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How to Be Present In a World Filled With Distractions



When we take time to be aware, we may notice a lot of distracting energy around us. If we allow ourselves to be distracted, we disconnect from the one place where all power lies – the here and now.


No doubt, there is a lot going on in the world. There's discord in communities due to tragic deaths from encounters between citizens and police, ruckuses between elected officials due to a polarized body politic, and lingering questions about the ultimate resolution of the pandemic in light of the massive Covid-19 surges in India and Brazil, to name a few. These events do not include the individual challenges that arise from time to time in ordinary living.


If we’re not careful, these distractions can suck the joy from life and sidetrack us from experiencing spiritual freedom. To retain that joy and spiritual space, we must restore our ability to be in the present moment. Of course, this does not mean that we dismiss or ignore the events taking place in the world that require our prayers, attention, and our action. But, when we stay in the present moment, we are able to put such events in their proper perspective and not let them infringe upon being "here and now."


The way we can be in the here and now, our true home as 94-year-old Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thick Nhat Hanh calls it, is to practice mindfulness.


When we are mindful, we are present for our life just as it is, not as we hope it would be, or expected it to be, or if it is more or less than what is here. We are not judgmental about life in a way that leads us to be reactionary rather than responsive to what's going on. Instead, it is about being fully present to what is happening and meeting it with eternal calm, equanimity, and even joy. It 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 going to a restaurant is common place again, instead of making a beeline to the table where you will eat, take the time to stop and 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. Be aware of how you are interacting with your environment. Each moment, be fully conscious of how you are sitting (or standing), breathing, and feeling in that moment. If you are with another person, observe how you relate to them, speak to them, and how you sound to them as you communicate. 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're talking and how we're relating. We can also be aware if we're feeling anxious or pessimistic. 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. It's when we are aware we are upset about something (often not worth getting upset over), and rather than indulging in the upsetness, we pause, step into that space in between stimulus and response and ask: "What do I want?" "What would serve here?" "How would my Higher Self or a better version of myself respond here?" Pausing and reflecting help us grow and engage in situations that come from a place of wisdom, rather than woundedness, and allows us to be in tune with our true self rather than the drama mind.


Practice extended growth time. This is when we carve out dedicated time 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 by. When we do this, we find that space where the highly charged thoughts and chaos of the world are not taking away our peace and our ability to "be here now."


With these practices, we can be more mindful, alive, centered, peaceful, and present to the moment.


Peace and Blessings,

James


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