Here are three ways to increase present-moment awareness that I’ve drawn from books I’ve read this year.
All these ways are interconnected and they all lead in the same direction – towards a more joyful, fulfilling experience of life.
I hope you find at least one of them helpful.
The First Way
The First Way is what Eckhart Tolle calls “acceptance”.
It sounds easy.
You simply accept everything that is going on around you right now – and accept it completely. Another way of saying this is to stop resisting the present moment. Or surrender to it.
As you do that, you can feel the tension in your mind diminish. You can then start to notice tensions in your body, which you can release, too. The more relaxed you are, the more subtle the tension you can find, release, and the more relaxed you can be.
Acceptance, non-resistance and surrender sound passive, but the effect is quite the opposite. You suddenly experience an opening up of the senses. An increased awareness of life going on around you in all its forms.
This is a particularly useful technique for dealing with absolutely anything.
The Second Way
I love the Second Way, which is: Make friends with the present moment.
In the West, we have been conditioned to believe that life will be better in the future. Unfortunately, this means we overlook the present moment, which is the only time there ever is. Even more unfortunately, we treat the present moment as an obstacle, getting between us and the happy life we imagine we are destined for.
This is a particularly unhelpful trick of the mind.
Fortunately, the trick is so obvious you can easily spot it and stop it. Next time you catch yourself thinking the present moment is somehow boring, uncomfortable, in your way, or actively going against you – notice the thought.
As soon as you notice it, the thought becomes self conscious. It shrinks. And in the space between where the thought was (dominating your attention) and where it is now (diminishing rapidly), you can change the way you experience the world. Here is where you can choose to see the present moment as your friend and not your enemy.
Here is your opportunity to experience your life – in actual time.
Imagine how enjoyable life would be if you saw every moment as being friendly (even when it appears not to be). Sounds impossible? You can experience it for yourself with a very simple exercise like this one with the hands.
Upgrading the Second Way
Making friends with the present moment is an excellent start, and the credit, again, goes to Tolle. I propose an extension to the idea – or an upgrade: Fall in love with the present moment.
Imagine loving your experience of life, in the fullest possible sense – all the time. What a wonderful way to be.
The Third Way
The Third Way is new to me, and I also love it. It’s what Eckhart calls “Primary Purpose”.
It’s reassuringly simple: Our Primary Purpose is to do whatever we are doing, right now. For me, now, my Primary Purpose is to write this blog post clearly, to try and communicate these ideas in a way you will find helpful. For you, now, your Primary Purpose is to read these words.
There is nothing more to life than what is going on in and around you right now. (Although the more awareness you have, the fuller that experience can be – ad infinitum.)
Primary Purpose is a brilliant way to bring enjoyment to the most mundane tasks. When washing dishes, for example, the Primary Purpose is: washing dishes. Feel the temperature of the water. Notice the soap. Feel the item becoming clean. If you are making a cup of tea, your Primary Purpose is not “make the tea”. It is: walk to the kettle, lift it to check for water, put it on (etc.). One thing at a time. Fully.
This idea came from a long Tolle video I watched the other night and I’ve been practising since (whenever I remember). Here is a shorter video where he covers some of the same points I’ve made here.
Feel free to ask questions.