One of the quickest ways out of stress is to learn how to fully experience the present moment – that’s the one that is happening right now!
Most stress that people feel in their body is generated from a thought about something that has either already happened and is now over, or something that they anticipate will happen in the future, and may also never happen! There is every possibility that when you notice anxious feeling in your body you’ll also be able to recognise that the thing you are having a stressful thought about is not actually happening in that very moment.
The key to dissolving stress is to realise that nothing and no one can make you experience those uncomfortable anxious feelings until you take the information inside and attach a stressful meaning to what is going on in your environment. Your nervous system does not respond to things or events, it responds to the thoughts you have about those things or event Retreat A Course in Miracles . There are many techniques to help you reframe your stressful thoughts into more positive ones, but getting into the practice of letting your thoughts go all together is one of the most mentally liberating experiences you can have.
Here’s an example of what I mean. You get up in the morning and you take a shower. However, mentally you’re not in the shower, you are already at work thinking about that important meeting or pressing deadline. Or maybe you’re replaying that argument you had yesterday. One thing is for sure, you’re not in the shower!
Bringing your attention back to the here and now means you are free to experience the peacefulness of this very moment. Stress does not exist in the ‘now’.
If you’re in the shower, BE in the shower. Become absorbed in the sensation of the warm water raining over your body. Watch the steam billowing around you. Notice the relaxing feeling of the water’s pressure massaging your skin, and that sound of the splashing against the walls and floor. Just be with it, be curious about it, and enjoy it.
To be fully present with your experience of the current moment is to let go of your thoughts and to just be. Doing this requires your thinking mind to become still and take on the role of a silent observer.
This is an important skill to practice. If you can master being totally tuned into the ‘now’ without your usual thoughts or stories about what ‘now’ means, you can begin to experience a more stress free life, even in those situations that used to bother you.
As with any skill I encourage you to start small. Being present in an already peaceful environment, such as being out in nature or listening to music, is a great training ground. As you get more and more used to being completely aware of a moment you’ll notice that it becomes easier to return to the ‘now’ in more normal situations such as being at work, driving, having a conversation, and later, to things that used to be stressful.
A question you may have is, “How can I let go of my thoughts and experience the peacefulness of the present moment while I’m having a conversation, or doing something that requires my attention?”
You can still be present while you are talking with someone else by getting to know that part of you that is always just observing what is going on. For instance, when you say something to somebody, or even to yourself, there is another part of your consciousness just noticing that you are having a conversation. It is entirely possible for you to hold a normal conversation while that part of you just observes the stream of words and sentences that are being unconsciously spoken, without any assistance from your thinking mind. As I am typing this I don’t need to think about what the next word is going to be, it just appears. You can easily talk to another person while at the same time being aware of the sensation of the words leaving your mouth. You can hear, and understand, what is being said to you whilst also distinguishing between the words and tonal qualities of the voice says them.
That’s being present. Fully noticing the experience of having a conversation, while you are having it, actually means you are more engaged with the other person. How often do you find yourself not really listening to what someone else is saying because you are already thinking about what YOU are going to say next? Surely that’s more stressful than just letting the conversation naturally flow.
Who would you be in this very moment without your thinking mind? Just a person standing, sitting or lying, and enjoying the peace of the ‘now’.
Here is a guide to help you practice being present. Read though the steps first before trying it out on your own.
STEP ONE – Take a few slow deep breaths and get your body into a nice relaxed state.
STEP TWO – Look straight a head of you and take in as much of the vision as you can. Let yourself even begin to notice the small details about your environment that you do not normally pay attention to. What can you see in your peripheral vision? Stretch your focus so that you can still see what is to the side of you, above and below, while you also see what’s in front.
STEP THREE – Keeping your attention on what you see, also begin to notice what you hear. Besides the main, obvious noises, what else can you hear that you were not aware of before? See what you see and hear what you hear in fine detail. Be curious about it.
STEP FOUR – Now add into the mix the physical sensations you are experiencing. If you are standing notice your body weight that’s being supported by your feet. If you are sitting, feel the sensation of your body resting in the chair. Notice the touch of your clothes against you; your feeling of your feet inside your shoes; the temperature of the air against your skin; the natural rise and fall of your chest as you breathe. Continue to acknowledge each new sensation as it presents itself to your awareness.
STEP FIVE – Let any internal dialogue drift away as you just exist in this moment. Let the silence of your mind become a part of that overall experience. Just see what you see, hear what you hear and feel the physical sensations. Nothing has a label; it is what it is, just be with it.