“If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.” - The Alchemist
Life is a paradox. It’s beautiful, yet tragic, chaotic, and troubled. It’s full of goodness, but wrapped in anger, hate, and fear.
Which raises the question… How can we live well in the 21st-century? How can we find the happiness, fulfillment, and success we want in our crazy, fast-paced world?
I’ve found that in our search for more, most of us look in the wrong place.
It’s not hard to see why.
We’re surrounded by a million triggers that tell us we’re not enough and we’re not yet ‘there’. We’re told we have to wait for happiness and that we can have it when we find our soulmate relationship, when we’ve got a better job, when we have more money, or when we have more time.
The ‘excuses’ go on and on.
But take this approach to life and you’ll find the goalposts constantly shift. You may hit your goals, but the joy of achievement doesn’t stick around. Instead, it’s quickly replaced by a new goal to chase.
And all the while, your life is gradually ticking away...
When your happiness is always out there in the future, you’ll never quite catch it.
You’ll have your moments, but they’ll be short-lived. So if the happiness you desire isn’t located in the future, where is it?
In this article I want to show you a different way of living.
A way of being that creates happiness NOW.
A way of being that you can sink into at will - anytime you like - to unlock the feelings you’re currently chasing.
That way of being is all about presence and it’s a state of being that has the potential to change your life.
Let me explain...
What does it mean to be present?
You live your life in three different states: the past, the present, and the future. In any given moment, you’ll be in one of these ‘places’.
The past is your memories. You go here when you’re reliving an experience or when you’re getting caught up in your fears or your limiting beliefs.
The future is your visions and your dreams. It’s the place where your imagination plays. It’s where you fantasize about achieving your goals and having all the things you want (or the place where you create more of the past by carrying it all forward.)
The present is this moment.
This precise moment.
It’s the place where you turn down the voices of the past and the present and instead allow your senses to experience all that’s happening now.
It’s a focused experience where you stop resisting what is. Where you stop trying to be somewhere you’re not. Where you tune into your breath, sharpen your awareness, and feel fully alert in your surroundings.
“Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? what could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.” ― Eckhart Tolle
Presence is a surrender to what is so you can experience what’s real.
In this way, presence brings you stillness and expansiveness. It’s a state of being that fills you with a deep sense of calm and connection when you realize you’re OK as you are. It’s your escape from your overthinking, overactive mind and the highway to happiness you’ve been searching for.
Why is presence the key to happiness?
Presence unlocks happiness because it guides us to experience life as it really is.
Most of the unhappiness and ‘bad’ feelings we experience are a result of the meaning we give to thoughts, events, and circumstances.
We take examples from the past and project them into our future and then use those insights to predict how everything will go wrong. We torment ourselves by reliving bad experiences over and over and convince ourselves we can’t possibly change.
We keep disappearing to the past and present instead of being here NOW.
Presence fuels happiness because there are no problems in the present moment. Ever noticed how you usually find a solution when you’re in the thick of it? Stress only shows up because of your thinking about what might happen or how things might turn out.
In the present moment there is no guessing or wishing, there’s only what is happening NOW.
When we take the time to be present we realize we’re more than our thoughts. In fact, we start to see that we can separate ourselves from our thoughts. And as a result, we can tap into all of our being.
Why is it so darn hard to be present?
So if presence is the secret to everyday happiness, why do we find it so hard to stay in this place?
The truth is we’ve been programed to dwell on the past or worry about the future - and there are benefits to this obsession.
Thinking about the future is part of our survival strategy. By anticipating future problems we can prepare for what’s coming next. It’s your body’s brilliant way of helping you avoid failure and experiences that might make you feel hurt.
Revisiting the past is useful too because it helps you predict likely outcomes and also draw upon your experiences to survive and hopefully thrive.
In short, you don’t want to be 100% present all the time.
Being able to dance between the past and the future allows you to create, set goals, perceive consequences, and make decisions that enhance your life.
But it’s because you’re fuelled by the past and future that you can struggle to stay grounded in the present. The present isn’t always a comfortable place to be! In our hyperstimulated world where there’s so much to remember and think about, it’s not easy to make your mind go silent. In fact, being present can flag up just how noisy your head really is!
Being present will also throw up emotions, thoughts, and feelings that may not be comfortable. In the quiet, thoughts you don’t want to address may surface and decisions you’ve been delaying will make themselves known to you.
You may get impatient or frustrated, then if you don’t get results you worry if you’re doing it all wrong!
When it all feels too hard, it’s tempting to give up before you’ve even given yourself a chance.
Remember, trying to ‘be present’ when you’ve never done it before, is like trying to be fit at the click of your fingers.That’s never going to happen!
It’s the same with presence.
You need to build that muscle and one way to do that is by practicing structured presence.
Here’s how to do it...
How to practice structured presence
Structured presence is the idea of living moment by moment. It’s a state of being where you try to do the right thing in each moment - and then you string more of these perfect moments together.
Taking the process moment by moment lowers the bar for ‘failure’. If you’ve had a bad day, just focus on stringing a few moments together.
If your mind wanders during meditation, forgive yourself and slowly bring your focus back to your breath.
Simply recognize when you’ve had a moment that’s not ideal, own it, then restart your ‘string’ again.
Before you know it, fleeting moments of presence will grow into extended periods of deep calm and focus on the now.
You’ll enjoy more and more moments of incredible living and as a result, you’ll feel happier, prouder, and more able to create the life you want.
So how do you start your ‘string’? Here are some tips:
- Aim to live each moment impeccably
- Become insanely conscious of the little things. Notice how you feel in your body, the next layer of sounds in your environment, the textures that surround you, the taste of the food that touches your tongue. We often overlook the little detail in our rush, not realizing just how much they matter. Tune in the detail and you’ll experience more. You’ll feel in more awe of life. You’ll linger that little bit longer and that string will get longer.
- Be more deliberate in what you do. Heighten your awareness. Notice the detail with all your senses. Don’t let your mind wander. Instead, sink into what’s actually happening. Resist nothing and feel it all.
- Fully recognize the magnitude of each moment. In our rush to finish the job, get out of the car, get the kids into bed, finish the book, get to dessert, see what happens at the end of the movie (etc. etc.) we overlook the grace of each moment. We forget this is a moment you’ll NEVER get to experience again (accept in your memories). Don’t wish your life away. Slow everything down and acknowledge the beauty, magnificence, and perfection of the now.
- Then practice stringing those impeccable moments together
- When you’re in a moment, allow it to linger. Don’t cut short a conversation, an embrace, a kiss, a breathe, a sound - whatever has your attention, live it out and lengthen your appreciation of what it.
- Go deeper. When you feel an emotion, feel it fully. Cry full blooded tears, laugh until your tummy aches. Love until your heart breaks. Get out of your head and dive deep into the emotion of the moment. Don’t make yourself wrong for feeling strongly. Instead, embrace your sensory power and use what you have to magnify the moment.
- Feel grateful. Gratitude stops the clock. It forces you to slow down and stop. It compels you to appreciate what you have and love what you do. Feel grateful for it all - the highs and the lows. Own every moment of present as if you chose it and created it and the now will feel more beautiful than you can imagine.
Live well, live now
Remember, each moment is a new choice. You’re always in control. You get to decide your reaction to what’s happening. You get to create the moments that make up the fabric of your life.
Every moment has value.
The past helps us learn, the future helps us dream, and the present allows us to connect more deeply with the truth of who we are. Most of us flit between the past and the future; overlooking the value of the present.
But learn to dive into the present and you’ll unlock a new way of being that feels incredible (and gives you all these other benefits too).
So create a habit of being present. Practice mindfulness. Spend time in the NOW and see the difference it makes to your life.
And if you’re an overthinker who’s easily distracted. If you have a full schedule that has you rushing from one place to the next. If you’re always chasing the next big thing, always rushing to the next appointment, and always hustling after the next milestone, here’s a gift that will help you slow it all down.
If you can’t imagine being still enough to get a grip on the present, sounds can help.
In fact, sounds - in particular those emitted by singing bowls - can help you experience life more deeply and more profoundly. You’ll find out how in this free PDF.
- How sounds can evoke presence so you can experience life in all states of time
- How the sounds from a singing bowl can help you cope with life in the 21st-century
- How to use a singing bowl in your everyday life - even if you’ve never explored a spiritual practice before
Life is too precious to lose out on the joy to be found in the present moment.
With this guide, you’ll take a step closer to experiencing more meaningful happiness - everyday.