your thoughts, because you are the architect of your life.

Welcome new joys. After my husband passed, I felt guilty when I wasn’t sad; it almost felt wrong to be happy without him. But I reminded myself that he wouldn’t want me to suffer, and slowly I reintegrated new reasons to be content. Allow happiness to return to you in new forms. Never put conditions on being in good spirits or having continued faith. Even if you’re experiencing health issues or financial burdens, you have many other sources of fulfillment. The ability to multiply and expand your happiness is entirely yours because joy is your birthright.

Make necessary changes. Change forces you to pay attention, remain present, and take action. There’s no better feeling after a difficult ordeal is over than a shift in scenery and environment. Don’t be afraid to make the improvements you’ve been putting off: move to a different location, get a better job, find new friends, and so on. Staying stuck in the same circumstances will cause you to revert constantly to the past. But seeking exciting possibilities and hopeful opportunities will teach you to honor this precious moment in time.

Living in the present may not always be easy to do, but it will restore your well-being. Integrate my seven tips above to embrace life’s many moments and rediscover your joy right now.

To living in the present,

Dr. Carmen Harra

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