Think about the number of times you have heard the word “focus” used. It can conjure up thoughts of a teacher telling you to focus on a lesson, parents telling you to focus on what they are saying, or a friend mentioning how you seem unfocused. What these people are really saying when they say “focus” is “be present.” You may have even heard that term used before. Someone may have told you once to stay in the moment or stay present when they noticed or heard you discussing something in the past or future. There is a simple truth to the notion of staying in the present. So, what does it mean to “be present,” and how do you stay in the moment when internal or external distractions arise?
As defined by the dictionary, “present” means existing or occurring now. This is a simple definition, but being present is more dynamic than that. Being present can represent a number of ideas and situations. For example, for people with negative thoughts, the idea of being present can act as a way to build awareness of those negative thoughts in order to counter act them and change the dialogue within themselves. In this case, being present is being aware for the sake of changing a habit or thought process. On the other hand, for some, being present is the practice of being fully engaged and attentive to what is going on in their mind, body, and heart in the exact minute they are in. In this case, the person is not worrying about the minute before or the minute ahead. Either way you define being present, it is the act of awareness without the distraction of something that has happened or is going to happen.
There are real world examples of being present you might find in surprising places. Take an athlete, for example. An athlete has to be completely aware of what is happening in the exact moment they are in. Baseball players must know how many outs there are, what bases runners are on, and many other factors to be in the moment of the game. However, you do not have to be an athlete to practice being present. Being present could mean being in the moment while at work, with family, or at a social gathering, focusing on the person you are speaking with. But what happens if you find yourself drifting from being present?
According to Psychology Today, there are four steps to get back to being present. The first of these is to breathe. Breathing slowly through the nose brings a relaxation response. This response will help bring you back to the present. In addition, the publication mentions being witness. Being witness means seeing what is going on at a given moment and naming it. Moreover, letting the rest go can help you stay present. Whatever thoughts or feelings are distracting you, let them go and be present. By breathing, witnessing, letting go, and repeating the cycle, you will be present and not consumed with other things you cannot control. Ultimately, this will help bring you peace, a sense of wonder, and satisfaction from enjoying life because you are completely present at every waking moment.
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”