Each moment we are offered a beautiful gift called “the Present.” This gift is offered unconditionally to everyone; we don’t need to be kind, do any spiritual practices, or do anything in particular to qualify for it. All we need to do is to show up and consciously, gratefully receive it.
But most of us are so distracted by our thoughts and by the busy-ness of our lives that we only occasionally show up to fully enjoy the Present.
Living in a world where there is so much distraction, it takes strong intention to live in the Present. It also takes consistent practices to support that intention.
Below are 5 simple practices which I, and many of my retreat clients, have found very helpful:
1. Start each day with a minute or two of deep connection. The first minute is a time of great leverage; a small investment of time can yield powerful results. While sleeping, we’ve had a break from the incessant chatter of our minds. If you’re watching closely, you’ll notice your mind turning on within seconds of awakening. If you can bypass the mind and focus in a way that brings you deeply into the Present, you’re affirming to yourself that this is your priority for the coming day. Focus on your breath, on feeling gratitude, a mantra, a prayer or whatever is most meaningful to you.
2. Take at least 20 minutes in the morning for sitting and/or moving meditation. Having a longer immersion in the Present before you get started with work is very helpful. Doing a combination of sitting and moving meditation works well for me. When sitting, I drop in as consistently and deeply as I can into the Present/Self/Heart. Then I do yoga with the intention of staying in the Present while moving. Walking, running, Qi Gong, and Tai Chi can also be great moving meditations. What makes it a moving meditation is your intention and focus. Practice coming back to the Present whenever you notice you’ve drifted into thinking about the past or future.
3. Take frequent breaks during the day to come back to the Present. At least once an hour, if not more frequently, pause and notice where your intention is and how you are feeling. If you’re not Present and connected, take at least a minute to drop back in. Any of the practices suggested for first thing in the morning are equally helpful throughout the day. Also going outside for a few minutes and connecting with nature is a great break if you’ve been on the computer/phone/etc.
4. Take a Sabbath day each week. If you have a busy life, it’s extremely helpful to dedicate one day each week for renewal and reconnection. As much as possible, don’t have a schedule or a to-do list. Be in the Present and follow and do whatever is most nurturing and fun. Spending extended time in nature, doing longer meditations, having relaxed time with your partner, a family member(s) or close friend, making love, taking a delicious nap can be great Sabbath activities.
5. Go on a Retreat at least once a year. Take at least a few days, if not a full week, for deep immersion in the Present. Getting away from your home and being in a beautiful natural environment (by the ocean, in the mountains, or desert) is often helpful. If you’re deeply grounded on your spiritual path, going solo is very powerful. You might also find that a guided retreat can be an effective way to deeply come Home to the Present. Let your heart guide you in which one to choose.
To see an overview of the Mount Shasta Retreats my wife, Alex McIntyre, and I offer, please click here.
If done consistently, these practices will help you break the habit of getting lost in thoughts and busy-ness, and will empower you to live more in the Present. Doing so will inevitably bring greater Peace and Joy into your life.