Six Practical Ways to Practice Being Present

by Diane Berenbaum

"Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity." —Charles Mingus (American jazz bassist, composer, bandleader, and pianist)

"Simplicity is the peak of civilization." —Jessie Sampter (Educator, social reformer, pacifist, and one of Israel's first modern poets.)

Muddled thinking happens to all of us, especially when we're feeling stressed, distraught, aggravated or other strong emotions. According to Leo Babauta, author and creator of Zen Habits, being more mindful and present will help you:

  • "see when you are feeling fear or resistance, uncertainty or the urge to procrastinate, anger or resentment”

  • "work with those difficulties mindfully”

It certainly sounds reasonable. But, how many of us remember to practice being present? Let's face it, we get caught up in our thoughts, distractions, demands and other diversions, and just forget to do it. To establish it as a habit, we need to get to the point where we do it automatically.

And. as Babauta notes, we need to recognize that "it's messy." But, it can also be beautiful. With that in mind, below are six practical ways to practice being present:

1.  Make Meditation a Daily Habit
According to the site, The Art of Living, "It is not about concentration, it's actually about de-concentration." Start your meditation habit with just two minutes a day, so you don't feel overwhelmed. If your mind wanders, just pause and notice it. Label it objectively as "thinking” and return to the breath, without harshness. It will help you start the day with a calm and objective mindset.
2.  Connect with Others
Keeping your thoughts and feelings to yourself can be overwhelming. Having a regular group or partner to meditate with can be very beneficial. Others outside the situation may be more objective, and help you see the situation in a new light or different perspective. As a result, they can share solutions you hadn't even thought of.
3. Use a Mindfulness Reminder
There are many ways to set reminders. You can use mindfulness bells and guided meditations. Or, use an app on your phone or computer to ring a chime sound regularly to remind you to pause, be present and be mindful. (Here's one app you can download on iTunes.)
4. Pause and Set an Intention Before an Activity
If you're about to do a difficult task, write an important email, or other work activity, be sure to pause first. Consider your intention for that activity. What are you hoping to accomplish? What do you need to do/be to make it happen? How will you proceed and who will be impacted? By setting an intention, it reminds you to be mindful as you do any activity. And, you'll be more likely to get the results or responses you seek.
5. Reflect Daily
Babauta noted he reflects on his day, his life, as well as what he's been doing right and what isn't working. By reflecting on every aspect of our lives and making it a habit, we are able to continuously improve. So, at the end or the start of each day, take a few minutes to reflect. How have you done with practicing being present? Where have you struggled? Where have you improved? What resistance has come up for you? What will do differently as a result of these daily reflections?
6. Hold the Mindset that Everything is a Learning Opportunity
No matter what happens in your day; if you're feeling stressed, upset, discouraged or anxious, pause and see the situation as an opportunity for personal growth. Hold an objective mindset and ask yourself: What can I learn from them this situation? What do I need to let go of? How can I ensure I'm still learning and growing?
According to Babauta, "Every difficulty, every person, everything that arises in the present moment can be a loving teacher." So, consider practicing being fully present. It may not only help you learn more about yourself, but it may also bring more calm and meaning to your life. 

P.S. You can get Babauta's book free here!


Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .
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