In our day-to-day busy-ness, it can be very easy to get caught up in “doing” and lose sight of just “being”. I, like many of us, can easily spend hours where I’m not connected to the present, filling my days with work and other tasks, my mind projecting into the future and forgetting to just stop and breathe. When I notice myself getting caught up, I mentally bring myself back to the present, calming my thoughts and focusing on whatever the task at hand may be at that moment in time. A lot of stress can be created when our busy minds free-float from one random thought to the next – encompassing both the past and the future – and if those thoughts are stressful, then our present self is being affected even though nothing “stressful” may be happening in that moment.
Part of living a healthy lifestyle is lowering stress wherever possible, and monitoring our thoughts and coming back to the present is a useful technique that can take us from a stressful state, into one of much more peace and acceptance.
As well as lowering our stress levels, being present also allows us to focus on what we are doing in that moment, and to give our full attention to it. There is a story that comes to mind when I think of this… A student monk was seeking the key to enlightenment. He was told about an old, wise monk who lived on top of a distant mountain, well-known for his enlightened soul. The student set out to find the monk, determined to learn the secrets he needed. After much travelling and searching, he found the wise monk and requested an audience with him. “I am here to learn the secret of enlightenment” the eager student told the monk. “Well, enlightenment is not something that can be told, young one, it must be experienced. Let me ask three questions of you” said the old man, “Did you have breakfast this morning?” he queried. Puzzled at the strange question, the student nodded, not understanding how it related to his quest. “And did you wash your bowl?” asked the monk. The student nodded again, quite baffled. “And did you do a good job?” the wise monk paused for emphasis, before turning and walking back into his solitary cave…
Being present in everything that we do allows us to “do a good job”, to give our awareness and focus to the moment, free from distractions, and increases our ability to get the most out of life.
I was reminded of this recently when I was at the gym one morning doing a run on the treadmill. A lady arrived to use the treadmill next to me, and started walking at a slow pace. She had her iPhone with her, and within a minute of starting to walk on the treadmill, she received a message. She stopped walking, putting her feet to either side of the moving mat, and wrote a message in reply. Another minute passed and she did the same thing, stopping her walk to text message. Then she received a phone call and stopped walking again to have a 10 minute chat with someone. On and on it went, and I observed that during the forty minutes I was doing my run, she walked for maybe 5 minutes, and the rest of the time she spent talking or messaging…
Ok, I know what you’re thinking, what am I doing worrying about what the lady next to me is doing, rather than being present myself And that’s a good point! But what this situation reminded me of (probably because I need to take notice of it!) is how our busy-ness can keep us from being present and aware. There is a lot to be said for multi-tasking, but are we doing many things poorly in the quest to get more done? If we can’t take an hour out of our day and put the phone down to focus on our exercise of choice, to be with our body, to tune into how we are feeling, to relish the movement and the joy in being alive, then to me there is something wrong with that picture.
Being present can mean slowing down. Reviewing what you do each day and seeing where you might be able to delegate or let go of some of the busy-ness. To see where you lose focus and try and do too much. Where you are not doing things well, because you are multi-tasking at the speed of light.
How present are you, each day?