“The point of power is always in the present moment.”
~ Louise L. Hay
To put it negatively, the worst thing you can do is try to live outside of this moment.
It’s actually impossible to live outside of the present moment, but it is possible to think outside of it. That means thinking about the past or future rather than focusing on your current action. Here are four creative and specific strategies you can employ to enter the present moment quickly and experience the numerous benefits that go along with it.
1. Look for opportunities in your immediate environment.
I’m looking around in my apartment right now.
I can see a couch, a TV, this computer I type on, a kitchen, a bathtub, a basketball, and a door that goes outside. All of these surroundings represent different opportunities. Right now, I’m taking the opportunity to write. (Within every computer, there are thousands of possibilities. You can learn, work, or play on computers.) I could also cook something, watch TV, play video games, read a book, go outside, stretch my muscles, look at Seattle from my balcony, or take a relaxing bath with epsom salts.
Intentionally look for opportunities within your immediate grasp to make the present moment more attractive.
When you refuse (or don’t attempt) to find opportunities right now, you’ll resort to default distractions like cell phones, social media, and mindless internet browsing. Think about why we engage with these—they burn time! If you are burning time, it’s because you want to fast forward your life to some future moment (probably an unrealistic and romanticized future moment).
I think we burn time hoping that the future will magically be better than the present, when the only way to actually make a better future is to seek present opportunities. This has a lot to do with cultural perfectionism and the delusion that tomorrow will be different. Why do we wait for that perfect set of circumstances? Why do we believe opportunities will come to us passively? It never happens.
Practice this now. Look around. There are possibilities everywhere, visible and invisible. Start with visible cues, and they may lead to more ideas.
There’s so much you can do right now, but you have to intentionally look for it!
“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
2. Have the scavenger mindset.
When I woke up this morning, I had one of the worst tension headaches of my life. Ibuprofen and muscle relaxers weren’t enough to calm it until I had already suffered for several hours.
It was fun!
I found myself “starting the day” at 6 PM, because prior to that, I was in too much pain to do anything but rest.
Sometimes, bad days make us want to fast forward life until tomorrow.
- “I’ll get back into things tomorrow.”
- “I can delay the newsletter one day.”
- “Today was beyond my control. Oh well…”
But no, there is still some meat left on today’s bone! Those with the scavenger mindset won’t leave the scene until it’s been “picked clean.”
When you have the scavenger mindset, you don’t ever quit until the day is over, because time is the ultimate resource—there’s always something left to salvage if you’ve got time. If there’s an hour left in the day, you attack that hour. (This doesn’t necessarily mean work. Relaxation is just as important!)
Humans have about 27,000 days to live if they’re fortunate. It sounds like a lot of time until you consider about how many days you’ve already lived, and that once you die, it’s over. I’m 31, meaning I’ve already used more than 11,315 of my days. I’m ashamed to think of how many of those days I whittled away as I waited for the “perfect one.”
Nonideal, broken, and flawed moments make up a large part of our days and they hold tremendous potential despite their imperfections. Will you salvage them or throw them away?
Develop the scavenger mindset. Salvage little moments here and there that most people would waste. Scavenging animals are among the least popular animals, but they have always been smart in one way—they don’t get the finest things, but what they get scavenging is easy, free, and still quite useful. Any wasted time that you can turn into meaningful time is a free bonus to your life. So yes, read good books on the toilet.
Don’t ever throw out a whole day because of one or two or seven unfortunate events. Scavenge the awkward and broken moments of your life. This post is now one of my favorites, and I wrote it on a bad day.
“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.”
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
3. Accept the past. Reject the future.
You might think, “What about learning from the past?” or “What about planning for a better future?” Those can be done through the lens of the present moment.
Past: Acceptance is the only way to deal with the past. I played basketball with an injured back eight months ago and it cascaded into this headache today. That happened. I can’t change it, as much as I’d like to.
When you accept something, you can move on from it. That leaves you with the present and future.
Future: Reject the concept of “future.” The here and now will always be your only opportunity. Don’t let the cliched nature of that blind you from its truth and potential impact in your life. Eckhart Tolle says of the illusion of future,
“The only existence we call future has is as a thought in your head. Beyond that, there’s no such thing as future. If there were such a thing as future, somebody, some great explorer, would have found it.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
As Tolle says, the complete existence of “future” is merely a concept, a thought. This concept is made quite powerful by frequent references. Advertisements tell us what a product could do for us in the future. We make plans for future days. When thinking of our current problems, we consider how they might be solved in the future.
If you become too enthralled with the limitless potential of the future, you may miss out on the real potential of the present. Fantasy is alluring, but it cannot compete with reality because of the fact that it is phantom.
By accepting the past as factual history, and denying that the future is anything more than an idea, all you’re left with is the present moment.
Present: Touch something. Taste something. Smell something. Hear something. See something. Think something.
You are here. This is your life. The past isn’t your life. The future isn’t your life. This is your life. The present moment is all you will ever experience.
“Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment… Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life – and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
Meditation is so powerful and popular because it increases present moment mindfulness, which makes us happier and healthier.
If the present moment were a sports team, meditative breathing would be the mascot. When you focus on just your breathing, your mind escapes past burdens and future anxieties.
Focus on your breaths to understand that you exist in this moment, and not a nanosecond outside of it.
Notice that the air fills your lungs immediately as you breathe in, and leaves them instantly as you breathe out. This is the present moment. It’s peaceful, unassuming, and relaxing. Stay for as long as you’d like.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
~ Amit Ray