I had the privilege of leading a seminar for the local Junior League membership. This is an organization which contributes to the local community in many ways such as raising money for community service projects, food and clothing drives and setting up seminars to help women return or enter the corporate work force, and so many other good things.
I asked if anyone had heard of being present and mindfulness and if those were supposed to be good things; everyone said yes. I then asked if anyone (in their reading/experience) had found any good tools for becoming more present. Not a single person raised their hand.
This got me thinking about my first impression of being present. I remember picturing someone sitting on a mountain being wise and catching flies with chopsticks. A silly picture to be sure, but that’s where I started. What was the first step I took towards being present? My breath.
Find a comfortable position (sitting, lying down, etc.) and place your left hand on your lower abdomen and your right hand on your chest. Close your eyes, and notice (don’t change anything) which hand moves (or moves more). Repeat for 21 breaths.
Notice how it felt to focus only on your breathing. Think back to the last time you took the opportunity to just breathe. Notice any difference in your mind. Do you feel a little more calm and centered? This is the first step to being present.
I read an estimated number of random thoughts flowing through our brains was around 74,000 per day. And those are just the random thoughts, not the ones we actually want to spend time on. With all that noise inside, plus all the external distractions (to do lists, job, family, friends, television, pets, dinner, cell phones, social sites, blogs……) it’s very difficult in today’s world to stay in the present.
The key for me is to remember to make space. From that place of space I maintain the ability to make conscious choices. Sometimes those choices are about reactions to what is going on in and around me. Sometimes those choices are to take a step back and focus on my own well-being for a few moments.
When I get those moments where I can focus on me, I like to breathe. The exercise above is a great way to settle energy, increase focus and bring the mind into the present. I like this exercise because it is simple and centering. It can also be done almost anywhere.
Homework time; take time throughout your day for this exercise. Check in and see (without judgment) where you are mentally and physically. Go through the breathing exercise and focus only on your breath. Check in again and see what has shifted for you.
The good news; breathing is good for you. So you can do this exercise as many times throughout your day as you would like.