If you read this blog regularly you’ll know that I talk a lot about your story: the themes, the people, the hero and of course the ending that you’re intending to create.
But possibly the most important part of that story is the thing that’s all too easy to forget when you view your life from the bigger picture perspective…
For that reason I make a concerted effort both with my clients and in my own life not just to heal the past and create the future, but also to focus on the here and now too. Because after all, how can we make the most of our past healing, or create the most wonderful future possible if we don’t take the time to embrace and build on every moment as it happens?!
But in a world of 24 hour notifications and trying to juggle so many different plates, it’s not always easy to do that.
Now I don’t claim to be a master of mindfulness, but as a recovering workaholic and worrier, and someone whose regular Spiritual guidance once upon a time was about learning how to “just be”, I’ve gathered a fair bit of experience on this over the years.
And so I wanted to share my favourite five ways for embracing the here and now with all of you. Here goes:
1. Get grateful
Gratitude is almost a cliché nowadays in our self help focused society, but if I had to name one single action which had changed my life most it would absolutely be my daily gratitude list.
Every night I write down at least ten things (although there are almost more, even on the shitty days – actually, on the shitty days!) that I’ve been grateful for in that day and have a little moment of reading back over the list and considering how bloody lucky I am.
But as much as I love them, it’s not about the lists themselves. This daily routine also means that I’m more appreciative and grateful for things as they happen. Seriously – wonderful meal, lush conversation, beautiful birdsong, lucky escape – whatever it was, after a few months of daily lists I found myself stopping in the moment to think “Ooh this one must go on my list tonight”.
Over time that stopped being about the list and started being more about how damned fortunate I was to be in this situation and how grateful I was for it.
Get yourself a nice notebook and give gratitude lists a go daily (don’t worry, if you miss the odd one it’s OK) for three months, and you’ll see what I mean.
2. Stop! Or at least slow down...
I’ve told the story before about how twice when I’ve been doing too much, running on empty and ignoring the signs to chill out, I’ve wound up in pretty nasty car accidents. And just as they taught me to be a more careful driver, those experiences also reminded me to listen when I’m told to slow the hell down.
It’s about not pushing yourself to run at 100mph every single day but instead listening to your body and taking time out when you need it; it’s about focusing your mind on one thing at a time rather than trying to multitask your way to ticking everything off your to do list at once, all the while never achieving anything well; and it’s about taking a moment every now and again to step out of whatever it is you’re doing and focus on where you are and how you’re being instead, in all of its multi-sensory glory.
It’s a knocking bet that when you do those things somebody somewhere will complain – they’ll call you selfish or lazy, they’ll try to make you feel guilty, and they’ll convince you that you’re not doing enough.
Of course you can listen to them if you want to. But take it from me – that way lies burn out, unhappiness, and a half assed attempt at everything, including you’re life. So slow down, be focused instead of busy and take time out just to smell the coffee, or hear the birdsong, or watch the movie in its entirety without responding to messages or scrolling through Facebook along the way.
3. Learn to be at peace with you
It’s difficult to immerse yourself in anything fully if you can’t stand the company you’re in, and the moment is no different. Not every moment of your life will be filled with fun, excitement and other people, so learn to be as comfortable with yourself as you are with the other people you love and it will make embracing the here and now so much easier.
This more than anything else is one that I can totally verify from my own experience.
You see, I used to detest time on my own. If I had a quiet Saturday with no plans or company I would literally count down the hours until I could go to bed, often following on from just enough wine that I’d fall asleep quickly and easily.
Now? Well, as I’ve said before, now I actually struggle without some regular alone time, and I find that I enjoy my own company just as much as I do anyone else’s, which makes it so so much easier to embrace the moments that I’m in and experiences that I have.
Learning to do that isn’t always easy, and can take some time (in fact, look out for my first vlog on this in a couple of weeks), but it is possible. And it is definitely definitely worthwhile.
4. Whatever it is, get rid of it
Often the things that stop us being in the moment are the worries, stresses and other things going round in our minds. So in order to embrace the time that we’re in, we need to get those things out of their and reclaim our minds as our own.
For me, the best way is often to grab a pen and a piece of paper and making a list. Then, if it’s not a list I want to keep hold of, I burn it.
But of course that’s not the way for everyone – it’s just as helpful to talk to someone, to head outside and shout your worries into the air, to use the energy of them to create something wonderful, or to distract yourself with something that you love.
Just don’t block it out… if there’s one thing I’ve learned about trying to get rid of worries and stresses, it’s that alcohol is not the key.
While I’ve been writing this blog I’ve been distracted three times. Every few minutes Kali has come over and dropped her ball on the laptop keyboard.
The first twice I admit that I threw the ball for her and went back to typing. The third time I gave in, picked up the ball and took twenty minutes out to play with my dog, realising as I did the hypocrisy of having refused playtime while I wrote this post.
Because you know, playtime is to important for reminding us the beauty of being in the moment.
As adults we so often forget that play was where we had our biggest learnings and moments of inspiration. Not only that, but playtime is an escape from the stresses and strains that so often take us out of the present moment.
If you’re wondering where to start with play then just remember that it isn’t something functional; if you enjoy running then do it, but not just because you’re trying to lose weight; if you want to bake then go for it, but not because you’re having people over later and need to cater for them; and if you love to read then curl up with a book, but your night class textbook doesn’t count as play.
So if you're struggling to be in the here and now then give these ideas a go... and if they aren't your go to ways for embracing the present then let me know - I always love hearing new tips and techniques!