It’s difficult to keep a quiet mind. Don’t believe me? Try keeping your thoughts static for just one minute and see how much your mind wanders. Indeed, research shows that the average person’s mind focuses on the current task at hand only 30 percent of the time—70 percent of the time, we’re consciously somewhere else. A quick search on the web notes the average person may have 50 to 70,0000 thoughts a day!
Certainly that’s what our brains are for–to constantly think and process. Unfortunately, every time our mind drifts we are missing out on our NOW moment. While that might not seem like that big of a deal, and frankly, it’s probably not most of the time, but what if you’re in the middle of one of those “quality moments” we all strive so much to have.
When our mind drifts, we are typically visiting one of two places: the past (viewing memories or learning from previous experiences) or the future (considering possibilities and results). This includes problem solving: contemplating previous solutions from our past and forecasting outcomes into the future, and day dreaming.
Here’s the mind-blowing reality kicker: neither the past nor the future actually exists! I know you don’t believe me, but think about it: Yes, the past once existed; and the future is to come–but neither are tangible. You can only reach the past and the future in your mind. The ONLY time you can ever access the world around you with your entire self is the here and now! We are missing out on the ever-allusive, once-in-a-lifetime present moment. When we look at time in this manner, it’s amazing we don’t work harder to focus on the present, especially if the moment is worth enjoying.
Try to think of all those precious NOW moments: quality time with family or friends, a special adventure, or major victory that you wish would have left a large imprint in your mind.
What if those special moments were more tangible then ever—at the very moment you were engaging in them—because your attention was fully focused on enjoying every aspect of that now moment?
If our mind naturally travels one-third of the time, how can we focus more on the now? Start by engaging your senses:
- Touch…Spending time with your children or loved one? Reach out to them; hold their hands, rub their backs, and while you’re doing so feel the warmth or softness of their skin. Perhaps you’re in a business meeting…what are you touching? A pen? Focus on the movement of each word as you press the pen against the notepad. Outdoors? Feel the sun warm your skin or the breeze smooth your hair against your forehead.
This is just the beginning: you have five senses; use as many as you can to enhance your engagement.
- Sound…When you feel that breeze, listen to its faint buzz in your ears. Are you listening to music? Don’t lose yourself in the song, focus on the individual beats.
Really listen: The most important sound you’ll ever hear is the voice of the person you’re with. If your acquaintance is speaking, take this moment to fully listen—don’t focus on what you think they’re going to say or the message you feel you need to deliver—hear their message, observe their body language, contemplate and repeat their thoughts back to them asking if you understood correctly.
- Scents… Slowly breathe in your child’s hair while feeling the softness of each strand, enjoy the musky scent of your significant other while you rub his/her warm skin. What scent does the wind bring with it when it tickles your skin?
- Seeing…Our eyes are easy to rely on. It’s easier for us to simply see things, than it is for us to actively listen, smell or feel. Don’t stop viewing the action, but do start paying more attention to those little details often overlooked.
- Tasting…Not every moment leaves us with an opportunity to “taste”. But if you do get to use your mouth, put those buds to good use. Take a moment to consciously enjoy what you’re eating—slow down, notice the flavor. Engage that nose too—you can change your whole dining experience.
Ready to try this out for yourself?
Start with a meaningful now moment, time with your child or a friend, an encounter with your spouse, a walk or a long commute. (This may be difficult to practice if you’re facing a pressing issue.) When your thoughts regress, readjust and hone your senses back to the now. Be sure to practice. Your mind will always find time to wander, and your brain will continue to view life through past experiences and future possibilities. But whenever your thoughts land on a NOW moment and you stay awhile, that moment will remain rich with detail. An added bonus: a recent study shows that we are happier when we are focusing on our NOW moment.
What’s your favorite now moment?
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