During my early years in college, I was very fond of my multi-tasking skills and fast-flowing thoughts. I remember encouraging myself to think about as many different topics from the selection of past to the future, which was a fun game, not knowing that this might lead to habits of distraction and restlessness. But, awed by the human brain's immense capacity, I now know that our responsibility is to train our brain with practices and patterns to leverage it properly.
Now, I am amused when I remember those days cause I have been trying to do the opposite and quiet my thinking after being introduced to meditation. I realized that I could not be present while running over the storylines in my mind. Being in the present moment means that we are aware and mindful of what is happening at this very moment. We are not distracted by ruminations on the past or worries about the future, but centered in the here and now.
Why being here and now is important?
Firstly, The present moment is the only reality and only moment. As Thich Nhat Han says, The present moment is the only moment available to us, and it is the door to all moments. Therefore, mindfulness and savoring the moment involve presently occurring experiences.
There are numerous benefits of being in the now, backed by many high-caliber studies proving that it is not a trendy lifestyle that may become outdated in the future. For example, according to a study, dispositional mindfulness (being present and savoring it) predicts positive emotions and residualize changes in psychological health. In this study, three indicators of psychological health were depressive symptoms, psychological well-being, and life satisfaction. Another study with cancer patients demonstrates that increases in mindfulness over time relate to declines in mood disturbance and stress.
Breathe to be present
Many meditation techniques use various objects as the center of focus that you can repeatedly return to after sliding into distractive thoughts. My favorite one is focusing on the breath, which is our connection to life and simply to the present moment. Controlled long breathing can ease anxiety by increasing parasympathetic activity, a physiological message that we are safe and there is nothing to worry about. But here, I will briefly mention a different technique that can be used to stay present and savor the moment—dividing your attention between your breathing and surroundings without manipulating the pace of your breathing.
In this technique, your out breath should be an ordinary one with soft attention, and your surrounding is not an intrusion into your state but a joyous accompany. The aim is to flow with the everyday movement of life rather than achieving a particular state. It is a light relaxation attached to a sweet appreciation of the world around us with its ordinariness. There's a brief gap between your breath in and right before you breathe out. You can connect to yourself during that short pause and taste the joy of being alive. This is an effortless and pleasant way to direct the mind's focus from thinking to breathing and living.