Being Present. Easier said than done?

“Be present.” “Live in the moment.” “Take life as it comes.” All this leads to your feeling centered. That’s what the books say, right?

It all sounds good, but how does one become Present? Is it even possible to control this on your own? Who are these special people who never lament the past or worry about the future?

Except for that extremely rare individual whose consciousness is so well developed that living in the Now is a permanent state of being, the rest of us spend varying degrees of our time and attention with our minds “elsewhere.”

Whether we are beating ourselves up for something we did – or didn’t do – or didn’t do well enough… whether we worry about what the future will bring for ourselves or others we care about… whether we are thrown off balance by our problems… the fact is, that when we are preoccupied with thoughts and feelings that do not pertain to what is happening in the Here and Now, we are not Being Present. We are missing out on our full potential for experiencing an authentic life.

Yet, Being Present is not an all-or-none proposition, whereby you are always fully engaged or you are not. We all flit back and forth between Now and not-Now… but rather than being at the mercy of chance encounters with the Now, we can improve – and eventually master –the ability to become centered whenever we notice that we are not. This is a skill that can be learned by anyone, and practiced anytime, as long as you fulfill one necessary requirement…

You can breathe!

As long as you are alive and reading this, therefore, you possess the power to reclaim the Present anytime you desire. Once you become aware that you are not paying attention to this moment, and decide that you would like to change your focus, gently and immediately pay attention to your breathing.

When you shift attention to your breathing, you may notice whether it is shallow or deep, rapid or slow… you may become aware of how much time is spent on the out-breath versus the in-breath.

Witness your breathing as an independent observer, not a puppet master. No need to try to change anything about it. If you notice thoughts and feelings – even powerful ones – occurring at the same time that you are watching your breathing, just favor your breathing.

Allow any thoughts, feelings, or physical sensations in the body to exist as they wish to be, without trying to push them away, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant they may seem to be. In other words, like a relative who has over-stayed their welcome, don’t ask them to leave but don’t encourage them to stay longer either. And for gosh sakes, don’t feed them or they will never leave! Eventually, left to their own devices, they will often go away on their own. If they don’t, that’s fine too. Meanwhile, gently re-direct your attention to your breathing each and every time you notice that your attention has strayed.

After spending just a little time observing your breathing in this non-judgmental way, you might realize that you are now breathing just as a calm, centered person naturally breathes… slow, full, comfortable breaths through the nose… with a slightly prolonged out-breath. This sort of breathing can feel very – uh - nice.

What is so useful and beautiful about your breathing is that it’s accessible to you at any time as a starting place to experience peace. Whether finding yourself preoccupied, out-of-sorts, off-center, stressed, anxious, having difficulty sleeping… or whether you merely seek to enjoy a brief respite from the busyness of daily living, you have a handy tool to get yourself back on track. Here’s an added bonus: Once you get in the habit of redirecting your awareness voluntarily, you will begin to do so automatically, rendering Being Present a bigger and bigger slice of your life.

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