I have decided that the next step in my self-improvement process is going to be increasing my focus on being in the present. Impressively, many others have written about the same topic recently.
Zen Habits included a guest post by Mary Jaksch called Survive and Thrive: How to Transform Anxiety into Inspiration. While I don't find myself dealing with high levels of anxiety most days, not being present is a source of anxiety because of the focus on things we have no control over. She has several suggestions for how to deal with anxiety. My favorite is "practice meditation". While I do not meditate, this suggestion reminded me of breathing as practiced in yoga, an exercise I have found quite calming and transforming. Her encouragement to do this for three minutes several times a day is completely achievable. I will start this today.
A second recent post on Zen Habits called 8 Ways Doing Less Can Transform Your Work & Life touched on a similar theme and directed its readers towards simplifying their lives in order to be able to focus on the present more clearly. It is so easy to over-commit and get caught up in the multitude of things around us. We pride ourselves on being able to multitask six things at once. We have no idea what we might be missing. What worries me most is that these simplifying goals come across as though they are a luxury, when instead, they should probably be as essential as food, water, and shelter for a quality peace of mind. The most important part of the post for me is this: "Change gradually, but surely."
5 simple ways to cultivate inner peace on positively present showcased the International Day of Peace and connected the desire for international peace with the need to gain peace within ourselves. She wrote, "We don't have world peace because too many people lack inner peace. There isn't peace in the world because many people aren't at peace with themselves." I think that this is quite profound, especially because in many ways, it makes world peace seem that much more attainable if each of us really do have a role to play. Her first way of cultivating inner peace is through a focus on the present, thus avoiding inner conflict over the past and the future.
One of the best ways to be in the present is through laughter. The Jungle of Life posted about this in Laughter Revisited. Coincidentally, Donald and I experienced this on Sunday night. We had been out to dinner with his family and he was feeling somewhat giddy from the wine and the company and was in a silly mood. We had turned the light out and were settling in when my phone rang. It was my mom, so I took the call and chatted with her in the dark for a few minutes. When I got off the phone, I leaned back down towards my pillows and banged my head into the wall behind me.
Donald had removed my pillows and in the dark I had no reference point for the location of the wall. My first reaction was "ouch". A split second after that, when it dawned on me why I had hit the wall instead of my pillows, I raged, "You moved my *$^# pillows!" Donald pulled me into his arms and I fumed, giving into my anger and shooting daggers at him in the dark. A second or two later we were giggling helplessly. We didn't stop giggling for fifteen minutes, even after settling in again and trying to fall asleep.
Giggling like that with Donald was a moment of complete abandon. We were both completely in the present, together. Our laughter made everything negative disappear from the room. If that is what being in the present is like, bring it on!