Be Present: Stay In the Moment

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When you think of the imminent holiday season, what goes through your mind?

Hopefully it's positive anticipation — of good times, good company, good food, doing something for those less fortunate, the fun of finding a great gift that’s just perfect for someone on your list....

But, how many of us think mostly about all we have to get done? Or, about how many different holiday gatherings we’re expected to be at in one day? The stress response starts to kick in just at the thought of it. 

Wait, where did you go? You’re already there in your head doing all those things, aren’t you? Come back to the present for a moment.

Spiritual wisdom, brought to us in simplified, applicable terms by contemporary spiritual writers like Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass and Jon Kabat-Zin (who also happens to be a physician, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and pioneer in mindfulness-based stress reduction), says the only thing truly real is what’s in this moment, now. All the stuff triggering that stress response? It’s merely thought clouds.

 

 

None of that is real in this moment. So, stop here for a just a second. Let the thoughts go, and just experience what’s around you. Notice. Observe with all your senses. Take it all in. Truly be in the moment. Truly be...in the moment.

Okay, that was nice, but at some point all those things will need to be done, right? Well, we could talk about simplifying, too, but...maybe next year!

One of the main points of celebrating holidays is to enjoy special moments with the people most important to us. We want to savor and remember those moments, but it’s pretty hard to do with our minds full of so many other things.

 

 

Being in the moment is as simple as that little exercise we did a minute ago. Simple, but not necessarily easy. To do it effectively, and for more than a brief moment, (ah, sorry, here I go adding another “have to”— but this is a helpful one!) we have to let those “should,” “have to” and “need to” thoughts go for a while. Don’t worry, those thoughts will come back! But if, like me, you fear that they won’t all come back and you’ll forget something important, write them down and then let them go. There’s nothing you can do about those things anyway, until it’s time to do them. Until then, they’re just needless distractions that keep you from fully enjoying the present moment.

As you move through this holiday season, be mindful of when your head is filled with stuff — of when you’re not fully present. Whether you’re catching up with the brother you haven’t seen all year, decorating the tree with the kids or helping serve at the homeless shelter, those people, that task — your moments — deserve your full attention, love, energy, and presence. So, stop. Let those thought clouds dissipate. And (as Ram Dass advises), be here now.