Learning to be in the NOW is at the heart of all spiritual practice and the secret of enlightenment. However, getting the mind to this moment is not the easiest thing in the world. Our monkey mind often plays funny tricks.
“Life is now,” says Eckhart Tolle, author of the bestseller The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. The key to unlocking one’s innate creative potential is to step out of tensions from the past and expectations about the future and being fully in the present moment. Eckhart Tolle was under 30 years of age, fed up with living when he chanced upon this truth, which forms the core of his teachings.
A self-made millionaire, Shannon Duncan, was under 30 when disenchanted with his riches and success, he embarked upon a similar set of revelations, which led him to write Present Moment Awareness: A Simple, Step-by-Step Guide to Living in the Now.
The wisdom these New Age teachers bring to us isn’t exactly new. New age, or call it simply timeless – cultivating present moment awareness, is a technique that could help you realize your own highest potential.
1st Step: Mindset recognition
Most of us tend to be either wallow-ers or wait-ers.
The wallow-ers carry into each moment baggage from the past. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness and non-forgiveness typify the wallow-er mindset.
The wait-er mindset is typical of those who are so busy getting to the future – that perfect job, house, or relationship – that the present is reduced to a mere means of getting there. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress and worry go with living too much in the future. Recognizing which side one tends towards is an important first step.
2nd Step: Negative Psychological Time vs. Clock Time
Distinguishing between negative psychological time and clock time is an important second step.
Clock time enhances our productivity and effectiveness – enabling us to plan things, keep appointments, schedule work. For instance, learning from a past mistake and not repeating it is using clock time, but dwelling upon it in guilt and regret is to be in negative psychological time. Similarly, setting a goal and working towards it is to function in clock time, but believing all happiness and fulfillment will come from it, is falling into the trap of negative psychological time.
Psychological time is blurred with emotions and impairs the ability to function optimally. “Think of these emotions as raindrops on a car’s windshield. If we become absorbed in them, then we can’t see where we are going or what we are going to crash into. But, if we take a deep breath and look through them, we still know they are there and that there is also the road ahead,” explains Shannon Duncan.
Becoming aware of the grip of negative psychological time and shrugging it off and returning into clock time or present moment awareness, creates the clear space for accomplishing our goals in life.
3rd Step: Infuse Mindfulness in your life
The practice of specific techniques, incorporated into daily living, can also provide a way forward. You can add daily positive affirmations to your day, daily time for meditation and a little time to just be and do nothing.
“It is essential to bring more consciousness into your life in ordinary situations when everything is going relatively smoothly. In this way you grow in presence power,” advises Eckhart Tolle.
4th Step: Routine Task Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be practiced in the most ordinary situations. You can begin by choosing any routine chore- brushing your teeth, doing the dishes, watering the plants, typing a page, anything. Now devote your full attention to the task. Try brushing your teeth mindfully by being aware of smell, taste, texture, touch, and movement. By paying attention to the minutest detail. The quality of your attention can transform the ordinary moment and reveal its unique potential.
This magical quality can be transferred too, to your relationships. Simply take a few minutes off to observe without labeling those closest to you. Just try looking at your child, at your partner, your mother. Really pay attention to them as they are. Whenever you’re caught evaluating what you see, just note thinking and come back to seeing with bare attention. In sharing the pure essence of their being, you enter into a deeper communion with them and with yourself.
5th Step: Listen
Shutting the eyes and focusing on listening to all the sounds around is another technique for fully entering the present. The trick is to be still and attentive to sound. Let sound in, hearing sounds as they are without judging what you hear. There’s no right or wrong sound. Just listen – a dog barking, birds singing, a car honking, traffic whirring past, a faucet dripping, a colleague’s cough, a phone ringing.
As you listen to this medley of noises of life playing out, you experience the richness of being connected to all life and are able to detect the harmony within. It’s all right here in this moment.
6th Step: Body Scan
Developing a conscious awareness of the body helps to keep the mind in the present moment. Practice this age-old yogic technique:
Lie down in a relatively quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Lie on your back with your legs outstretched and your arms at your sides. Feel the alignment of your body as a whole, and feel the floor support your body. It is important not to try to relax or to try to achieve anything. Just pay close attention and notice sensations as precisely as you can. There is no right or wrong thing to feel. Bring your attention to the toes of your left foot and become aware of any sensation of temperature, touch, moisture, or air currents. Let your attention rest there for a few seconds. Then, as you inhale, let go of the toes and bring attention to the bottom of the foot, then to the top of the foot, then to the ankle, then the lower leg. Follow all the way to the left hip and then start with the toes of the right leg. Scan your whole body this way.
Regular practice creates a connection with the energy field of your body. When faced with a challenge -creative or otherwise – a few moments of retreating into body consciousness can create that space from which to jump forth with confidence.
7th Step: Breath Awareness
“What’s nice about using the breath as a focus for mindfulness is that it is portable, always available to our attention, and is a natural rhythm of the body,” says Dr Ernest Shaw.
Find a comfortable chair or cushion to sit on. Sit erect, but relaxed. You can close your eyes or leave them partially open. Now bring your attention to your stomach. Notice it fill with the intake of breath, and then fall when you exhale. Just pay attention to the rising and falling of the belly. Do not try to alter your breathing in any way. Just be with it as it is. When your mind wanders, which it will and you realize you’re no longer with the breath, but caught up in thinking, just make a conscious mental note that you’re thinking and come back to the breath. This is all you have to do – return to this moment whenever you realize you’ve drifted away.
8th Step: Thought Awareness
Paying attention to the mind itself can paradoxically serve to still it. Just sit quietly and direct your mind to watch the next thought as it comes. For a while, as you wait in perfect alertness, there will be no thought – only your watching presence as it stands guard.
9th Step: Take Witness Breaks
The essence of transformation is “a non-judgmental witnessing, viewing, or seeing of yourself and how you interact with your life.” If through the helter skelter of our daily routines we can take a few moments to catch ourselves in the act of living, the self-awareness can serve as a powerful torch illuminating the way ahead.
With the aid of an alarm in your wristwatch or through a timer on your PC, randomly schedule a witness break or two through your day. As the alarm goes off take a few seconds to observe yourself – what are you doing? Make it a habit to monitor your mental-emotional state through self-observation. “Am I at ease at this moment?” is a good question to ask. Or you can ask: “What’s going on inside me at this moment?” Just a few seconds of observation before you carry on with whatever task you are engaged in is all that is required.
Learning the grammar of present moment awareness could help you write a new chapter in your life. Infuse your life with the current moment and the present could be your best ever gift to yourself!