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Be Present... Feel Better

Life has become overfull, perhaps overwhelming. We are inundated with demands on our lives and time. Work, family, finances, school, relationships, activities and life’s list goes on. It starts early. Perhaps at 7 or 8 years of age and continues unabated for a lifetime. The digital age, and especially the smartphone, has increased and brought to the forefront the heaps of demands, both obligatory and self-imposed.  Modern society is a constant mental juggle. Anxiety levels are high, the immune system is depleted and the digestive system is taxed. We are constantly trying to rework the past and worried about the future. We have lost the present. We are rarely in the moment and suffer for it.

     Harvard University studies have shown that less than half of our waking hours are spent living in the present. We are making poor use of our only non-replenishable resource; time.

     Chop wood, carry water. A famous Zen quote. We can only do one thing at a time. Multitasking is humanly impossible! We can do a number of serial tasks in rapid succession. We can mix automatic tasks with some that are less so. We can not do two things at once. Chop wood, carry water.  The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) considers texting while driving the equivalent of having three times the legal blood alcohol content.  Drink a glass of water. That is all you can do. Distractions of the past and future rob us of the present.

     Our mind is always frenzied. Our thoughts (experience) of the past direct us to our anxieties for the future. We can learn from the past. We can change our relationship with it, but the past is immutable.  

     We can not control the future. We can make plans, set an intention or formulate goals.  The outcome is still unknown.  “I never think about the future.  It comes soon enough.” Albert Einstein.

     A fulfilling life. A more healthy life. A better connected life. These can only occur if we become more present. More in the now. More mindful. It is impossible to maintain present time consciousness all the time. We need to practice and get better at it.

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     Take a breath. Literally. This is the first step. In and out slowly through your nose. After the breath focus completely on what is in front of you. Your work, your child, your spouse, your homework. And only that.  True focus removes all the past/future distractions. Total present time engagement. This connection to now will quiet all the mental chatter affording better clarity in thought and action.

     Time slows when we are focused on the now. We interact more completely with others. We empathize better. We hit the baseball or score the goal more easily. Stay engaged. Use your five senses to keep you present time anchored. Subdue that internal frenzy.

     Social skills greatly improve. Being present in conversations makes you less self-conscious and more free in your interaction. Staying focused permits you to listen better and generally be more engaging.

     Creativity is improved in your work and hobbies. With no temporal distractions, everything flows better. Unlock that right brain. Edit later.

     You will worry and overthink less. Anxiety is reduced. The world around you will actually seem more vibrant (try it before you scoff).

     Consider the things you do that make you feel best. These are your most present time activities. For me, it is when I am at work with a patient. I am 100% present time conscious. I think and evaluate clearly. I feel fulfilled. Going out to dinner with my spouse. Hiking with my kids. Writing (with pen or pencil). Journaling. Reading a book. Make your own list. Get more present.

     “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” Buddha

     One of my mentors, Dr. Scott Walker said it best.  “All we have is the moment, savor it.”

     Chop wood, carry water.

As always comments and suggestions are welcome.

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