How To Be More Present And Alive In The Moment

We spend most of our time sleepwalking through life. Which is a shame, because it’s short. Leo Babauta from Zen Habits brings us a great list of practices to help us be more present. My favourite was the very first on the list:

Practice fully pouring yourself into every act. This is a Zen practice — being fully in every task you do, every act. If you’re sitting in meditation, be fully in your seat, not have your mind be somewhere else. If you’re brushing your teeth, just brush your teeth — and be completely immersed in that. This is a practice, of course, which means we’ll forget to do it most of the time, but it’s an incredibly rich practice. Fully express yourself in everything you do.

Making Anger Your Teacher

Norman Fischer from Ten Percent Happier on anger:

Now, in meditation circles, anger often gets a bad rap. We imagine that we aren’t supposed to ever get angry, or if we do, we’re bad at meditation.

But trying to never be angry won’t work. If you think about it, we can’t make anger go away any more than we intentionally produced it in the first place. So, when are angry we just have to be angry.

Instead of fighting with anger, we have to turn toward it, to experience it without affirming it and waving it around, and to investigate what it really is. It turns out, the closer you look, the more anger can teach us.

As Norman points out, anger is often seen as a failing in meditation circles, whilst happiness or sadness are not. But why is this? Do we choose to be happy or sad any more than we choose to be angry?

Emotions are unavoidable aspects of the human experience, and anger, in particular, indicates our desire for something to change.

Maybe it’s unreasonable for us to expect this change, in which case our anger can only cause us suffering. Learning to let go of needless, unproductive anger is perhaps the greatest gift that meditation and mindfulness has to offer us.

But maybe the changes we want are realistic, and anger motivates us to achieve them. Perhaps anger is the catalyst we need to go out and protest, or to start a difficult conversation, or to take a good look at ourselves.

Because above anything else, anger can teach us about what’s going on inside us. If we can examine the source of our anger, rather than helplessly reacting to it, anger can be a great source of insight into our beliefs, our values, and our fears.

Anger can be a great teacher, but it’s not an easy one. Learning its lessons requires patience, humility and wisdom. All of which should helps us to be angry less often.

"The first step towards self knowledge is being able to laugh at yourself."
Who Am I?

There’s been a lot of talk about the nature of the self here, but perhaps none of it has been presented more beautifully than in this video from The School of Life. Do yourself a favour, make yourself comfortable, and hit play. Mind-blowingly good.

Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

There’s a persistent notion that meditation is always supposed to be a wholly pleasant experience. That feeling calm and peaceful is the point. But meditation isn’t a mental massage. Meditation is the act of spending time quietly with your thoughts. And depending on what your thoughts are, this can be difficult and even uncomfortable experience.

The point is illustrated neatly in this story from Mindful.org about a meditation teacher’s experience with giving their students more space to sit with their thoughts:

I guided the meditation with fewer words, leaving ever more space. The air seemed to crackle with restless silence. Afterwards, several students said they prefer more guidance—otherwise, they felt they were floundering. I grew curious and asked the group, “What’s wrong with floundering?”

There will be times when there’s nobody to guide you through the difficult moments in life. There will be times when there’s nobody to guide you through sadness or loneliness or pain. There’s no shame in relying on the support of others, but it would be a hame if that was the only lesson learned from a meditation practice.

Life is full of moments when we flounder. There’s no escaping them. But what’s wrong with that? The important thing is that we’ve learned how to right ourself when we do. The job of a teacher is to help their students find solid ground when they first encounter difficulties. But eventually, the job becomes allowing them to find their footing for themselves.

The Most Important Skill You Can Develop

It’s uncomfortable to think of ourselves as machines even though that’s essentially what we are. We wake up every day and execute a program which has been written by our past and the beliefs we hold about ourselves.

We take the risks our programming tells us that we can afford to take, we feel the way our programming tells us that we should feel about our bodies and our accomplishments and ourselves, we say the things that our programming tells us are acceptable to say.

Once we’re old enough for this programming to be embedded, most of us never seriously consider doing anything which runs counter to it for the rest of our lives.

The only tool we have for hacking this programming is our attention. The more the programming takes over, the more time we spend operating on autopilot, the less attention we are bringing to the present moment. This is the entire reason that “being present” is considered important.

Being present gives us options. It helps us to be more human because it gives us the chance to choose our actions rather than following a program that was written, perhaps decades ago.

Best of all, we can get better at being present. We can develop our attention just as we develop any other skill. Just as with any other skill, progress can be difficult, to begin with, but it’s no exaggeration to say that there’s no more valuable investment of our time.

5 Simple Mindfulness Practices for Daily Life

With life being what it is, starting in the moment can be difficult. Most of us are just too busy moment to moment to actually be in the moment. Luckily, as with anything else, we can develop mindfulness habits, moments when we deliberately stop for a second and take in what’s going oil a conscious way.

Here, Mindful.org brings us five mindfulness practices that we can integrate mindfulness into ordinary activities like exercise, eating, and even waking up:

1. On waking, sit in your bed or a chair in a relaxed posture

2. Take three long, deep, nourishing breath

3. Ask yourself: “What is my intention for today?”

There’s more detail in the full post, but I think this by itself is already a far better start to the day than most of us are getting. Better yet, it doesn’t require a lot of time or any special effort of willpower to do. Best of all, you can do it when you’ve got your full drool-covered zombie face on and nobody will know.

3 Simple Habits for Daily Mindfulness

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that seem the hardest. We’re so caught up with the big, scary urgent tasks that dominate our lives that the smaller, simpler things get lost in the chaos.

But sometimes it’s precisely those smaller things, like taking a moment to take a deep breath, that can make all the difference to the how the rest of our days, and by extension the rest of our lives, pan out.

Here, Henrik Edberg from the Positivity Blog lists 3 ways he reminds himself to stay in the moment. They’re all small, simple things, but sometimes all it takes are a few extra moments of mindfulness to change your experience for the better.