I was sitting on the yoga mat today meditating as is my custom in the morning after my yoga practice, and I had a couple of thoughts. Like so many of you I find myself thinking about my next conquest, role, position, material thing, or maybe just what lies ahead that day. I always try to turn off the noise when I meditate, either by forcing a thought pattern that will override all these future oriented thoughts, or sometimes I just try to sit and listen. I’m getting to be about 75% sucessful at this most days, but it’s not yet perfect. If you cannot just sit and listen to the sounds around you and drown out the chatter in your mind then you might try focusing your mind on the following themes:
- Now – Think about now just sitting on your mat, tell yourself there is only this moment. You might repeat the phrase “live in the moment, now is all we have” or something like that.
- Compassion – You may also consider just thinking about compassion. You might say to yourself “I will be compassionate with everyone I encounter today”. In addition to this you might say to yourself “I will seek to understand and not judge”. Again use your own words, just focus on the theme of compassion and the words will come.
- Grateful – A third method I use is to just spend some time reciting a running list of what you are grateful for. This might include your family, spouse or significant other, children, friends, pets, dwelling, your work, your health, or anything else that you are grateful for.
Often I use all three themes during meditation. When it is all working you feel in the moment and you are enjoying just sitting there. You may find that this is one of the most wonderful moments in your day, when you are really present and not working towards something or for someone else. You will also find that sitting on the mat as I call it prepares you for the challenges of the modern world, making it all a bit more easy to be mindful during whatever chaos comes your way.
Everyone seeks to be more productive and for some that means doing more of something. For others it might be producing work that is higher quality, so there needs to be some definition around just what is productivity?
Merriam Webster’s dictionary definition is: “the quality or state of being productive”, at Dictionary.com they define it as “the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services”. Either definition will suffice for my argument. I believe that living in the moment creates what others call flow or focus and this in turn can make one productive. The focus obtained from living in the moment allows you to create, generate, enhance, or bring forth goods and services, i.e. be productive. When are you really productive at home or work? I would guess it is when you are truly present and focused on what you are doing right now. Your mind is focused on what you are currently doing, not thoughts of the future, or some wandering down memory lane into the past. True productivity is for those people that can live in the moment, focus, and get into the flow.
Why are there so many articles written about managing your time and task management? They exist because we all have allowed ourselves to become so distracted by email, text messages, schedules, requests, that compete for our mind share right now, and the next 10, 20, 30, 60, or 90 minutes of our life. The living in the present mindset allows you to spend your time on what is important, which of course leads to greater productivity. This is why I have spent so much time lately making a case for living in the moment, because I know we all want to contribute something to those around us and we also need to be productive for our own peace of mind. Stay in the moment, focused on the most important things and the rest will fall into place.
As someone who is truly a work in progress when it comes to living in the now, I often feel unqualified to write on this topic, but maybe that is where most of us seem to be in our lives. I think we all want to make this more complicated than it really is, expecting that for us to live in the now we must become enlightened in some way. I am going to take a simplistic approach to helping you live in the moment and offer only two things to work on:
1) Meditate – You can say I am living in the moment, concentrating on what is going on right now, and not playing some future script of you life in your head, but you are really just brainwashing yourself with positive thinking. We all need to learn to meditate to teach our mind to live in the moment. You say well that should be easy, but I say it is much more difficult than you may think. My first couple experiences attempting to meditate last 5 or 6 minutes and it seemed to be much longer than that at the time. It seems to be relatively common knowledge that for the benefits of meditation to take hold you need about 15 – 20 minutes a day. Although even 5 or 10 minutes can be beneficial, but make 15 – 20 minutes your goal. There is nothing like meditation to help you live in the moment. You may consider yourself just too busy to meditate, I’ve often thought that myself and then I think about the the old zen proverb:
If you don’t have time to meditate for 15 minutes …Then you need to meditate for an hour!
2) Simplify – You might just consider simplifying your life by starting to say “NO” to people, and to the desire to do everything, to make everyone happy, and to have everything. As long as you buy into the program that you can have it all and do it all, which is really bullshit by the way you will never stand a chance of focusing your attention on the moment. Pick the 3 or 4 things that are really important to you and start focusing on them, and forget about the rest. This will put you in the mindset that focusing on the present is the most important thing you can do because you don’t feel like you need to do it all anymore. Too many priorities just makes that much more noise in you head and make it difficult to focus on the present.
There are other ways to move towards living in the moment, but these two are highly effective. I didn’t say either learning to meditate or simplifying your life are easy to achieve, but I do believe that they are effective tools in helping you live in the now. This is my focus right now in my own life. I am determined to move my mindset to the now by meditating and simplifying my life. In the next installment on this topic I would like to make a case why living in the now will actually make you more productive, happier, and maybe even more successful.