At this moment, other than reading my blog, where is your mind? Bored at work? Fantasizing about a new purchase? Stewing over an argument still? Worrying about debt? Thinking about how awesome life was a few years ago? Upset at something that’s happened to you? Wishing you could be someplace else? Wondering if life gets any better?
Maybe you have a lot of uncertainty, and so you experience stress, worry, fear, and anxiety. Maybe you just want to be somewhere else, have something, or achieve something, and so your mind is absorbed in some non-existent future scenario. Maybe it’s not so bad – each day just blandly blends into the other, and you’re on the grind. However, there’s an uneasy feeling that you’re out of purpose and not moving in a direction you want.
Regardless of the scenario, it’s all the same. Your mind isn’t here, experiencing today, this moment. Instead, you’ve become preoccupied with the past or future while the present wastes away. In doing so, you’ve blocked your creativity, your energy, and really – your life. Trust me, I know how it feels, so here are some ways to get back to today.
1. Gratitude. A lot, a lot, a lot of joy can be found in gratitude. This includes the cliche but true “enjoying the moment” – which means enjoyment of where you are, what you’re doing, and what you have at this moment. If, given all that, you can say you’re satisfied, then that’s a pretty damn good place to be.
But be honest to yourself. If, tomorrow, you find yourself over-fantasizing about a bigger promotion, a hotter girlfriend, a smarter child, living abroad, owning a coconut farm – whatever it may be – then your gratitude may be fleeting. Start with simple things to be grateful for, and use that gratitude to build on the enjoyment of today.
2. Forgiveness and Acceptance. If you can’t enjoy this moment as described above, then these are your two other choices. Often times, we either hold on to the past pain that someone has inflicted upon us, or, more often than not, the pain of not having forgiven ourselves. What kind of unnecessary pressure are you putting on yourself? Are you still upset over a bad choice or decision you’ve made? Has it become part of “your life story” – one that you tell anyone who’ll listen?
By not letting go, you’re just welcoming hate, anger, self-absorption, and resentment among many other draining emotions. Your mind dwells on the past while stealing from living today. You are not your problems. You are not your past. Do not get attached to it, otherwise, your dangerously risk having them become your identity. If that happens, it will be incredibly difficult to release your past as subconsciously, you need your problems to define “who you are”.
Forgiveness is the best approach, but if the situation seems unbearable, then acceptance is the next best alternative. Non-acceptance creates unnecessary pain. You could try the “time heals all” approach, or you can speed up the process by coming to the realization that whatever is holding you back is all mind-created and has no useful purpose at any moment.
Getting to that stage, however, requires mindful awareness (see point 6).
3. See How Nature Does It. Some of my favorite activities include balancing large rocks, watching trees sway in the breeze, sitting by a stream and listening to the water gently trickle, and going for a run in the woods. I absolutely love Nature’s stillness, the way everything is in harmony with all else, and how there’s no resistance. In Nature, Everything is as it should be.
Now, you might say: Nature’s beautiful, but animals and trees don’t have intelligence, emotions, and thinking.
I agree. And that’s exactly what I love about nature. Nature is so mind-numbingly simple. Nature is completely oblivious of any time but today. Only we as humans have this mind-created concept of time that dominates our lives. Sure, squirrels plan for the winter, but they don’t know why, nor do they worry about winter coming or complain about the weather. On the same token, we can do the same – plan for the future while detaching worry (and other pesky human emotions) from the plan.
4. Body Awareness. Body awareness might be a strange-sounding term, but I don’t want to say physical activity. There’s a big difference. You can play a simple game of softball, but get caught up in competitive drama, wrong calls, and arguments, resulting in leaving the game more stressed than when you started. I’ve seen it.
Body awareness best comes through a solitary physical activity that focuses your mind on your body. Awareness of your body is one of the greatest ways to remember that you are alive today, now, in this moment. A brisk walk, a run, yoga, and meditation can all bring your attention off your problems and worries, and back to this moment, today.
Feel a little more daring? I also find rock climbing, big mountain snowboarding, and slacklining also great body awareness activities, so long as they’re performed in a non-competitive environment. Focus on these activities. Don’t think about anything else while you are doing them. Free yourself from your burdens, time, and your problems.
6. Stalk Yourself. Today, I’m going to recommend that you stalk yourself – really. You’re going to pay attention to your mind at every possible moment.
Here’s a tip. Wear something on your wrist that you’ve never worn before – an elastic band, an old watch, a discarded Livestrong bracelet. Every time you see it today, use it a reminder to check on the status of your mind. Are you complaining about something? Impatient? Thinking of what to do next? Worrying about your next hop in life? Bummed by what someone did or is doing to you?
Whatever it may be, simple or large – get your mind back. It’s wandered off track, and has stolen time from today. I’m particularly passionate about this kind of mindfulness, so I’ll definitely write more about it later on.
7. Go Simple. I’ve said this so many times. The more that’s happening in your life, the more your attention is divided, the more you need to do, the more busyness occupies your life, and the more negative emotions you welcome. Having globe-trotted a fair amount, it never ceases to amaze me that people living such simple lives appear as equally happy or more happy than most of us.
Stick to simple activities for today. Read a good book. Clean your house or do the dishes, but don’t multitask. Especially not in your mind. If you’re vacuuming while your mind is chattering about all the things you have to do later, you’ve lost the moment. If you have to plan, sit down and spend that time planning.
Hang out with friends and family. Invest into relationships that matter. Make time for those you love. I’m introvert by nature, so it doesn’t necessarily meaning having to do something or exchanging many words even. Chilling at home with a few people is time perfectly well spent.
8. Get Creative. If your mind has gone wandering off, then one common side effect is a creativity blockage. Having switched from an engineering career to mainly creative pursuits, I strongly agree that a distracted mind is a huge hindrance to creativity – a full out Berlin Wall, in fact.
The paradox is that creativity can actually bring your mindful focus back. So what can be done? Just do it. Yikes. Did I just write that?? And italicize it to boot? 😉 Yup.
This is what I mean. Don’t worry if your painting looks like it’s bound for the flea market or you feel like you’re writing contrived sludge. You’re faking it to make it. Just start force-feeding that creativity to start that domino effect, and good things will come.
I personally have a virtual STACK of unfinished blog posts hiding behind the veil of this pretty website. When I get stuck, I go through that list, find something that resonates to me at the moment, and start hammering away. The post might reach a first draft stage, get tossed out, or become ready for release – neither matters much, so long as I converted some thoughts in my head to words on the screen (and clicked the Save button).
9. Release Your Judgments. First, stop judging yourself – yes, you have to be a little selfish here. You also might want to start by forgiving yourself for being out of alignment – accept that it’s OK, really. Once you are able to do that, then stop judging others. Stop comparing yourself. You are not in a competition or a race to the limitless top.
We all live on the same plane, physically and spiritually, so you’re much better off seeking similarities in others rather than differences. Realize that your achievements mean very little in the grand scheme of the universe, or even your short, short life. Remind yourself that we are not separate, but actually all part of a whole. Otherwise, your selfishness, your problems, your perception of “me, me, me” will cause you to act like a branch cut off from the vine and constrict your life energy and everyone around you.
10. Haunted Houses And Rollercoasters.
😉 My point here is to HAVE FUN and bring some enjoyment into today. Hakuna matata. Don’t be so serious. However, if you get a chance to visit a haunted house or ride an insanely steep rollercoaster, I guarantee they’ll definitely get you out of your head for a moment and focus your senses!
As you read this, remember that today is the only day that ever exists. If you reflect on what I’ve written tomorrow, the same will apply in that moment of “now”. This moment, your aliveness in it, is so damn precious, so don’t let anything or anyone take that away from you. It won’t come again, so I wish you the best today possible!
Q: What is the greatest day in the history of earth?