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How to Be Fully Present to Life (Despite the Distractions)


Lately, I've noticed how much distracts me and others from being in the present moment. A lot is going on – record-breaking heat in many spots across the world, a seemingly stuck and polarized national political system, and a rising rate of suicide by young adults, to name a few. Such events are on top of the personal challenges that arise periodically in daily living.


If we're not careful, distractions can suck the joy from life and poison our inherited and divinely inspired experience of spiritual liberation. We must restore our ability to be in the present moment to retain that joy and freedom. Of course, this does not mean that we dismiss or ignore the events that are taking place in the world that require our prayers, attention, and sometimes our action. But when we stay in the present moment, we can put such events in their proper perspective and not let them infringe upon being "here and now."


Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, who made his transition last year, said the way we can be in the here and now, our true home, is to practice mindfulness. When mindful, we are present for our life just as it is, not as we hope it would be or expected it to be and not seeing life as more or less than what is here. Nor is it being judgmental about life in a way that makes us reactionary rather than responsive to what's happening. Instead, it is about being fully present and meeting what is happening with eternal calm, serenity, and joy.


Of course, that is easier said than done. But here are a few simple mindfulness practices we can use to be here and now:


Observe where you are. For example, when you go into a restaurant, instead of making a beeline to the table where you will eat, take the time to stop, look around, take in the sights, smell the aroma of the food wafting through the room, and breathe the air. Do it with intention. You will find that you feel more connected to the moment.


Observe how you are. Such observation is about being aware of how you interact with your environment. At the moment, be fully aware of how you are sitting (or standing), breathing, and feeling in that moment. If you are with another person, observe how you are relating to them, speaking to them, and sounding to them as you talk. When we watch ourselves in situations, it makes us more mindful. It also allows us to be more intentional and observe how we show up in life – how we talk and relate. We can also be aware if we're feeling anxious or negative. With that awareness, we can make a more empowering choice.


Observe impulsive thoughts. Impulsive thoughts are those immediate reactions to things that are not necessarily the best response to a situation. When we are aware that we're upset about something (often not worth getting upset over), we can pause and rather than indulging in the “upsetness," we can step into that space in between stimulus and response. We can ask ourselves: "What do I want here?" "What would serve here?" "How would my Higher Self or a better version of myself respond here?" Such reflections help us grow and engage in situations. They come from a place of wisdom rather than woundedness and help us be in tune with our true selves rather than the drama mind.


Practice extended growth time. Growth time is when we carve out dedicated periods for meditation. We get better at being in the moment when we make it a habit to close our eyes, focus on our breath, observe our thoughts, and let those thoughts pass on. When we do this, we find that space where the noise and chaos of the world are not taking away our peace and our ability to "be here now."


These practices allow us to be more mindful, alive, centered, peaceful, and present in the moment.


Peace and Blessings,


James

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