zenhabits : breathe

Practical Tips to Practice Being Present

Every Thursday is Happiness Day on Zen Habits.

This guest post is from fellow PBN blogger Nneka from Balanced Life Center, a blog dedicated to helping you apply spiritual principles to life. If you’re interested in more about being present, meditation, or spiritual principals, please go to her blog and read more. She’s got some great stuff there.

Hi Zen Habiters, no, I’m not Leo. I’m Nneka (eN-Nay-Kah), and I wrote an article one day about the benefits of the Life Transformation Program and listed being present as a benefit. Your resident blogger asked me to expand on the idea and I volunteered to do it here.

I know you guys are serious about getting practical tips that you can turn into habits. So here are a few habits that you can practice to become present:

  1. Pay Attention – When you have idle time at a stop light or in a line at the grocery, for example, pay attention. Instead of letting your mind run ahead of you thinking about the route to your destination and possible traffic delays, or the list of errands that have to be completed after the grocery run, take a moment to pay attention. Turn off the radio in the car, roll down the windows and witness the traffic going in the cross direction, the jogger getting his morning run, the trees dancing in the wind, listen to the birds chirp, and the rustling of leaves. You only have to do it for a few moments, but it’s a good start.
  2. Observe – Next time you’re in a meeting, observe what is going on. It’s a bit more than paying attention in duration. Paying attention is on a trigger basis. Observation is like watching a movie on a screen. Watch the players in action. Watch the body language. Listen for intonations. Do not speak. This can be a very powerful tool as you sit and take in everything that is playing out. You have nothing at stake in the grand scheme of things, but watch as you are able to respond perfectly when questioned. You will be surprised.
  3. Breathe – When you’re ready to go beyond moments and minutes, try paying attention to your breath before you drift off to sleep. Before you drift off to sleep, spend 15 minutes paying attention to the rise and fall of your belly. If you feel yourself drifting off to sleep, or notice that your mind has wondered, gently bring it back to your belly. You could even put a book on it and watch it rise and fall.
  4. Meditate – You can now begin to establish a sitting practice. It is the practice of sitting still for about 30 minutes in silence. Let your thoughts go. When you realize that your mind is chasing your thoughts, bring it back to your breath. Just be still. Nothing to do or think about. Nothing to ponder, just be.

You can practice being present from the bottom of the list to the top also, but I find that it’s easy to go with small steps. Soon, you will begin to be aware in what you are actively doing. If you are cooking, don’t think about what comes next, pay attention to what you are chopping now. When you are present, your life energy is infused into all that you do, from writing code for your website, to singing a lullaby to your child, to having dinner with a friend.

Once you become aware, you are then able to influence the world around you in seemingly effortless ways.

In Spirit,
Nneka



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