Are You Living in the NOW?
By Lisa McCourt
We’ve all heard about the magic of present-moment awareness. It’s not a new concept (Buddhists have been touting it for centuries) but it’s enjoyed a revival in recent years with those of us looking for a more serene, joy-filled approach to living.
My 14-year-old son is my best teacher of staying in the now. I call him Present-Moment Man. He somehow manages to structure the vast majority of his present moments so that they’re filled with the things he loves, and he becomes so deeply absorbed in these pursuits that it’s impossible to pull him out.
I believe present-moment awareness comes naturally to kids, and we adults usually do everything we can to screw it up for them. Kids know life should be fun. Kids know you should follow your bliss, engage in things that excite you, and learn whatever you are naturally, in that moment, inspired to learn.
My son will enthusiastically and quickly comprehend an impossibly-worded manual for some advanced electronic device that I’d rather cut my foot off than attempt operating. He’s a skilled and avid videographer who seems to intuitively know how to use any complicated equipment related to this passion. But the basics of middle-school math elude him; the monumental burden of actually writing down and following through with homework assignments repeatedly proves insurmountable; and I still have to ask him to brush his teeth in the morning.
I confess that I’ve spent many years trying to “rehabilitate” my son – to cure him of his insistent present-moment tendencies so that he would more successfully fulfill teachers’ and society’s expectations of him. But he has proven himself incurable on that front. He is the funniest, kindest, most insightful, happiest person I’ve ever known, in spite of frequent academic failures and the ensuing consequences I impose on him. He simply, peacefully, refuses to expend any genuine effort or energy on anything that does not resonate with him. I still try – valiantly and in vain – to teach him the importance of caring about all of his schoolwork. But secretly, I’m envious . . . and a silent part of me cheers him on.
For most of us, living in the now requires lots of dedicated practice and I’m far from an expert at it. Here are a few techniques I’ve found helpful:
Recharge Your Energy and Joyful Vitality by Dipping into the NOW:
- Meditate daily, in whatever form and to whatever extent works for you. Meditation has repeatedly been proven to quiet busy mind chatter, providing meditators a far greater capacity to enjoy their present circumstances.
- Whenever I catch myself ruminating or notice I’m feeling distracted, I use that as a cue to deliberately focus my attention on whatever is taking place in that immediate moment. (When my beautiful, loquacious preteen daughter asks a lengthy question and I blankly answer, “Huh?” I know it’s time to refocus.)
- When you want to center yourself in the now, deliberately feel. Your thoughts are almost always about the past or the future, so the present moment is a feeling zone rather than a thinking zone. My favorite trick: Just decide, in that moment, to feel your divine self within your physical body. Focus on the sensation of life in your hands, your legs, your toes as you wiggle them. We take it for granted all the time, but it’s a really cool sensation to intentionally crank up your awareness of the buzzing vitality that animates every cell of your being.
- Move. I love to stretch, feeling the aliveness in my body and knowing that aliveness is my God-self. When you’re focusing on the presence of your God-self inhabiting your form, you’re automatically released from your mental activity. I like to acknowledge in that moment, too, that I extend beyond my body. I can feel the energy in my form, but the energy that is me actually extends beyond my physical self, and I can intentionally extend it as far as I please.
- If that’s too freaky for you, just focus on your senses. What are you seeing, hearing, touching, right in this second? You can’t focus on your senses while you’re consumed with thoughts, so this automatically brings you into the present. Admire the juxtaposition of colors in your current surroundings. What does your underwear feel like against your skin right now? What does the person next to you smell like? I’m a big fan of the tactile sense. As a mindfulness practice, I really enjoy touching my own skin or interesting fabrics or sticky things, and putting all my attention on the tactile sensations. My art-loving Katy’s Play-Doh is perfect. So yielding, so compliant, so submissive, squishy and warm. Find some Play-Doh and just revel in the texture, the feel of it, that funky smell, those disturbing colors. Listen to it squish. Go ahead and taste it. I won’t tell anyone.
Take a vacation from your exhausting thought patterns by dipping into the now as often as you can.
About the Author: Unconditional love expert Lisa McCourt is a dynamic speaker, seminar leader and author whose 34 books have sold more than 5.5 million copies worldwide. Her new book, Juicy Joy – 7 Simple Steps to Your Glorious, Gutsy Self, teaches people to embrace “radical authenticity” to fully experience unbridled joy in life. Lisa lives in South Florida with her two children. For a free Juicy Joy audio program, visit www.LisaMcCourt.com.