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How to be Present in the Moment

How to be Present in the Moment

Last night, I dug out an old book from my mother’s self-nurture treasury. Written in Hindi, the book’s title roughly translates to ‘Healing Your Body & Mind with Yoga & Food.’ Long title, I know!

I opened a random page in the book, and it had me captivated. The theme was mindfulness. “Sometimes, we lock our front door, step out, and much later, begin to worry if we locked that door at all,’  said the author. Yes! It’s happened to me so often…forgetting if I had switched off the heater, turned off the lights, extinguished the scented candle before leaving…

That isn’t all. This ‘not being in the moment’ extends to things like half-listening when someone is talking to you, or worrying about bills/chores while watching a movie…basically, always having something else on your mind than what you should currently be experiencing and enjoying.

This habit, the book explained, slowly but steadily aggravates the Vata dosha, which is notorious for the health havocs it can wreak. Examples: sleeplessness, nervousness, indecisiveness, inability to focus, lowered productivity, plummeting energy, depression…

The author suggested a wonderful way to harness the mind back into paying attention. Let me translate it for you. “Go out,” he said, “into an open space every morning. Just for 15 minutes. The ideal place to go to would be a garden or a lawn. Standing there, spend time observing the petals, buds, leaves, blades of grass, and the way the sunshine kisses the dew. Nature has a way of making you feel present in the moment.  If you are on the terrace, watch the clouds, the blue skies, the birds streaking by. For the rest of the day, you will feel energetic and happy deep within.

Then, at night, just before you close your eyes, think back to the events of your day, moving over everything that you did and felt slowly, like a gentle beam moving across a floor. Give thanks for all the joyous moments, and think about the lessons you learned from things that did not go your way. This is a simple and effective way to experience your day once again, summarise it in your mind’s eye. “

I thought the two tips were very doable. Tomorrow, after what seems like years, I am going to go down the stairs and take a walk in the neighbourhood park.

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Shubhra Krishan

Writer, editor and journalist Shubhra Krishan is the author of Essential Ayurveda: What it is and what it can do for you (New World Library, 2003), Radiant Body, Restful Mind: A Woman's book of comfort (New World Library, 2004), and The 9 to 5 Yogi: How to feel like a sage while working like a dog (Hay House India, 2011).

54 comments

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9:07AM PDT on Jul 22, 2012

Wonderful post!!!

6:38AM PDT on Mar 14, 2012

Ra S has a good point that unconscious human actions are also useful. The muscle memories that help us do things so quickly and automatically can come in handy later in life. The elderly who lose their mental memories can often get a lot from their muscle memories. In the case of my mother, who has Alzheimers, she still gets comfort from crocheting. She is no longer able to be present in the moment because her attention span is so short. Thanks for another perspective Ra S.

3:32PM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

What if it takes a moment to catch a moment like it takes a thief to catch a thief... and when you catch the moment the moment catches you catching it and neither of you will let go...

12:14PM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

Actually, I recently wrote my own thoughts on the subject - aimed at making especially mothers more aware and present, but transferable to everybody:

http://kirstenbergen.jimdo.com/blog-spot/2012/when-you-wash-the-rice/

12:12PM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

Good thoughts Shubhra.

Some people find 15 minutes daunting at first. It can be made much easier than that - just stop for 10-15 SECONDS to take 2 breaths - one like the ones you'd just been taking, and one deeper, fuller one. Then return to your day. You can do it once a day and already see small results, or you can do it 10-15 times a day and see much bigger results. Then be ready to move on to the longer spans of awareness.

9:27AM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

Nice advice

8:32PM PDT on Mar 12, 2012

I have gotten into the habit over the years, to wake up, get a cup of coffee, and sit and watch the news. Usually in the evenings, I would sit on the back porch, enjoy nature, flowers, etc. Recently our back yard was devastated by a storm that brought down the final 2 trees, and destroyed the fence. The once nice yard is now bare and depressing. It will take time and money to repair. BUT, I can still sit out, listen to the chimes, birds singing, close my eyes and relax. I will get into the habit since I read your article to do this in the morning, to start my day off to a good start. Thank you

4:13PM PDT on Mar 12, 2012

Thanks for the article!

2:51PM PDT on Mar 12, 2012

Both of these suggestions are fine things to do. But I wish the article didn't insult the fact that people perform tasks with little conscious awareness. That is a huge strength and a gift that humans have. It allows us to get routine tasks done while being able to focus on other things. Also, it has been shown that one of the biggest differences in brain activity between an expert at a task and a novice at a task is that the expert's brain is less active. That is, the expert can accomplish the task more efficiently. You feel this, as you get good at something, it becomes easier and you aren't working as hard. The ability to automate and move processes from the inefficient conscious to the efficient unconscious allows you to then turn your focus to learning the next hard part of a task and getting better at that part too.

Experienced drivers are safer drivers. And they aren't consciously focusing on every piece of the safe driving routine the way new drivers tend to. In fact, if you start trying to consciously pay attention to how you do a process you have automated, you often will mess it up. Like a phone number I have memorized and call without thinking, but suddenly I pay attention and I'm no longer sure what the number is. Or if you're riding a bicycle, and you just know how. But if you start thinking about how your muscles move and how you need to pump your legs and balance and control your speed, I think you might well fall right off that bike.

So, we should als

1:47PM PDT on Mar 12, 2012

I always truly enjoy your articles, but especially this one. Very good message and I will take the advice you offer. Thank you.

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