Time flies fast, as everybody knows. We’re already into the second week of August and it feels like New Year’s Day was only yesterday. In a matter of weeks, it’ll be September and sadly, time to go back to school.
As a student of Recreation and Leisure at Canadore College, I am both excited to continue this program for another year and yet, I dread it. The material is great but who likes homework and tests? I mean, that stuff really stresses me out after a while.
Thinking about getting prepared for school next month had me thinking back on my last year with Canadore. I remember the very first class I attended, Intro to Recreation and Leisure Services. The teacher opened up the year with a concept that now stays in my mind. He talked to us about time, how we experience it and what we do with it. He posed questions about our use of technology and whether it adds time to our days or takes it from us. He asked us if we are even aware, truly aware, of how we are using our time.
Then I started thinking about that. Here I am, in the present, worrying about school stress in the future and reliving classes from the past (in my mind) in order to prepare for the future, totally bypassing what’s happening around me, right now in the present.
That’s the thing I keep forgetting to do, and probably the real reason I get stressed and worked up. I keep forgetting to be in the now.
Even though we are in the present, being in the now is a different thing.
The truth is, school is starting in September; that is inevitable. What I choose to do about it, I still can’t do until the time comes to do it. Remembering how hard school was last year isn’t going to make the next one any easier but it might make it more difficult if I expect it to be that way.
I used to know that it’s important to remember to “be in the Now” as often as you can bring yourself to do it. But life can get hectic and sometimes these rituals get left behind in the hurry of it. I used to keep this at the forefront of my mind, but I fell off track, only to begin again.
Easier said than done.
It’s so easy to say, “be in the now,” “be in the present,” but it isn’t so easy to practice it, at least, not at first. I spend so much time planning for the future and still-too-much time lingering on past events, old grudges, regrets, favorite moments, lost chances and the good ol’ days.
Earlier this morning I reminded myself to be present, be in the now. It lasted about 15 seconds before my mind wandered off again to my future plans. Obviously, it’s not very easy for me to do either.
Life is happening, this is uncontrollable. We know it, yet we try as hard as we can to be prepared for it and to direct the way things unfold. Our minds are constantly occupied by this, and we flow with the flow of life. Our thoughts are consumed by thoughts of things that were, things that will be, things that could be and things that could have been.
When you really think about it, how much time do you really spend being in the present moment? When was the last time you stopped and actually noticed the way the air smelt or felt on your skin, noticed the birds/crickets chirping in the background or the way the light seeps in past your curtains?
Focusing on the now is a meditation.
People are always hung up on different meditation techniques and methods, but few ever realize that to allow your mind to be free of past and future is to find that inner-peace we all seek.
Focusing on the “now” is one of the most powerful approaches to meditation. Here’s why:
Meditation is known to help improve human cognitive function and wellness. When your mind focuses on the now, you are actually meditating on the present. You allow the noise of the past and the impending demands of the future to become unreal, and then you let it fall away from your mind. You realize that the past is gone, the future is not here. There is only the present; only the present is truly real.
Our minds, much like computers, are running several different streams (of thought) all the time. Just like the computer, too many functions being performed at the same time will slow you down. Having so many thoughts constantly bombarding your mind, all day, every day, has the same effect on your mind. Your ability to think slows down when you overthink things or try to concern your mind with too many things at once.
When you meditate on the present, or be in the now, you allow all these unessecary thoughts to be silenced, because you accept that thoughts concerning the past or the future are not relevent in the present moment. You cannot act or change anything in the past or future by thinking about it, and so, you allow yourself to be solely in the moment, without thought for anything beyond or behind it.
The thought-load of your mind becomes less, and your observations of the present begin to become clearer. You’ll even start to notice a light, elated feeling if you really allow yourself to be totally present.
By giving your mind a break from being in the past and future, two things that actually stress the mind the more we do it, you give your mind time to rest and refocus. You become able to give your full thoughts to one thing at a time, allowing you to become more effective.
When you are able to allow your mind to focus on one thing at a time, you give 100% of your effort to that thing you’ve chosen to do. In real life, if you make a 50% effort at something, you can only ever gain a reward equal to that 50% effort. Likewise, giving 80 or 100% effort will yield the corresponding results.
When you focus on being in the now, you are able to produce better work, demonstrate better self-discipline and have a clearer state of mind, because you get to do what you’re doing in that moment with 100% effort.
If meditation is supposed to improve cognitive function, then being in the now is a form of meditation that does just that. It allows you to make more effective efforts and yields greater results by letting you be present with yourself in the moment.
Simple logic can prove this to you. Think about it.
What sounds more effective and realistic?
If I am working on my homework assignment while worrying about my bills at the end of the month and being angry at the teacher who gave me a low mark on my most recent assignment, will I do the best job of my homework? Will my mind be focused to get the most of what I am doing?
If I am working on my homework assignment and I think about my homework, am present with the task at hand and my mind is only focused on now and this one thing, will my homework have a greater chance at being sloppy?
Our minds make us effective or can be a bolder in the road if you let it. It is a tool, and should be respected and treated as such. Focusing on the now is a favor you can do for your mind and for yourself.
The human mind is an amazing thing, able to exist and dwell in timelines apart from the now. These are necessary skills/abilities to have and at the right times, they are most useful and needed. But when you sit down to work, or eat, or spend time with someone you care about, be there, in the moment.
Being in the now is important for relationships.
How would you feel if I sat down to have lunch with you and you could tell that my mind was focused on what I was going to do later, instead of being present with you at that moment? Would you be able to say that you enjoy my friendship and company?
Being in the now isn’t only effective for doing things or making personal improvements. Being in the now is so important for relationships to grow and thrive. Being able to give someone your undivided attention for a moment is one of the things that makes a relationship work.
That’s why, in this digital era, so many relationships fail.
Too many people have their face buried in their communication devices, being completely, mentally and emotionally absent from their present moment and surroundings. Even worse, this has become a habit for most; people are sleeping beside their beloved phones and tablet PCs, as if it were too valuable to leave outside the room.
It’s no wonder that relationships aren’t working these days. People aren’t taking the time to be in the now, and to truly be with each other. We aren’t getting to know each other beyond reading profiles, it seems.
Well, how to just be with someone in the now, you ask?
Simple! Look at them. Notice them. Pay attention to them and yourself. How do they make you feel? How do you want to make them feel? Can you see what they’re thinking when you look into their eyes? Can you feel the emotion in their voice?
The same applies to just being present, even when you’re alone. Start by taking in what’s presently around you. Stop letting thoughts about the past, future, and all the irrelevant memes you read entertain your mind for that moment. Notice yourself, how you feel on the inside and how your body feels at the moment. What are your emotions telling you?
Sometimes being in the now can be difficult if you have unchecked issues or things you try not to think about. That makes being in the now even more important, because only there can you solve these problems and find inner peace.
The first step to meditating on the present is to know why it is important and why you need to do it. Next, you need to start.
It won’t be easy to keep doing it for more than a few seconds at a time, in the beginning; it’s just like any other meditation technique. But keep doing it and notice how it changes you, the way you do things and how it affects your life. You will get better at it, and, if you’re like me, you’ll never let yourself forget it – at least, not for long.
Being in the now is crucial for happiness, inner peace and contentment. There are tons of articles online about how you can achieve this state of being, but it really starts as simply as I’ve described it.
Just try it and see.
As for me, I know I’m going to be doing it a lot now, especially with another year of school coming up. I need it.
Let me know if it works for you too.