As we enter the season that holds so much – some joy, some overwhelm perhaps, great expectations, high anticipation, and often times some disappointment and exhaustion, we have the potential to experience a full spectrum of emotion in both our professional and personal lives.
What a better time of year to really practice, embody, model and teach present moment awareness and being RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW?
Present-moment awareness involves monitoring and attending to our current experience rather than predicting future events or dwelling on the past. And present moment awareness is good for our health; it lowers our levels of perceived stress, improves our mood, decreases anxiety and depression, and improves our overall sense of well-being.
During this season, it’s so easy to get caught up in the anticipation of the future – preparing, shopping, baking, entertaining, visiting, cleaning, etc. that it truly becomes the most wonderful time of year to practice present moment awareness and allow ourselves to be right here in the midst of whatever is arising – whether it’s joy, overwhelm, excitement, or sadness.
Being present to our emotions and experiences actually frees us up. Often, we unintentionally pull ourselves, students and children out of the present moment by turning attention to the future… ‘It’s okay, honey, remember we have the holiday party tomorrow, it will be so fun. This time next week we will be on vacation and just relaxing. I can’t wait to… Calm down so we can … Stop crying, you’re fine, let’s get you a snack.’
With practice we can embrace the fullness of our emotions and be okay just being with them. It’s a gift to our children when we can hold space for them to have their experiences without us trying to change or fix it. And practices are meant to be just that – practiced or repeated often to create a habit. Check out some practices to support you in enhancing your present moment awareness and improving your health and overall satisfaction with life.
And remember your presence IS the best present!
What makes this work hard is that we are not wired to actually stay present! We are wired to be safe ~ and so planning, anticipating situations, conversations and events and reactions often dominate our thoughts. In the meantime, however, we tend to MISS SO MUCH of the beauty and joy that life has to offer. But with practice we can rewire the brain- literally! So, be patient with yourself, have some grace and begin!
Whether it’s a holiday concert, a staff party or holiday baking, see if you can truly ENJOY the present moment by focusing on the sensory experience: deeply listen to the music at the concert, really taste the food at the holiday party, look with wonder at the holiday decorations and lights. Often we miss the fun and part of the experience by stressing over when we will get back to work, how we will get it all done, or (my go-to) making lists of all the things we still need to do. Wherever you are, set the intention that you will be there – fully! And when you notice you’ve launched to the future or past, gently smile to yourself and return.
When we become overwhelmed or stressed our breathing gets shallow. We receive less oxygen to the brain. Deepen your breath. Feel your feet on the ground and lean back a bit. When we are focused on the future we tend to lean forward in space, notice how pulling your head back a bit allows space for life to come to you instead of you going at life.
They say it feels better to give than receive, but if the receiver is reluctant to receive it robs the giver! Embrace what you are given – gifts, cookies, hugs or an extra pair of slippers you don’t need and just really allow yourself to receive. Challenge yourself to fully receive with appreciation and not jump to guilt or expectation that you need to return the gift!
Your presence is the best gift! Listen, be still, stay seated – stop cleaning up and sit with your guests or students! Look them in the eye, be curious and full of wonder. Our presence is often the most valued gift and many times the toughest to give because we are busy and trying to get things checked off our to-do lists.
Often we are most moved by movies because of the music that sets the tone for the events or situations. So, why not choose a soundtrack to set the tone for your events?! Whether you’re wrapping, cleaning, planning that last minute assessment or entertaining guests, enhance the moment with music. It softens us, moves us and opens us to joy.
See the good in front of you. Often this time of year is full of distractions. Students are excited, maybe even less focused (aren’t we all?!) And often performances and rehearsals interrupt teaching time. See if you can keep your focus on the good that’s happening and not jump to the loss of teaching time or get too focused on the lack of sleep due to a couple of late nights. Observe students and guests connecting and enjoying each other’s company!
Redirect yourself and those around you
When you notice the focus on the future, just redirect attention to the present moment by gently asking, “Yes, that sounds really exciting; and what are you doing right now?” Ironically, by saying this you will also bring yourself back to the present moment as well!
Hold the space
This is probably one of the toughest, but again most valuable. This holds true for yourself or others, but it’s amazingly powerful. When our students or children are overwhelmed, over-stimulated and appear to be falling apart – which may look like checking out, having an attitude or actually laying on the ground crying, that is when they need us most. Stay present. Watch them cry, listen to them yell. We often think that giving space is what is needed, and sometimes it is, but the truth is we all need people to stay the course with us when we are at our worst. You don’t need to say anything, often again our presence is what heals. Just stay and breathe through it with them. And do the same for yourself- when you’re melting down, melt and have some grace yourself.
And, finally, just remember that being present doesn’t undermine the power and need to focus on the future through planning and dreaming at times. It just means that when you are dreaming- do just that and only that… DREAM!