“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” — John Lennon
Swept up in the frenzy this month? Making lists and menus and plans? Shopping and shlepping and wrapping – Oh, my!
Stop. Why are you still reading this? I mean it. Just stop for a moment.
Ahhh. That’s better, isn’t it? Good.
As Eleanor Roosevelt so aptly put it:
“The past is history. The future, a mystery.
But the greatest gift of all is the present moment.
That’s why it’s called the present.”
In the present moment dwell peace, harmony, joy… all we desire. Some beings know and instinctively live this. Look at animals and little children. Is your dog still agonizing over last week, when you came home a half hour late? Does the baby worry about a college education – or about how quickly potty training is progressing? Ha!
Of course, we need to review the past in order to learn, to truly turn our wounds into wisdom (as I help people do with deep omnidimensional healing). And we need to set intentions for, visualize and practically plan for the future to manifest as well as to prepare. (That’s where Law of Attraction comes in.)
Yet so many people live their entire lives without ever really living. “What if?”ing and “If only”ing through their whole lives, living in the past or future, and usually through a negative lens. One psychological study actually found that 75% of people’s thoughts are a) negative and b) redundant, like a loop. Time to get off the cranky, creaky hamster wheel! No time like the present. Literally.
Renowned meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever You Go, There You Are, asks, “Are you a human being? Or a human doing?”
“Yes, yes, I know all this,” you’re thinking. “I try to be present, yet something always seems to pull me off track. What can I do?”
As my gift to you this month, allow me to present you with:
10 Ways to Cultivate Being Present
Tip #1. Slow down. Every time you think of it, train yourself to just slow down. Literally, move slower. Or just stop. Observe. Breathe. Use daily routines as reminders. For example:
When the phone rings, I stop and breathe .
When I close the front door, I say, “I am here. I am home.”
Every time I get in the car, I affirm, “I am here. I am now.”
Whenever my foot touches the Earth, I think “Right here, right now.”
2. Find the beauty in this moment. I teach my students and clients to ask themselves, over and over, throughout each day: “How can this moment be a moment of love?” You may wish to rephrase this as “How can this moment be a moment of beauty?” (or peace or healing) Look, listen, touch, sense the beauty and love within you and around you. What is beautiful, what is loving, what is healing, what is joyful in this moment? Be present with it. Say hello. Say “Thank you” in your heart.
I love to do this one in traffic or when waiting in a line. Instead of indulging in useless mind chatter or frustration, I may notice a bird flying outside, the beauty of a leaf waving in the wind, or the rain on the windshield, smile at the bank teller, send love to the Earth… Or give myself a hug.
3. Schedule “being” time. I like to call it ME TIME, BE TIME.
This may sound crazy in our culture, but we need regular time to just BE. No agenda. No list (internal or external!). No activity at all. This is different from recreation, socializing, exercise, massage, or any other activity, even those that are healing. I’m talking about being in the spaces between. Dwelling in silence and stillness. Rediscovering your own blissed, blessed being. Taking a weekly Sabbath is one lovely way to do this. Taking time daily to meditate. Even just sitting and doing nothing counts and is actually quite productive because you will be far more effective, focused, pleasant and creative when you do come back to do/engage mode.
“How beautiful it is to do nothing, and rest afterward.” – Spanish proverb
4. “Present moment, wonderful moment” -Buddhist monk and spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh shares this meditation breath in his book Being Peace. Breathe in “present moment.” Breathe out “wonderful (or beautiful) moment.” Or “moment of love.” Try different mantras like this. These really work.
5. First, Last. Imagine that any given moment in your life is either the very first or the very last time you will be able to experience that. How much richer! How much sweeter! How much more alive!
6. Tratakam (gazing)… An ancient yogic practice simply involves gazing at a candle. This practice calms the mind, and brings you into the present.If you gaze at the blue-indigo part of the flame, you will also open your third eye. You can also gaze at water, stars, clouds, a crystal or a flower.
7. Tree Meditation. Imagine you are a big, ancient tree. Send your roots down into the ground. Bring up all the nutrients you need from the Earth, drinking them deeply into your being. Release down what you no longer need, trusting that Mother Earth receives it as a fertilizing gift, and transforms that energy into something fresh and beautiful. Stretch your branches up to the sky. Feel the wind caress your leaves. Trees teach us stillness, patience, presence, and connection to the Earth plane. Hug a tree and listen.
8. Mountain Meditation. Sit cross-legged on a cushion. Center yourself. Now feel yourself as a giant mountain, timeless, wise, tall and strong. Picture a mountain in your mind and become one with the mountain. Ask the mountain, what medicine or message do you have for me? Listen.
9. Breathe. Sitting as in #8, place your hands gently on your abdomen. Gently relax your head so your neck is loose. Let go of any tension, and breathe deeply, slowly, fully, into your belly. Feel your abdomen expand. When you are full, be with the fullness for a moment. Now exhale, gracefully, until you are empty. Be in the emptiness. Notice what joy fills you in this emptiness! Adapted from The Art of Breathing by Frederick Leboyer. There is a whole branch of yoga called prana yoga that teaches dozens of deeply healing ways to breathe. Here are a few:: Follow your breath, simply observing it. Count the breath. Or listen to your own breath, “ajapna mantram.”
And my all-time favorite, you-won’t -read-this-anywhere-else, simple, fast, works-great way to be more present is:
10. “Stop and Breathe” signs. Whenever you see a stop sign, imagine that it says “Stop and Breathe” instead of just “Stop.” Then do it. (Ignore the frazzled driver behind you and send him or her a blessing.) You will be amazed how long one conscious breath can be, and how refreshing.
My children are wonderful teachers as they remind (or should I say “demind”?) me of this consciousness-shifter when we are driving around together. I love it!
When we choose consciously to create the space for ourselves to be present, many wonderful blessings unfold. We reconnect with our own center and joy. We feel healthier. We treasure every moment. Many of us feel guilty taking this time, as if we have to always be doing, producing something externally measurable, or giving to others. You don’t have to accept those unhealthy tapes. Reprogram that. Stop being a giveaholic and doaholic! (Can I just make up words like that? Dr.Seuss did, so I guess I can do it, too, although his are sillier.)
Recognize that you deserve peace, joy and health. Period. Also, anything that heals you is inherently productive, to that beautiful little piece of the Universe/God that is you, and also to all the world, for we are all interconnected.
In fact, as we replenish our own inner springs, we have more to give others, and we can give from a full place. Dozens more great ways to love yourself more in my book The Radical Self-Love Workbook, available at:
Cultivating being present also enables us to be better listeners, parents, siblings, friends, and lovers. Perhaps you could invite some of your loved ones to stop and practice some of these techniques for being present together this holiday season. Allow life’s cup of blessings to fill you. Slow down and drink it in.
Happy Holidays and may your every day feel wholly holy!
Which of these tips did you find most helpful?
Which will you commit to doing and sharing with others?
How can you stay present and balanced this month?
Please share your thoughts in a comment below. Thanks!