Sunday, September 8, 2013

What's Next?

I've been thinking about this question a lot lately.

I do stuff--and sometimes don't do--in an effort to "get it done" and move on to the next thing.  The thing is, though, once we move on to the next thing, we're then thinking about the next thing after that.  It's a vicious cycle.  We've never "arrived."

The question "What's next?" is one that pops up hundreds of times each day.  The question, in a sense, directs our lives!  We ask ourselves this question, consciously or not, in order to know where we're going.  In thinking ahead, though, we aren't living in the now.

Say you're peeling garlic.  You chop off the hard, nubby base, peel the skin and begin to slice it.  As you're slicing it though, you're thinking about how after you finish slicing it, you're going to saute it in some oil, to which you'll then add some veggies, which is going to become a stir-fry with the rice, which you also need to prepare.  You then think you should be doing rice preparation first instead of chopping garlic since the rice takes longer to make and you don't want to be eating at 9:00 because then you'll be getting in bed too late for your early day at work tomorrow, and, boy oh boy, it's going to be a long day.  Luckily, you're having dinner with a friend after work so all you need to do is make it through the day and get all the stuff done you need to and then you can relax and enjoy dinner...except even then you'll be thinking about the next thing after dinner!

See what I mean?

Unfortunately, thinking ahead is often not as innocuous as how to orchestrate dinner preparation.  Usually it's more self-destructive in nature, occupying the form of worry, fear or stress.  While we can't totally zap thoughts like these and say "I'm not going to think ahead; I'm not going to worry/fear/stress," we can definitely work at it, and by doing so, we'll be able to cultivate greater happiness and contentment by living in the present, which is the ultimate goal, after all!

Here are three easy ways I've devised to be more present:

1.  Literally SAY what it is you're doing.  Preferably, do this somewhere privately so you don't get weird looks, but if a public space is all you've got, then try it out!  "I am walking.  My left foot is stepping down and now my right foot is.  I am looking at my feet as I speak in order to observe what it is I'm doing."  I know this sounds nutty but I GUARANTEE you you will not be thinking about Wednesday's dinner if you try narrating your actions in the moment you're doing them!

2.  Create atmosphere.  Whatever you're doing, be it a blog post or folding laundry, create a space in which you feel present.  For some, this might mean lighting candles and opening the screen door in order to hear the birds outside;  for others, it might mean turning on Pandora and turning off all overhead lights!  Whatever your environment of choice, create it for yourself!  By so doing, you'll be focusing your senses more on what they're actually experiencing in their immediate, physical surroundings, rather than thinking ahead to other things that don't actually exist.

3.  Lastly--finish all the "have tos."  If you get all the stuff done that you dislike or need to do, then you'll be able to focus on the enjoyable [hopefully] actions of the moment and not dreading the next things because they'll be done!

So I ask you, are you living presently?  What, if anything, do you do to stay in the present moment?   Please share your thoughts!  I'd love to know, too, if you found helpful any of the suggestions I offered!

With love, light and happiness,