We have all heard it a thousand times, in a thousand different ways: the best thing that we can do for ourselves and for others is to be present in the moment. Enjoy the journey, seize the day – it goes by different names and sayings. I am completely convinced that this kind of advice is correct. The challenge is simply HOW we can actually live for the moment? How do we remember in our everyday lives that every moment is a gift, while all kinds problems, tasks and harsh realities rain down on us?
How do we get the full experience of walking in the park on a beautiful summer day, while emails pour in, giant “to do” lists pile up, and your 5 year old is moaning about how it’s boring to walk?
The concept is simple enough: “LIVE FOR THE MOMENT”. But the practical implementation can be extremely difficult for many of us. Here are my personal top 5 tricks, which have worked for me at different points in time.
1. ”I am Life”
This short sentence is my favourite entrance to the moment right now. When I plant the thought “I am life” into my consciousness, I can clearly sense that I myself am alive. By this I mean that I feel that I exist right now. I live and breathe and notice energy flowing through my arms, legs and the rest of my body. It is an incredible feeling, and it works every time. I just have to remember to think it, and sometimes think it repeatedly for a while to ward off any unwelcome thoughts that may come to mind at the same time.
It isn’t an intense excitement or an outburst of joy. It is just a lovely experience of well-being, tranquillity and free flowing energy. However this state of being doesn’t last very long, and I quickly return to the practical chores, but it’s a beautiful oasis, which I can visit at different times every day.
Many of us are very preoccupied with who we are in this world: our self-image and identity. These thoughts can potentially get out of hand and take up too much space in our heads, for example, the idea that we are “a leader”, “a lawyer”, “an engineer”, “a parent”, “attractive”, “well-liked” or something else. We use a lot of our energy judging ourselves in relation to this self-image. The philosopher and CEO, Matias Dalsgaard has written a fantastic book on the subject: Don’t Despair. This kind of narcissism can be a curse for many of use, as it pulls us away from the simplicity of just being there and enjoying the life, which we have been given, right here and now.
I have experienced that judging myself in relation to more or less detailed self-images isn’t good for me. This kind of thinking pulls me very effectively away from being in the moment. When I replace my efforts of trying to paint a specific picture of myself, with a simpler focus on “I am life”, I become more present, grateful and “alive”.
2. Create Space
Recently, I interviewed author Laurence Shorter, who spoke about his favourite method for living in the moment: creating small oases of time and space, where something unexpected and spontaneous can happen. We often rush off with a busy agenda and it seems like we are always behind schedule and that we can’t stop, even for a minute.
Laurence encourages us to take time every day to clear a few minutes in your schedule between your activities and let chance decide what should happen. Maybe you will have a spontaneous conversation with a colleague, who you haven’t really spoken with before, or maybe you will notice smaller details, which you have otherwise overseen.
No matter what happens, it will give you a feeling of freedom and presence, and it will also peak your curiosity. Why not try taking a new route home from work? It will awaken your senses. Last night my wife and I slept on the 21st floor of a hotel in the city, which we live in, for absolutely no reason other than to act on a whim, as we cycled by and wondered about the view from the top floor.
It doesn’t have to cost money. Try sitting on the floor and eating dinner, sleeping in a tent in the garden, or visiting a friend who you haven’t seen for years. These actions breakdown your routine and awaken your senses, which means that you experience the moment more intensely.
Breathing is the most common door into the moment. And with good reason: it works! When we focus on our breathing, we become aware of the feeling of our bodies and our existence here and now. Meditation and yoga gives us good advice about how to use breathing to relax, to get further into position and to remove focus from pain in joints and muscle tiredness.
Elite athletes also know that oxygen in the right dosage is the key to good performance. A wise man once said, “If you only want to change one thing in your life, then do this: breathe properly.” The point was that this one change would alter everything else in your life, because you will now experience your life with more presence.
The old advice about “counting to 10” is also more about remembering to breathe before we act—it’s not about our counting skills.
by Martin Bjergegaard & Jordan Milne
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4. The Empty Space
In Eckhart Tolle’s masterpiece [GeoTargeted out=”AL,AD,AM,AT,AZ,BY,BE,BA,BG,HR,CY,CZ,DK,EE,FI,FR,GE,DE,GR,HU,IS,IE,IT,LV,LI,LT,LU,MK,MT,MD,MC,ME,NL,NO,PL,PT,RO,RU,SM,RS,SK,SI,ES,SE,CH,TR,UA,GB,VA,EU”] The Power of Now[/GeoTargeted] [GeoTargeted to=”AL,AD,AM,AT,AZ,BY,BE,BA,BG,HR,CY,CZ,DK,EE,FI,FR,GE,DE,GR,HU,IS,IE,IT,LV,LI,LT,LU,MK,MT,MD,MC,ME,NL,NO,PL,PT,RO,RU,SM,RS,SK,SI,ES,SE,CH,TR,UA,GB,VA,EU”] The Power of Now[/GeoTargeted], the author points to many entrances to living in the moment. One of these ways was new for me, and at the same time unbelievably effective: notice and try to experience the empty space around you. We have gotten used to focusing on everything that is here, and we easily forget what is not here.
It might sound a bit crazy, but try just now to look at a nearby object, for example a plant or a piece of furniture at the opposite end of the room. Now, focus on the empty space between the object and yourself. What is this space? Is it Air? But what is air? And what else is there besides air? Can you feel the empty space? Can you experience it? You will be present and in the moment while you do this exercise, and that is exactly your goal.
PS: Try doing this exercise when you are outside and looking up at the sky. If you are anything like me, it will take your breath away (in a good way).
5. The Body
Your body is an ideal way into the moment and we already often use it with this exact aim – consciously and subconsciously. For example, sex is just as much about being allowed to be present and forgetting about your problems for a little while, as being about reproduction. Going for a run is good for your body, but it is often just as good for your brain, which needs to switch off for a while.
Try running with a pulse of 180 for 5 minutes (after a 20 minute warm up) and while you’re intensively running, focus on how your body feels and aim to experience yourself as a wild animal charging off. It’s most likely that you will feel very present for those 5 minutes, while boosting your mental health.
If you prefer a calmer kind of bodily experience, then yoga might be the answer. No matter what kind of physical display, it can be used as an entrance to experiencing the moment, and therefore a welcome and useful break from thoughts of the past and future. The trick is of course to choose an activity, which will also do you good in the long run. Everything can be abused and overdone and escaping the past and future by ruthlessly exploiting your body can seem worth it for a while, but sooner or later it will create more problems than it solves.
As we can see here, there are many entrances and ways to living for the moment. If you experience that you could be better at really being present in life and getting the most out of it, then try choosing one of these 5 tips which appeals most to you. Test it out during the day and see if it gives you any small gifts in the form of pleasure, tranquillity, extra energy and perspective. We either choose life today or we don’t choose it at all. We can’t be happy in the future, we can only be happy in the now.
Translation from original Danish by: Synamon Mills