Teresa Jackson, Head Yoga Instructor
What does “being in the present” really mean? And how do we accomplish it?
One of my favorite yoga teachers and published author, Rolf Gates, defines being in the present moment as “meeting this moment with what is available in this moment”. Not where we were yesterday, or even 5 minutes ago and not where we will be tomorrow or 5 minutes from now, but Right Here, Right Now. In this one breath that we are taking in this moment.
Sounds simple, but why do we have such a hard time doing it? Our mind is constantly leading us out of this moment with thoughts of past experiences and worries about future situations. The only way to truly be in this present moment is to meet the moment with what is in front of us at any given moment in time.
I invite you to scan the space where you currently are and really see what is around you. What colors are there? What shapes are in sight? Do you hear sounds? What are they? Do you hear people talking? What are they saying?
How many times do we look without seeing and hear without listening? We are not in the present moment with what is right in front of us. We are off somewhere in the past or looking into the future. How do we come back to now?
The answer is with the breath. We can allow our breath to bring us into the present moment. When we bring our focus and awareness to the breath, one inhale and one exhale at a time, we are in the current moment.
Let’s do an experiment with this. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine lengthened, shoulders away from your ears, and crown of the head reaching up to the sky. Close your eyes if that’s comfortable for you or fixate your gaze on a nonmoving object in front of you. Take two deep breaths, allowing the inhale and exhale to flow naturally with no extra effort or control.
On your third breath, begin to count the exhales, starting with one. The next exhale count two and so on up to five. Start over with one after you count five exhales. Never count higher than five. Repeat this for five rounds. When you lose count, you know you have left the present. Gently bring your focus back to counting your exhales. Let the breath bring you into the present moment.
Notice how this was for you. With no judgment, take note if your mind kept wandering, if you lost count, if it was difficult or relatively easy to keep your focus on the present moment with each breath.
You can also experiment with other ways to find stillness in the present. Find what calms your mind and nervous system. What makes you feel connected to your body, present in the moment and clear in your thoughts? Be open to different breathing practices, trying a yoga class, meditation, being in nature, walking along the seashore, or anything else that allows you to find the center of your being right where you are. Then notice any changes within yourself, your relationships, your energy levels and motivation as well as your overall awareness.
When we learn to be truly present in each moment we can begin to feel more connected to all of the other moments in our life. We begin to really see what we are looking at. We begin to really listen to what we are hearing. We begin to become more aware of our actions and what we are feeling in our bodies. We become more aware of how we are communicating with others. We begin to really live in every moment we are given, with every breath that we take and then we find ourselves living in the present moment, one breath at a time.
Teresa Jackson is Head Yoga Instructor at The Studio at Cape Carteret holds a BA in Psychology/Sociology, along with certifications in 200 hour Traditional Hatha YTT, 300 hour Yoga Psychology YTT, 95 hour Childrens YTT, Trauma Informed Yoga, Warriors at Ease, Yoga for 12 Step Recovery and Shamanic Reiki Master.