Do you ever find yourself pretending to listen to someone even though you haven’t heard a word they’ve said? Or have you ever been halfway through your workout class when you suddenly wake up and wonder where your mind has been. Ever miss your train stop because you are spacing out so far away from the present moment?
So often, we get so caught up in the conversations in our minds, that we forget to live in the present moment. A lot of this is based on blame from the past or fear of the future. If we haven’t worked through past issues, we will repeatedly come back to them. Habitual patterns become more of a friend to us than the people in front of us. A lot of these patterns have been ingrained in us from a young age. I’m not good enough. I’ll be rewarded only if I do xyz. She is better than I am. This is good and that is bad. Things we learned at a young age can haunt us every day if we let them. If we are so caught up in the past, there is no room for the right here, right now.
Many of us also fear the future, so we plan and plan and plan. It gives us a sense of security to have our to-do list filled and every weekend planned for the next year. What if we threw out the planner and just let things happen? Scary, right?
There are, of course, certain things you have to plan- paying bills, appointments for work, celebrations, etc. I don’t know about you, but I often am so caught up in what I have going on next week, next month, or next summer, that I forget to appreciate what is happening today. It’s like I need to know what going to happen instead of just letting it.
The solution is to change the conversation in your minds. You ARE good enough. There is no right or wrong. There is nothing you HAVE to do! You are important and special no matter if you have plans every weekend or a clear schedule. Your life is happening right now.
How do we learn to stay present? Meditation is very helpful. To begin, just notice what your mind is doing. I sometimes sit in mediation for 10-15 minutes at night and find myself thinking the whole time! But, every so often there are a few seconds where I catch my thought pattern, and stop, and focus on my breathing. It’s not easy, but I know it makes a difference.
I used to be the type of person who had the hardest time listening to conversations. I would always be in my head about something else. I wanted to listen — I really did! — but my mind was way more chatty than the person in front of me, making it difficult to listen, even though I wanted to.
The way to be present for ourselves and for the people in our lives starts with listening to ourselves.
I started with the willingness to try. Then I found yoga, mediation and breath work. Making the effort to learn how habitual patterns in my life were hurting me helped as well; I journal almost every day. I’ve also stopped making so many plans. I try not to commit to anything too far in advance. Then I practice, practice, practice.
At first it took forever to catch my patterns as they were happening, but slowly I began to see that I can stop my thoughts much more quickly. I have a long way to go before I can slow down the conversation completely — a lifetime perhaps. But often I am able to change the conversation to one that is more kind and truthful to myself. The only thing that matters is the commitment I made to myself to change.
Change is possible and inevitable. So why not make a change for the better? All you need is the determination to try to change your thinking and make more room for silence. Pay attention to the unknown and the present. We don’t always need to know what comes next. Let that be OK. Learn to forgive and have compassion for yourself and your past. The past is behind you — the future is ahead of you. The present is here and now. Live in it and love every moment you can. Love YOU every moment you can.