10 Ways to Get Present
1. Ask. As always, ask. Ask the universe, ask your higher self. Ask a divine power if you believe in one. Ask for help to get present.
2. Lay a daily foundation. Carve out three to five minutes at the beginning or the end of the day to just be present. Notice your breath, your body, your thoughts, and the world around you.
3. Ground in the now. The physical world always exists in the now, so you can become present by grounding yourself in what is happening in the physical world. Here are some ways to do that:
a. Focus on your breath.
b. Focus on the sounds in your environment.
c. Focus on the sensations in your body.
d. Focus on one particular part of your body. Place your hand there, and become aware: this is my leg…knee…arm — whatever it is. Breathe. Be with that part of yourself and notice any sensations happening there.
e. Focus on something from nature. Slow down and give it your full attention. Breathe. Get curious about its essence.
4. Move. Move your body and focus your attention on your movement. Stretches, yoga poses, or a brief walk around the block can help us reconnect to the present.
5. Gently move your attention. When a mental distraction shows us, when thoughts of future or past call you, notice them. See if you can watch them as an observer would, rather than identifying with them or following them. Let the thoughts pass, and bring your attention back to the present.
6. Use a word or image. Sometimes, it helps to focus on a word or image. You can silently and slowly repeat one or more of these words to yourself as you breathe: “Aware. Awake. Here. Now.” You can also focus on an image that symbolizes vitality and presence for you: a flame, a flower, a strong tree, calm lake or other symbol with personal meaning for you.
7. Make it the ultimate destination. If you are doing something you consider a means to an end, reframe that activity as an ends in itself. For example, instead of thinking, “I am showering because I am getting ready to go out to dinner” think, “I am showering.” Let the showering be a full, rich experience in itself.
8. Lose the file. When you are doing a simple activity, such as sitting in traffic, as your mind starts to run with its narrative about traffic (all based on the past), lose your mental file on that activity. You might say to yourself: “I have no idea what this activity is like. I have no knowledge of this experience from the past.” Get curious about the actual experience you are having at that moment. Be a like a child experiencing something for the first time. What is it like right now— what is happening? See if you can answer this question without hunting for words to describe your experience; instead just become aware of your experience.
9. “Clear” emotions to get present: Before going into a situation, jot a quick inventory all the emotions with you from the past that you feel with you — from the day, the week or the distant past. Ask for help in letting them go, so that you can be fully emotionally present to the situation in front of you.
10. Let go of language. When you are on your way to an activity, or getting ready for the day, see what associations you hold with one of the concepts for your day — it might be “work,” “meetings,” “picking up the kids” — whatever is on your calendar. For the day, let go of the label and the judgments or opinions you hold about that thing, and instead focus on your moment to moment experience. Begin to treat these activities as if they are mysterious, unnamable, uncategorizable — a complex, fluid, moment to moment reality. Get curious about and present to the true reality of your day. What’s being oversimplified and missed with all those concepts and labels?