“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”
If you have attended one of my workshops or read my book The Practice, you know I talk a great deal about Focused Attention—the second part of Living Present. Although I present The Practice in parts, Focused Attention can be practiced all day long—from morning till night. So, exactly what is Focused Attention? In my book I explain it this way:
“We are present to only what we are doing—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.”
Isn’t this a beautiful approach to life—“honoring each moment by giving it our all”? Eckhart Tolle calls this the power of NOW. Our lives are made up of a series of moments that pass quickly. If we aren’t present for those moments (for example, if our mind is going a mile a minute or our attention is spread too thin because we are doing many things at once), our lives can actually pass us by without much notice! Then we wonder why the days seem to be passing so quickly—faster and faster, in fact.
I believe a main reason for this is because we are being drawn in many different directions by today’s technology. It seems to be the norm now to have a phone beside one’s dinner plate or to talk on the phone while surfing the Internet. But who really wants to live like that—without giving full attention to the moment? Truly, if we’re not careful, we could miss the moments that make up our beautiful lives!
Many of us have been raised to be multitaskers—myself included. I am definitely not suggesting we give up this formidable talent cold turkey—so, you can breathe now! Rather, I suggest choosing one or two daily activities and making a commitment to do only that one thing for however long it takes.
For instance, when you are interacting with another person, focus only on your conversation—not on the papers on your desk or the noises your cellphone is making. Or, if you are making dinner, be totally present to the preparation of the meal—chopping, seasoning, sautéing, and so on—rather than on what your mind is saying about yesterday, today, or tomorrow.
An excellent opportunity for practicing focused attention is when you meditate. During meditation, you are focusing your attention on your inner self, using an object such as your breath to keep your focus. Here, you are training your mind how to remain focused on just one task. This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about teaching daily meditation first thing in the morning. In this training, you are actually cultivating your ability to be more focused throughout the day.
So what are the benefits? Moments when you are entirely focused on what is happening or what you are doing, using all of your senses to experience the richness of that time, allow you to experience life in “full color.” It’s not some black-and-white rerun of times gone by or a vague (and maybe even stress-provoking) look into an uncertain future. What’s more, when we give the present moment our undivided attention, there is an incredible gift offered to us. In my book, I go on to say:
“The present is the only opportunity we have to make the choices that define our lives. In the present moment, we have the gift of choice. We cannot choose in the future, and we cannot choose in the past. Neither exists. This gift of choice is only available to us in the moment.”
What a wonderful way to live our lives—to know that each moment is there for us to experience in its fullest and to take the individual actions, no matter how ordinary they seem, that are in line with how we want to live our magnificent lives.
On my website, I’ve included a list of the benefits of Focused Attention, which I discuss more in depth in The Practice. My favorite of these is “Helps reveal blessings.” The biggest blessing for me is knowing that every moment is a precious opportunity to live my life to the fullest and that the experiences I encounter—positive, negative, or neutral—bring me that much further along on my personal journey.