Life unfolds in the present. But so often, we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush past unobserved and unseized, and squandering the precious seconds of our lives as we worry about the future and ruminate about what’s past. We’re living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, decoherence. Most of us don’t undertake our thoughts in awareness. Rather, our thoughts control us. Ordinary thoughts course through our mind like a deafening waterfall.

Living in the moment—also called mindfulness—is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them. Mindfulness involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away. Instead of letting your life go by without living it, you awaken to experience.

To improve your performance, stop thinking about it (unselfconsciousness).

I’ve never felt comfortable on a dance floor. My movements feel awkward. I feel like people are judging me. I never know what to do with my arms. I want to let go, but I can’t, because I know I look ridiculous. Loosen up, no one’s watching you, people always say. The dance world has a term for people like me: “absolute beginner.” Which is an accurate and true observation. So step one is without judgement to simply acknowledge our truth. In terms of dancing it means sitting down on a bench and tapping my feet to the beat as the music thumped away in the background.

This is a basic form of present-moment awareness. Being right here right now. Just let go and let yourself be with your skills as they currently are. No judgement and no expectations – we are just being and beginning.

That’s the first paradox of living in the moment: Thinking too hard about what you’re doing actually makes you do worse. If you’re in a situation that makes you anxious—giving a speech, introducing yourself to a stranger, dancing—focusing on your anxiety tends to heighten it. Focus less on what’s going on in your mind and more on what’s going on in the room, less on your mental chatter and more on yourself as part of something bigger. To be most myself, I needed to focus on things outside myself, like the music or the people around me.

Focusing on the present moment also forces us to stop overthinking. Being present-minded takes away some of that self-evaluation and getting lost in your mind—and in the mind is where we make the evaluations that beat us up. Instead of getting stuck in our head and worrying, you can let ourself go, to stumble, to be ok and learn something at each point.

This is simple awareness or presence. Tomorrow we look at “savoring” the present or stopping the worry about the unknown.

Peace and Love, Jim

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