- Posted: December 2008
- By: Michael Carroll
Living in the Present
Be Here Now
For many people, the perception of successful living is getting an edge and staying one step ahead. In our technological world of instant communication via mobile phones and Blackberry’s we are constantly available. People can quickly reply to important emails in between precious moments while playing with their children. Business deals can be finalised in between courses over a romantic dinner. Personal and business development tools encourage us to plan, plan, plan, think ahead and set goals. Multi tasking and forward planning we are told are paramount to being a success. But are they?
What about the present? Somewhere in between the bombardment of phone calls, text messages, emails and thinking about tomorrow sits a very important time, and that is the present moment, in the present hour on the present day, Modern living is creating a situation where we are missing out on the quality of the present by constantly disconnecting from the moment and putting attention else where. Psychologists are reporting that the attention span is now lower than ever. What would happen if you created time each day to fully enjoy the present? That might be enjoying your own company, your family, your hobby. The key is that in the present, you push away all distractions and be fully in the moment.
In NLP there is an application called ‘timelines’. Timelines simply are representations of how we organise time. Time in terms of seconds, minutes, hours and weeks is a man made construct to linearly encode our experience of duration. Most people (not all) represent time as a linear construct. Some people have a mental representation of the past and future neatly organised in front of them running left to right (or visa versa) and the present immediately in front of them, note they are not in the present. This type of representation of time, promotes organised and structured thinking which is useful in certain contexts such as planning. However this type of structure is not living in the present.
Other people represent their metaphor of time as if they are living in the timeline (as opposed to viewing time remotely). This means their representation of the past is behind them and the future directly in front and they are in the present- these people tend to be more in the present.
However a new distinction regarding time seems to be emerging and that is scattered attention. That means someone can be in the moment, but their mind is everywhere but in the present, so they are not totally present. Or a person can have a timeline running left to right in front of them and instead of focussing one area at a time their mind jumps around different past and future representations again this scattered attention.
To be clear, I am not suggesting futuristic thinking is not a good thinking, it’s very valuable for planning. I am not saying past reflections are not a good thing; they are very good for learning. I am saying a scattered attention that is neither past, future or present probably takes you out of the moment and serves little value in terms of learning or planning
So how do you become more present? Firstly I would say become highly aware of your ‘centre’ that is how you are feeling your body. The visual and auditory system can take you into the past. Your kinaesthetic (body sensations) can only be present orientated. Here is a centring exercise that will help you build present awareness in the kinaesthetic system
1. Find a quite place to sit comfortably with your hands resting in your lap
2. Fix your attention by focussing on a spot on the wall, acknowledge any auditory input that is present in your awareness. You can close your eyes if you chose.
3. Adjust your breathing. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Make your exhale twice as long as your inhale.
4. Loosen your jaw and relax any tension in your body
5. Describe your body sensations to yourself, “I am feeing X, I am feeling Y etc”
6. Centre yourself so that your kinaesthetic awareness is most prominent in your solar plexus area.
7. Expand the kinaesthetic awareness so it ripples out from the solar plexus area to the rest of your body.
If whilst doing the above process you are distracted or you lose attention, breathe the distractions away and re- centre.
Giving a 100% to each activity in the day
Earlier I was referring to the mental structure of time associated with planning. Planning is a good thing it helps you allocate time for the different important activities in the day. I recommend that when you have made your plan, you then commit 100% to each activity, thus being totally present. So when you are working on business task, that task has your 100% attention. When you are in social; situation you are 100% present. Not only will you enjoy the richness of different experience in an undiluted fashion, you will be more effective.
By using representations of time purposely, you know when you can dip into the future for planning and the past for learning and reflecting. By centring, you can ensure you totally enjoy the moment, not in scattered away. By giving 100% commitment to each activity – you will be fully present and probably more successful.