I am a goal-oriented person and I tend to get wrapped up in achieving those goals. My kids are used to my focus and drive and often jump on board with me (or get out of the way!) but something happened yesterday that caused me to pause and contemplate how to be present in the moment and less focused on the finish line.
Let me tell you the simple story behind these thoughts.
“I want to drive my doodle bun,” says my four-year-old in the van as we drive home from Tractor Supply. “Your what?” I ask laughing because doodle bun sounds hilarious. “My doodle bun” and he laughs too but only because I am.
It took a second but I figured out that he was referring to his dune buggy, a battery-operated vehicle he had just received for his birthday.
I tucked this conversation away in my heart and smiled at the innocence of the blond-haired cutie staring out the window in the seat behind me.
I treasure these moments with my kids because they are fleeting. The period of time when they say things incorrectly and sound cute doing it does not last long.
One day they are in diapers and the next they are driving their own vehicle. I know it sounds cliche but you blink and it’s over.
I fear I will miss those moments and regret the ones I took for granted.
What does it Mean to be Present in the Moment?
As I was researching this, I found that the idea of being present in the moment has just as much to do with your thoughts as it does your actions. Let’s explore what it means to be present in the moment.
First, being present in the moment means quieting your thoughts. Stop thinking about what you are going to make for dinner, do not begin that mental to-do list for your busy day tomorrow. Think only about what you are doing right now.
Allow your senses to take over for a moment.
Do you feel the warmth of the sun on your back or perhaps you hear the sound of rain pattering against your window. Do you smell the muffins you have baking in the oven or perhaps you work in a busy office and the ringing of telephones is your reality?
Pause for a moment and consider what you are feeling emotionally.
Are you drained from a busy week or perhaps hurt by a recent argument with a family member? Are you relishing in memories of a date with your husband or the “I love you” note your child scribbled in the steam on the bathroom mirror?
Secondly, being present means turning off the distractions and focusing on the people around you. For me, that means my four blond-haired (and very active) boys. My husband also deserves my being present; we will get to that in a minute.
Being present means actually listening to their story and not nodding while thinking about something else. It also means putting away distractions like my phone or the tv or pausing in my cleaning chore to look them in the face and have a conversation.
How do I Learn to be Present?
I don’t know if we’ve always been distracted or if it is modern technology that brought this on, but learning to be present takes a conscious effort. It is something we must train ourselves to do just like not fidgeting in church or making eye contact when nervous.
My six-year-old is probably the most active of all my kids. He cannot sit still AT ALL. He gets up from the table during every meal, he impulsively follows every thought that pops into his mind regardless of how dangerous or rude it might be.
This year I attempted a little formal education with him (we are homeschoolers) and I hung that up pretty quickly. Keeping his attention was impossible.
Now, I know this is something he will outgrow with time, but I also think he needs a little bit of training in self-control. He needs to learn to stay seated during meals and to control his mouth.
My point with this story is learning to contain himself is not something that is coming naturally to him and many of us have gotten into the habit of not being present. We need to learn to be present.
If learning to be present is something you feel you need help with, start with these steps:
- Grab a notebook and pen and write everything your senses are experiencing at the moment. Do you feel like you are back in a 6th-grade writing class? Journal those feelings too.
- Journal what you are feeling right now. Explain the emotion and the reasoning behind it if you can.
- Close your eyes and examine every thought that comes into your head. Examine the emotion behind it. Is it making you anxious or afraid? Does the thought make you feel joy or acceptance? Don’t dismiss these thoughts and emotions or try to avoid them.
- Do something you enjoy every day.
- Have daily goals. It is easy to get caught up in everything we have to do this week or this month, but daily goals make it feel less overwhelming and more manageable. Focus only on today’s goals.
How to Live in the Moment with Anxiety
I’d like to discuss living in the moment with anxiety briefly because this is something important my counselor taught me and it has helped me through dozens of anxiety attacks.
After losing my beautiful daughter Rebekah at the age of 8, the grief was unbearable, but the anxiety that came with it was equally crippling.
I became a “what if” person and saw danger around every corner. The anxiety attacks came multiple times a day and I didn’t sleep for months. I felt as if I needed to be in control to prevent another accident from stealing one of my other children.
As you can imagine, it was necessary for me to seek professional help and I am glad that I did.
She taught me to focus on the now and not the what-ifs. She taught me to reduce my anxiety attacks by being present, thinking about how I am feeling, what is making me feel this way, touching real objects, and feeling the softness of cotton or the prickly grass beneath my feet.
I would take my baby at the time and hold him during the attacks, listening to him breathe, feeling his sweet baby drool on my cheek, and running my fingers across his little toes.
Anxiety wants us to think into the future and find fear there. Don’t fall into that trap. God is in the future. God is also in the present. If anxiety is a struggle for you, being present in the moment will help. If you struggle with grief and anxiety, I urge you to read “Can Grief Cause Anxiety? 10 Tips to Help You Cope”
How to Live in the Moment in a Relationship
So, how to stay in the present moment, and what does that look like with relationships? We are going to cover living in the moment with our spouses, kids, friends, and God.
With Your God
Let’s start with living in the moment with God because this is the most important relationship in our lives.
Revelation 1:8 reads “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
God is God of the past, the present, and the future. He has forgiven your past and will heal you of your pains and regrets. He is in control of the future and will guide your footsteps. Most importantly to this article, He is God of the present and wants to meet you where you are at.
The best way to be present with God is to meet with Him every day in prayer, scripture reading, praise and worship, and journaling/Bible writing.
I struggle with clearing my mind when I pray. I always sit down with the best intentions and the next thing I know, I’m hashing over a conversation I’d had with my husband the evening before. Focus, Heather, come on! If this sounds familiar, don’t give up. Keep trying, keep reeling yourself back in, it will get easier.
I have also found that praying scripture helps with this as I focus on each word that I am reading. Praying out loud also helps.
Being present in the moment while reading the Bible is also important. Again, if you are reading with your eyes while your mind is on something else, you are going to have to practice reeling it in.
Read aloud or write verses down. I have found when I write verses down and focus on each word, it is much harder for my mind to wander and I can apply the verses to my present situation.
Put on praise and worship music during your commute to work, while you shower, or before drifting off to sleep. Praise God simply for being God and worship Him because He deserves to be worshipped. Keep wants and needs out of it, don’t ask for anything, simply allow yourself to connect with your creator.
Journal your prayers. I often connect with God through writing. I get less distracted while writing and can get everything out of my head. This helps me to be present with God and not worried about everything else going on.
With Your Spouse
I remember having 5 kids, 9 and under. I was living in a kind of tired fog and looking back it is a bit of a blur. I remember someone telling me that they always made time for date night with their husband, even when their kids were little.
My already exhausted mind swirled that around for a bit and then disregarded it. I was spent, there was no more of me to give.
I must say that now I regret disregarding it. I feel as if my marriage had been put on hold for a period of time and I would love to get that time back. It didn’t “hurt” us as it does some marriages, but it definitely didn’t make us stronger.
Learning to be present with your spouse not only solidifies your marriage and deepens the most important earthly relationship we have, but it is fun.
One day my husband and I took a walk and I chatted on and on like I always do. He was quiet, which is usually the case because fortunately, opposites attract. I was planning the upcoming school year and trying to figure out how to balance everything.
Suddenly, he grabbed my hand and said, “stop planning”. Say what? Stop planning? He wanted me to be present in the moment with him. Physically I was walking beside him, mentally, I was all over the place.
Learning to be present with your spouse means putting physical distractions away such as your phone or turning off the tv, but it also means shutting the door on mental distractions. Stop thinking about work, or the kids, or your financial plan. Focus on being together, right here, right now.
With Your Kids
After losing my Rebekah, being present in the moment with my kids became something I wrote about often. I had taken my time with her for granted and wish I hadn’t. I never wanted to do that again. I found that I have spent a lot of time taking care of my kids, keeping them fed and in clean clothes while sometimes my focus should have been taking care of their emotional needs by being present.
Learning to be present with your kids is something that will change as they mature and change. You will find yourself going from snuggling that sweet baby in your arms to long nature walks, to watching Youtube videos together.
This doesn’t mean that you have to sit and give 100% attention to your child through every waking moment, but be conscious of it throughout the day. Household chores, monotonous as they may be, can be turned into quality time together as you prepare meals, chat while folding laundry, or recapping the day over a bedtime snack.
With Your Friends
Learning to be present with your friends is the same as all of the other relationships we’ve talked about. Friendships are truly a gift from God and deserve giving our attention to. If you don’t see your friends as often as you wish, sending texts, a card in the mail or a phone call can keep you feeling connected.
How to be Present in the Moment: Are You Ready for Action?
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” — Mother Teresa
I would love to hear what you are thinking about this subject. How to be present in the moment is something we can read about but takes consistent action. What steps are you going to take to be present in the moment with God, your spouse, your children, and your friends? Be sure to leave a comment below.