The Present Moment

Sometimes we feel stressed, sad, angry, fear, or any other of a range of emotions. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by all the emotion that gets built up in our minds. So what if I told you that there was a simple practice that you can try to help alleviate those emotions when they come up? That practice is called being in the present moment.

Being in the present moment is a state of mind. You abandon your thoughts and focus solely on the current moment, noticing the sensations in your body. You can notice your breathing, the sensation of gravity and the contact with the surface beneath you, and any other sensations you feel throughout your body. In the present moment you step back from your thoughts and emotions, you can simply observe them, notice them, then release that thought or feeling so you return to the present moment.

When your mind is in the present moment, the past and future no longer have any bearing on you. Any worries or stress from the future temporarily disappears. Any anger or sadness from the past also doesn’t carry its weight anymore.

Not only can focussing on the present moment alleviate negative emotions, but it also can allow you to experience a greater appreciation for things. When you’re eating food, try being present while you focus on the sensation of the food in your mouth and the taste on your tongue. You are no longer eating food for the satiety, but for the experience. I suggest closing your eyes to help you focus on your other senses better.

When you’re washing up dishes, rather than keeping your mind elsewhere, tangled up in whatever thoughts are going through your mind, you can focus on the present moment to enjoy the feeling of the water, the bubbles, and the sensation of scrubbing the thing you are cleaning. Even previously tedious tasks can be appreciated and relished.

So, how do we experience the present moment? There’s one thing to keep in mind: it needs practice, like any skill. It’s difficult to ground oneself in the present moment for too long before your mind wanders. Each time your mind wanders and you notice that it has wandered, you can bring your attention back to the present. It’s like building a muscle in your brain, you can strengthen it by practising it regularly, or it can recede if we don’t practice it for too long.

This is the idea behind mediation. You ground yourself in the present by focussing on an ‘anchor’, whether it be your breathing or sensations you can feel. Each time you notice your mind wandering, let the thought or emotion go and return your attention to the anchor.

While being present is not a magical cure to fix all negative emotion, it can definitely help — as well as with appreciating life in general more. Sometimes some emotions and thoughts are too overwhelming and you can’t keep yourself in the present. As I mentioned before, it’s something you can improve and get better at. With practice, you can sustain your attention in the present moment for longer stretches of time, whether it be only a few seconds or ten whole minutes.

In my life, I always keep my attention in the present moment when I’m running. I don’t need to listen to music, and I can keep running the same route every day and I never get bored. I sometimes close my eyes while running and focus on the sensation of my feet landing on the ground, the feeling in my knees, the movement in my arms, the breeze brushing past, and the warm sunlight falling on my skin.

Perhaps after reading this article, you can try and focus on the present moment. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing or on the sensations you feel through your other senses. If any thoughts come up, notice them, then let them gracefully fade away as you regain focus again. It may be quite difficult to sustain such a state for even half a minute, though you can keep practising and slowly you’ll be able to keep it going for longer. Do remember that any thoughts are not really allowed, you should aim to not be thinking normal thoughts nor be thinking about thinking itself — it’s still a thought taking you away from the moment.

Try it now, and try it again whenever you feel strong negative emotion — hopefully, its strength will subside while your mind is in a calmer state.