How To Maintain Present Moment Awareness
A few cool French personal development bloggers are writing this month about “Comment vivre l’instant présent ?” (very literally, “how to live the present moment?”). They inspired me to write about present moment awareness and how to maintain it.
Present moment awareness is when you focus exclusively on what’s going on right here, right now. Being present means paying attention to the now, without thinking of the past, projecting yourself into the future, analyzing what’s happening or wondering what could happen instead. It’s just being there. Or, it’s just being.
Being present here and now is a very powerful place to be in. It gives you access, for example, to
- your intuition. Psychic information cannot reach you if you’re not being present. It’s only available now. If you’re absent, you miss out on a lot of intuitive nudges.
- opportunities. We oversee so many opportunities when we’re stuck in our head instead of paying attention here and now.
- your spontaneity. Being spontaneous means responding immediately and genuinely to the situation you’re in, now. If you’re stuck in the past or the future, you’re unable to let a response flow out of you, now. Being present in the now will greatly improve your ability to respond to input.
- your authenticity. How can you be you if you is not even there?
- fearlessness. It’s impossible to be scared when you’re being truly present. Without fears, it’s so much easier to connect with others, to reach your goals, and to do pretty much everything you want.
- relaxation. Just being in the now is so much more relaxing and less stressful than being stuck in some imaginary place in your head, all busy thinking!
So how to live in the now? How to reach – and maintain – present moment awareness? I have found three methods, or three steps, that work for me. I wonder if they will work for you!
1) Be Aware of your Body
Always keep a part of your attention on your inner body. The point is to feel your body not from the outside (its surface), but from the inside, as one vibrating energy field. And then, no matter what you’re doing, always keep a part of your attention there. Eckhart Tolle talks about this in The Power of Now, which I warmly recommend anyway.
2) Ask the Magic Question
The magic question is: “What about right now?”.
When I’m thinking of something that happened in the past, wondering what could happen, or even getting lost in trying to control the future, I ask myself “What about right now? Is this happening right now?”. And it isn’t. It might happen in two weeks, or in ten minutes, or in two seconds, or it has already happened, but right now, it’s not happening.
And then I ask myself “What is happening right now, in this very moment?” and I focus on that. The past is the past, we can’t change it anymore. As for the future… It always comes differently than we thought anyway. What matters is how we respond to what is here and now. That’s the only thing we have control over, anyway.
When I think of something that hurts me, I ask myself “What about right now? Does this hurt me right now?”. And of course it doesn’t. It’s only the past memory of it that hurts. Or the idea that it could happen. Memories and ideas are a construct in my head, it’s not part of my reality right now. When I ask about what’s going on right here, right now, and really concentrate on that, the pain immediately goes away.
When I’m scared, I ask myself “What about right now? Am I having a problem right now?”. The answer is always “no”. We never have a problem right now, in this very moment. When we have a problem right now, we are so busy responding to it instinctively that we don’t think about it. If you’re able to ask this question, you have no problem.
I discovered how powerful it is to ask this question when I was climbing. I wanted to go up a mountain. For the most part, it was just walking up. But in some places, I had to climb. It was no very difficult climbing, but I was alone, climbing without being secured in any way, with a few hundred meters of mountain flank under my feet. I’m mildly afraid of heights. At some point I looked down and thought “Holy shit. If I fall, I’m dead. And they won’t even find me!”. This thought totally paralyzed me. I was so scared that I kept hanging there, unable to move.
Fortunately at some point, I thought about asking myself: “OK, but right now, am I having a problem? Not in two minutes, when I fall and die. Right now. Am I having a problem?”. And I found out that I had none! Both feet and both hands were firmly clinging to the rock.
So I forced myself to keep focusing all my attention only on the present moment, on my inner body, the blood rushing through my limbs, the wind in my ears, the smell of the mountain… until the panic was gone. Then I was able to move one hand up. I asked myself again “And now, am I having a problem?”. Still no problem. I kept focusing all my attention on the now and, one slow move after the other, one question after the other, was able to crawl up the rock.
3) Have Eyes like Lakes
That’s not only the best method I have found to stay in the now, it’s also my ultimate trick to abstain from judging!
Look at an object next to you, label it, and judge it. Now think of something that scares you. Now think of what you did yesterday. If you pay attention, while you have such thoughts, you should feel some slight tension or pressure in the back of your head and neck. If you’re not used to paying attention to it, it will be almost imperceptible to you. But it is there. You’ll notice that you need to make a tiny effort to think.
You know the people in Japanese animes, with those eyes big like plates, that cover half their face? Now imagine you have such eyes. Don’t goggle, that’s not what I mean. Just imagine that you look at the things around you through such large eyes. Like a child wondering about the world. Eyes like two deep, calm lakes.
When you have such eyes, the tension in the back of your head and neck goes away. And then, it’s not possible to judge anymore. It’s also not possible to dwell on the past or the future. You are being intensely present in the now. :-)
When you are in such a state, you are highly aware of what’s going on, ready to respond and take action, yet infinitely relaxed at the same time. You’re being. Being you.
I hope those three methods will help you to reach and maintain a state of delicious present moment awareness. They take some practice to learn, but it’s well worth it!
So… Now focus on your inner body. The blood rushing through you. The energy in every body part. The whole energy field from inside. Feel it? Keep a part of your attention there.
Now think of your eyes as two large, deep, calm lakes.
Look around you. What about right now? What’s going on in this very moment?
How are you feeling? :-)