What Does it Mean to be Fully Present?

To be fully present is to accept the moment as it is; to live life in the now.

In our society, we spend so much time living in the past or the future instead of living in the present.

As Buddha says:

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”

There are so many benefits that come from living in the present moment. From combating depression and anxiety to bringing back joy to life, the benefits are numerous. With presence, every part of your life becomes an experience to be enjoyed.

Why not make it a goal for yourself to live in the now?

Recently, I have been emphasizing presence in my life and trying to live in the now.

Throughout my life, I tended to focus on the past and the future, never the present. Unfortunately, I missed out on some of the most precious moments in my life, along with missing out on loved ones in my life!

After a series of health problems and sadly the death of a close loved one I came to a major realization. I was taking so much of my life for granted and tuning out of the beauty of the present moment.

Your body has a way of telling you when you are not living in the present.

The power of living in the present moment is life changing and helps you open up your eyes to see all the beauty around you in life. It also helps you heal yourself and your body. It is a reminder to your whole system that you are in the now.

As humans, we constantly live in the past due to the traumas we have endured, the decisions we should have made, and the paths we should have taken.

We also are taught to live in the future. Think of the famous question: “What is your 5 year plan?” The funny thing is we really do not have control over this next 5 years, let alone tomorrow, or even 10 minutes from now. And that’s okay! Time in this sense is a made up construct that we try to control by “planning” and thinking about the future. In reality, time may not even be there, the future may not exist, at least in the way you think.

For me, living in the present is the key to living a truly fulfilling life. It’s a reminder that life around you in the present moment can be even more exciting than you would think. In the present, you become more creative, more alive. Your senses heighten. You start noticing the brightness and colors of those fall leaves, the sights and sounds all around you. Your breath starts to stand out. You become grateful for your existence in this universe and for this breath and body working together to allow you to live today.

Over-thinking, worrying, and analyzing wither away, and acceptance takes its place. This is huge for me, since I am an over-thinker and analyzer by nature!

Being present is healing, especially for past traumas we endure throughout our lives. I have been reading the book The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. Presence  (i.e. living in the moment) helps you realize that the body is not enduring a past trauma. It is a wake up call. It stimulates your “higher functioning” brain (called the medial prefrontal cortex) to realize you are not in the past, but in the present. What ever caused you suffering before, it is not here now, it is in the past.

I will delve deeper into this in regards to  my own personal experience with this as a healing process in the future. It is something I am constantly working on to deal with previous traumas and dampen down my stress-response – to live more in the moment

Presence has supported me in dealing with the past, healing my body, and being a better person to myself and to others.

Want ideas on how to start living in the present moment?

Start with taking a deep breath all the way into your belly. Notice your breath moving throughout your entire body. Thank your breath. Thank your body and your lungs. Notice your body and feel yourself in the moment. The now. When you breath, you are living in the now.

Whenever you find yourself thinking about the past or stressing about the future, take yourself back to your breath. Pay attention to the beauty of your breath.

Another way I live in the present is by doing something that brings me joy. I love dancing. I turn on my favorite Hawaiian reggae music and start dancing and singing along. For me this works to bring me happiness and joy.

Finding presence may be different for you. You may like taking a walk outside, noticing the color of the leaves on the trees or the birds flying around you or you may even want to play with your pets or kids.

If you find yourself not living in the present, try one of these.  These are all phase changes: ways to get out of your head and into the present moment. Try them and see what works for you.

About the Author

Sarah Ferrante, Ph.D.

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