Have you ever had a conversation with someone and suddenly noticed a look in their eyes as if they were circling the moon? The pace of today’s hectic society—with all of its competing priorities, multimedia blitz, and information overload—is full of distractions that pull us out of the present. Tuning in to our breathing can be a way out.
Being present is to be mindful, live in the moment, and awaken to experience. It is active and open attention to what is happening in the now with a completely nonjudgmental mind. Placing yourself in the moment is to live unburdened by the past and unfettered by the future. Being present requires a conscious pause and active listening. Such qualities are hard to practice in the midst of family and work life—and all the commitments that come with it. Nevertheless, they are skills that can be learned.
Think about It
What are you thinking about right now as you read this blog? Are you thinking about what you will do next? Are you thinking about paying bills, your job, or summer plans? Thinking of a response during a conversation pulls you out of the present. Being truly present in a conversation requires full concentration on every word, expression, gesture, and feeling conveyed by the other person.
We have Scriptural precedence to fall back on. When Christ fell asleep crossing the Sea of Galilee, and a storm blew in, the apostles woke him, fearing for their lives. Jesus rose, scolded the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still! The wind ceased and there was a great calm” (Mk 4:39). When life’s storm rages, stop, take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and repeat Christ’s words to yourself, “Quiet! Be still!”
Catch Your Breath
Breathing helps bring focus back to the present. It releases stressors—burdens from the past and anxieties about the future. Breathing is essential to meditation, which is also an effective means of stress reduction. Both breathing and meditation sharpen focus, which nurtures being mindful and present.
Ask yourself, “Where am I now?” Are you thinking about something that happened this morning or last week? Are you planning what you will do tonight or tomorrow? Simply asking the question will return your consciousness to the present.
God is as close as the next breath. By paying attention to your breathing, you return to the present. Mouth breathing triggers a sudden anxiety response. Releasing your breath through the nose draws a relaxation response. Be attentive to what you see and hear—the sensations in your body. Listen to the silence; feel the stillness. Close your eyes and feel your physical presence—your body’s weight.
Remove “next” from your vocabulary: next task, next appointment, next person, next week. There is nothing else to get to but the here and now. Be a witness to what you are doing in the moment and let it go. Clinging to what you had done traps you in the past. Experience each moment, and then let it go.
Return to the Now
- Take slow, deep breaths
- Close your eyes for a moment
- Be thankful for the moment—who you are, what you are experiencing
- Notice sensations: sights, sounds, smells, textures, body positions