For a few years in the nineties, I studied under Thich Nhat Hahn, one of my most profound teachers. While attending my first retreat with him, he said, “Life can only be found in the present moment.”
So often we are ruminating about the past or planning the future and miss fully taking in what is happening right now. As James Finley says, “If we are not careful, we will miss our own life.”
How do we make the moments of every day count no matter how insignificant or stressful our activities may seem? One way is by practicing Focused Attention. Simply put, when our attention is focused, we are present to what we are doing, and we are honoring the moment by giving it our all. We experience the moment more fully, which gives us a greater sense of fulfillment, gratitude, and ease.
To practice Focused Attention, make a choice to be present to everyone and every thing in your life― one person or task at a time. For example, when eating, really look at and taste your food; savor each bit. Put down the phone, turn off the TV until you are finished. You may just end up eating healthier food, eating less, and really enjoying your meal.
When we practice Focused Attention, we are not bombarding the mind with unrelated bits of mostly random, useless information, se we are more efficient because our minds are not wandering or ruminating while we are trying to get something done. We end up having more energy because we are not so scattered. When the mind is scattered it takes a tremendous toll on our mental and physical energy.
By focusing our attention, we develop more patience in all situations, but especially in those where we are not in control and feel helpless. By simply bringing our full awareness to the present moment we can gain a better understanding of current circumstances, which provides us an opportunity to choose our actions in any situation.
We practice by finding one area of our lives where we can be all in- completely present. Don’t try to practice in every area of your life it’s too much, practice fully in one area and notice the benefits that happen for you. Feel how alive you are living present.