Too often we find ourselves living in the past or the future. About at least ten times a day, I am reminiscing about the past, thinking about what I could do better. About at least three hours a day, I am preparing for the future, working on the SAT and striving to make myself more suitable towards college admissions.
The time that we spend thinking about the past or the future is time lost spending it in the present. However, our thoughts control us in a way that we are always doing something; our mind mentally does not allow us to relax and take a breath for ourselves.
When I am school, I think about being at home, lounging on my couch and watching television without being interrupted. When I am at home, I think about being at school where I am surrounded by my friends, and where gossip is the new coffee of the day. I am always thinking about the future or the past.
Our lives eventually become dictated by the future or the past, so much so that we forget about living in the moment.
Time is an abstract concept, a mere illusion, that has begun to overwhelm humans in such a way that we become obsessed with it. We either need to get to this meeting at 10 am, or we have a doctor’s appointment at 2 pm. We are constantly rushing around, trying to cater to time’s needs, even if time is an illusion. For nature, however, time is an endless circle that goes from night to dark everyday. For nature, there is no time; there is only living in the present.
And, if you think about it from this perspective, the past and the future become obsolete. Do they even exist? We can’t rewind the clock; we can’t see ourselves going through the actions that we see ourselves thinking about so much the next day.
The only true reference point we have in life is where we are right now. Our hands on our desk, our fingers hitting the keyboard. This is the moment that we know we exist. And, in a split second, it’s gone, replaced by another. But, for those with their heads constantly worrying about the past or the future, the present in the past or the future, and they lose these precious moments that skip away from them unknowingly.
And, of course, like everything, there are ways to be more present:
- Stop worrying about what others are thinking about you.
I know how hard this is because I, myself, am an extremely self-conscious person. Every move I make, I am always wondering what others are thinking about me. However, this thought process disengages ourselves from the present. We stop living in the present, and begin living in our heads.
Let your body go. Feel the pages beneath your hands. Feel the sun beating on you. Ignore the people passing by you. (No. I am not outside. Ha! I just did the thing where I start becoming self-conscious.)
Focus on your present self without the stigmas and self-conscious thoughts attached. Through this, you stop the evaluations that you make of yourself that consequently drag you down, and, therefore, increase your self-esteem.
It’s not as simple as a snap of your fingers. It takes time. I am still working on this, and I have found it challenging and almost impossible to stop overthinking. But I’m still here, aren’t I?
- Savor the moment.
You feel the chocolate bar under your fingers. You lift it up. The moment the chocolate touches your tongue, you close your eyes, letting the bitterness of the dark chocolate sweep you away. You savor the chocolate and the warmth of the sun flowing through the window onto you legs. Another note of bitterness rushes through you as you slowly take another bite, feeling your teeth crunch through the chocolate. And, when the moment ends, you don’t feel sad; you feel satisfied, as if eating the chocolate was like eating five chocolate bars at once.
Believe me, this works. Even if I am eating a simple Kit-Kat, I feel like I have eaten five.
Anyways, worry is most commonly associated with the future and the present. While you eat your chocolate, you worry about the upcoming tests. And then you finish your chocolate and grab another one, still worrying about the upcoming tests. Your worry never stems from the present. So, the natural solution is, let yourself be in the present and savor that chocolate with all the taste-buds you have. Because, in the present, your worries melt away, like sweet, sweet chocolate.
- Don’t set a time for you to be “mindful”.
You take all the importance of being “mindful” by setting a time for it. By doing that, mindfulness becomes something you have to do, another checkbox off your checklist. It’s so much more than that.
Stop everything you are doing right now.
Close your eyes. What are you feeling beneath your fingers? Do you smell anything in the air? What are you hearing? Let your five senses explore the environment. If you find yourself beginning to think about what you need to do, tell yourself now. Yank yourself back into the present if you have to. You are here. You are now.
Mindfulness is about being in the present. It is not a goal. Smooth your hand over the surface in front of you. Take a deep breath, and feel your stomach rise up and down. Feel the warm air from your mouth exiting into the space in front of you. Run your fingers over the surface again, as you take another breath.
If you felt that, you are being mindful. While self-consciousness will be harder to work on, being mindful is simply being in the moment.
Lots of love,