05 Oct 20 Presence Hacks: A Guide to ‘Right Now’
“Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents.”
Written by: Scott Dinsmore
Average Read Time: 3 Minutes
When was the last time your mind was clear, calm and empty? Completely absorbed in the present moment? For many, it’s tough to remember.
Of all the things I’ve tried to do over the years from starting businesses to running super long distances or helping others find freedom, by far the most challenging has been staying present. For most of us it’s not natural. We’ve been trained almost since birth to constantly be multitasking and getting as much done as possibile in the littlest amount of time.
It’s easy to forget that life is not only about accomplishments, tasks and goals. Those are all great but too much focus on the past or future leaves little to be enjoyed right now. And now is all we really have.
This constant focus on getting things done and what’s next is where most stress comes from.
It is ok to not be busy all the time.
Ever since Eckart Tolle made presence famous, I’ve been compiling shortcuts to the Now. (His book The Power of Now had a mind blowing effect on my thinking. Very worth the read).
Most of these are available no matter where you are. All you need is your mind. Experiment with them and adopt a few routines to reclaim your moments.
20 Presence Hacks
1. Breathe. Presence starts with the breath. Feel it coming into your body and out. What temperature is the air? Feel your stomach expanding and contracting. Picture air filling your lungs.
2. Enjoy breezes. I read about a man who’s favorite thing in the world was breezes. Every time he felt one, he stopped everything and just enjoyed it for a few moments. Imagine how amazing his life must have been. The more triggers we can have to bring us back to the present, the better. They could be breezes, smiles, running water, clouds, anything. What are yours?
3. Savor your food. For most of us eating simply means chewing. Usually done while rushing to the next task. When was the last time you consciously paid attention to each bite? How the food tasted and how it felt against your teeth and mouth? It’s almost impossible if you eat on the go or while you do other things. Sit down and just be with each bite.
4. Smell. Deep focus on any of the senses will naturally bring presence. Next time a smell catches your nose, stop and enjoy it. Let it be one of your presence triggers. Close your eyes and let the aroma take over.
5. Be extreme. Do a wild and crazy extreme sport, where your life depends on your focus. Presence is a requirement. That’s why rock climbers, sky divers, downhill skiers or competitive martial artists are often addicted to their adventures. It provides the exhilarating feeling that nothing else in the world matters.
6. Marvel at your body. Be in awe of how it works. While exercising give intent attention to each muscle group, joint and bone and how it functions to make your movements possible. Yoga is a great practice because it’s based around this awareness. But any sport gives you a reason to marvel.
7. Do some yoga. On that note, let’s get flexible. Yoga gives focused attention on your breath and body movements while getting a kick-ass workout. Ultimate mind clearing.
8. Get into nature. Observe the colors, notice the life in every direction, breathe in the air. Nothing beats some intimate time with nature. Even a short walk can be all it takes.
9. Count. If our mind is racing with ideas, one technical method is to push the chatter out with another mental task like counting. You can count your breath or nothing at all. Close your eyes and see how high you can get before your mind wanders. Make it a game.
10. Unplug. Technology is the killer of presence. Shut off the phones, social networks, email notifications, computers and anything else that needs power. They all distract us from our moments.
11. Give a toast. Or anything that makes you super nervous. I consider things like speeches to be extreme mental activities that have a similar effect as extreme sports. When addressing an audience, you’re forced to be right there. Being scared helps with presence too and speaking is most of our biggest fear.
12. Listen. Hear what the person with you is saying. Listen intently and actively respond. Be engaged.
13. Be captivated. Sunsets are my favorite way, and recently I’ve found the same in sunrises. Allow yourself to be in amazement of something around you.
14. Watch a movie. This isn’t permission to become a couch zombie, but movies can draw your focus like nothing else. I make them a weekly or biweekly treat. Much better than TV with distracting commercials and sometimes shallow story lines. Get absorbed in a good plot and for a couple hours everything else disappears. For extra credit pick something inspiring or emotion-provoking.
15. Observe the world. Notice the people walking down the street or a man mowing his lawn or a dog being walked. Simple everyday things, in isolation, can offer awesome calm.
16. Be alone. No distractions. No people. Just you and your thoughts. Try it out in nature. Makes a great setting to try any of the other twenty on this list.
17. Change your environment. When things are overwhelming or your thoughts are going wild, leave the room. Go outside, talk to someone new. Simple way to break a challenging pattern.
18. Get some help. Guided breathing and meditation can be enormously powerful. I carry a number them on my iPhone to throw on in if I ever need to slow down. Jon Kabat-Zinn has some great CD’s. Can be a useful before bed and after waking up routine.
19. Realize you’re not present. As soon as you realize you’re not present, you’re present. Might only last for a second, but it’s a start.
20. Have nothing to do. Give yourself permission to do nothing. Clear away the clutter and just be. You might get more done than you think.
And a Bonus (and the most important of all):
Do one thing.
Presence in it’s simplest form comes down to doing one thing at a time. That’s it. This goes for anything in life, not just the above. If you’re running, then focus on running. If you’re eating then savor the food. If you’re brushing your teeth then feel the brush moving back and forth. If you’re reading an article online then tune everything else out (especially if it’s this one…).
If something is important enough for you to do then it’s important enough to deserve every ounce of your attention. Leo Babauta at ZenHabits calls this Single-Tasking. If it doesn’t have your full attention, it’s likely a waste of time.
Being Present Takes Work
For most, there is nothing more challenging than tuning out the world and being right here. Don’t be hard on yourself. Just be conscious of it and slowly incorporate the above or whatever works for you.
I used to think people who sat around or traveled without a book or journal were missing out on so much.
Now I realize that perhaps I was the one missing the action as I had my nose buried in a book when I could have been breathing in the scene or making a connection with the person right next to me. Reading, learning, writing and accomplishments have a very important place. But so does the opposite.
Schedule some time to do nothing today. Just be. Without it, you could be missing your most valuable experience of the day.
What are you best Presence Hacks? Please join the conversation in the comments section below. Even a few words or one sentence goes a long way.
If you liked this article, please Tweet about it or tell your friends on Facebook using the links below. And It’d be awesome if you’d forward it to anyone you know it could benefit. Thanks!
Other Resources to Help You Along the Way:
The Art of Slowing Down: 12 Simple Steps
Photo Courtesy of: vramak
Title Credit: Leo Babauta’s post Top 10 Productivity Hacks of ZenHabits inspired the title of this post. Thanks Leo.
James ScottPosted at 05:36h, 06 October
I could really relate to this post of yours! I am an undergraduate and I can tell you that I’ve been having a very stressful lifestyle for almost all of my academic years. I will definitely take note of this “hack” and practice it. I am very sure it will benefit me and those who practice this as well!
ScottPosted at 09:33h, 08 October
Awesome to hear James. I only wish I would have had a clue about this stuff when I was in University!
Thanks for stopping by,
XandraPosted at 06:29h, 06 October
Your last bit of of advice, did kicked it at my heart. In a good way that is. I am always wanting to do everything and finishing everything all at once. But the problem is, I never get it done at all! I should really learn how to take things one at a time. I think that is much more efficient!
ScottPosted at 09:35h, 08 October
That’s the wild paradox. You’d think this multitasking would get us through things much more efficiently. But it always comes back to Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. It’s amazing. It should be a huge relief. After all it feels so much better to tackle one thing at a time. You get your whole mind in one place!
HendersonPosted at 06:34h, 06 October
My number 1 present hack in life is to be thankful for what I have.
I dont need a BMW, when I already have a toyota.
I dont need a Rolex, when I already have a casio.
I dont need many girlfriends, when I already found one that I truly love.
Be thankful for what you have and you will be the richest among people.
ScottPosted at 09:37h, 08 October
Haha. I could not have said it any better. Assuming we’re above ground and breathing, we are already rich. We can do anything with that. Focus on the wonder of what is, and not just on what could be later on. Simple as that.
TomPosted at 06:39h, 06 October
Great say Henderson! And Scott! Great advice on life! Hmmm, for me I would say, to just go out and enjoy! Cause we only live once in this world! So you have got to loosen out and live life the way you want it! Yeah!
ScottPosted at 09:37h, 08 October
There you have it Tom.
Presence in a word: Enjoy.
jptexasPosted at 10:50h, 06 October
To expand on your “Do One Thing” advice…Leo Babauta once wrote a post that I found very helpful. It was something like…Only plan do do one thing today-only one thing-pick that one thing and get into it-when finished, plan on taking the rest of the day off. Though it may sound somewhat irresponsible, it really has unexpected results. There is NO better way to focus on a task than deciding it’s the only thing you will do that day. And, most likely, when you finish the task, you will pick another one and do it that day as well–you are free to choose, but don’t plan on it. I found this to be a very pleasurable and very NATURAL way to work. Felt like this is the way we were meant to operate.
ScottPosted at 09:39h, 08 October
So right on. I love his Single-Tasking. I am actually almost finished with Leo’s book, The Power of Less, and it is hitting that home so heavily (in a great way). And if you only focus on one thing, you are much less likely to try to rush through it half-ass so that you can get to the next 10 things on today’s list. Love it.
Joe WilnerPosted at 15:22h, 06 October
Very good insight and list of ways to come back to the present moment. Whether it’s the human condition or the way the mind is made, it seems that a stream of consciousness or wandering thoughts is a part of life. We can certainly learn to break away from our wandering thoughts with many of the ideas suggested in the post. It is those things which are automatic, like eating, walking, and breathing that can help keep us grounded in the present by focusing on them. Very helpful, thanks for the post!
ScottPosted at 09:42h, 08 October
Thanks Joe. All of us know how to be present, we just forget because there are so many distractions to take us away from it. Focus on what you’re doing and enjoy. That’s it.
Andrea DeBell - britetalkPosted at 20:38h, 07 October
Hi Scott! I’m an Eckhart Tolle fan also. I believe practicing mindfulness is a great way to stay in the present. Like you said, do one thing at a time. Mindfulness has been a growth process for me because I’m a multi-tasker by nature.
Thanks for a great post chock full of wonderful tips. Loving blessings!
ScottPosted at 09:44h, 08 October
Awesome Andrea. So glad you took to it. Eckhart’s stuff is incredibly powerful. Not the quickest reading but super profound ;). Let’s do our best to kill that multitasking !
Thanks for dropping by,
Be Present Today!Posted at 22:00h, 07 October
[…] A Guide To Right Now […]
AdriennePosted at 09:45h, 08 October
Hi Scott, you’ve put together a wonderful list! I especially love the “trigger” idea…the little things that bring us back into the moment. As you mentioned, one of my triggers is “smell.” Scents like freshly baked pumpkin pie, ripe grapes during the harvest, fresh cut roses…
Something that brings me back into the moment that wasn’t on your list is spending time with my dog. She doesn’t know how to NOT be in the moment. For her, every moment is new and exciting, whether it involves walking, chasing a ball, chewing a bone, snuggling on the couch, or lounging in the sun. If you want to really live in the moment, live life like a dog every once in awhile. 😉
ScottPosted at 15:20h, 14 October
You said it! Playing with an animal should definitely be on that list. Also, act like a six year old, is a pretty good one. They are always right here being so curious.
DandyPosted at 11:37h, 08 October
Wonderful post. I grew up in a stressed out, chaotic household and grew up thinking that’s just how life is. I thought every single thing had to come at a fight. I didn’t really experience what peace was untill I was an adult and choose stability over stress, peace over chaos, letting go over controling everything. I think it takes alot of surrender to become mindfull. It is so worth it. Great tips, thanks!!
ScottPosted at 19:20h, 18 October
It takes a lot indeed. It’s so wild to me to realize that it is something we are in control of. We just have to take note and doing something about it.
Patti FoyPosted at 13:57h, 08 October
Oh, I just love Tolle’s message(s), he has been a HUGE influence on me. In fact, when your email came thru (I’m subscribed), I was in the middle of a post draft where I was referencing him as well. With such synchronicity, I must comment!
Your #14 about watching a movie is interesting. For me, I’ve noticed there can be a fine line between whether being involved in something is really being in the moment or if it’s a distraction from the moment — thus your couch zombie comment, I guess! Same activity, different “space”. Ultimately, it seems very much about the “how”, not just the “what”, which he talks about quite a bit toward the end of his book “A New Earth”, which I highly recommend.
I notice that when I am really present, where my attention goes is not as important as that there is a “background” awareness of who I am… or better yet, THAT I am. When that’s the case, I can feel the life energy and the wonder, which is the ultimate payoff IMHO.
Thanks for another great post!
ScottPosted at 19:23h, 18 October
Thanks Patti! I actually hesitated to include the Watch a Movie point. It’s easy to get carried away with it but it is a nice and relatively easy way to forget the worries of the world for a bit, especially if you’re watching something inspiring that serves you.
A New Earth is on my list for sure!
Tess The Bold LifePosted at 17:22h, 09 October
I think all mothers need lessons in mindfulness because we’ve spent our lives multi-tasking. I’m becoming more aware of no. 3…it’s not easy;)
I’m looking forward to meeting you tomorrow in SF. Tess
ScottPosted at 19:25h, 18 October
I can only imagine how difficult it is for a mother to stay present…My hat goes off to all of you. My sister just had her first baby so I can relate a tiny bit ;).
I agree with #3. The awesome thing is that so many of the ‘hacks’ I listed are genuinely enjoyable things. So this should give us all permission to do a few more of them!
MarciPosted at 12:57h, 10 October
I’ve based my success in school and work on being productive and managing multiple tasks at once. Yet, this doesn’t translate to relationships and relaxation! Stillness and presence is always more rewarding to me than accomplishments. While others may recognize what I accomplish, it’s not the same as being completely present.
I’m reading your post, as I am winding down my weekend of “spontaneous relaxation.” I didn’t have anything written on my calendar for 3 days – that is rare! I decided to catch up, which including catching up on not having time limits or places to be. I did get some tasks done, but in my own time frame. It wasn’t squeezed in between multi-tasking!
The Power of Now has been on my reading wish list for awhile – thank you for the nudge. My favorite presence tips are: yoga, listening, nature, mindfulness. I can watch a movie while my mind is racing on other topics. Lately, I’ve been asking myself whether or not this is something I want to think about now, and it usually isn’t. The hardest part for me, is having young kids, and feeling like my time to myself is so limited. Do I cram a lot in or just be – I go back and forth – kind of like balance 🙂
ScottPosted at 19:28h, 18 October
Your 3 Day session sounds amazing Marci. Nice work on making that happen. In the beginning it was almost impossible for me to spend timing being present for no other reason than I always thought it was a waste to not always be doing something (or multiple things). Society has trained us this way. All the rushing and doing goes against our nature and our bodies though. And it wears us down. After all, are we “human doings” or “human beings”? Let’s not forget that.
MarciPosted at 04:38h, 19 October
Human beings not human doings, I like that 🙂
Luke MiddendorfPosted at 16:18h, 11 October
Great information. I always find myself feeling anxious if I’m not doing something “constructive.” This is a good reminder to slow down every once in a while.
Oh, if you’re looking for an interesting extreme sport you should check out the Warrior Dash. http://www.warriordash.com/
ScottPosted at 19:31h, 18 October
Thanks Luke. I have actually been looking into things like Warrior Dash but I’ve never seen this one. It looks awesome! Something to add on the list for sure. I sense an 2011 challenge coming on…
Tess The Bold LIfePosted at 06:21h, 13 October
It was fun meeting you Sunday even though we didn’t get to talk much like I thought we were going to when you sat down next to me;) I sure hope Leo does it again.
Currently I’m learning to savor food. I think I quit when I began multi-tasking. I’m also daring to do an all day training for a company. I’ve never did an entire day before and it’s the most I’ve ever been paid. So I’m freakin’ out but breathing along the way!
These are great tips and it’s funny I love breezes as well. I fell in love with them growing up and working on our family farm as a kid. We put in long hours in the fields and they were a welcome joy under the hot sun!
ScottPosted at 19:33h, 18 October
It was awesome meeting you too Tess. I’m very impressed with what you’ve created so far, and I want to hear more about this corporate training. What’s the topic? Nice work on nailing that down. I look forward to our paths crossing again in person for sure. Hat’s off to Leo and Mary for getting us all together.
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Rene GlezPosted at 17:06h, 11 December
Hey Scott, great post. I really need to start living in the present. I day-dream too much.
Thanks for sharing 🙂
ScottPosted at 19:31h, 13 December
It’s a constant process but pretty amazing once you start the practice. One of those things you never actually fully check off. But that’s what makes it awesome!
KatiePosted at 06:44h, 12 December
That guy in the picture makes me very present! Whoa. But seriously, laughing is one way I get present — keeps my mind from wandering back to work or blogging. A good giggle helps me to not take myself so seriously and, like you said, sort of changes my environment.
ScottPosted at 19:32h, 13 December
Ha ha. So true Katie. How chill does that guy look?!
Laughing is tough to beat. Something you could literally never do enough of.
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