I was taking a walk in Theodore Wirth Park today. It’s utterly beautiful out, 70 degrees, light breeze, fluffy clouds and blue sky. Some leaves are just starting to turn but it’s still very green and there are pops of color from wild flowers here and there. At one point I realized I wasn’t actually noticing any of this because I was occupied with something going on in my mind. It wasn’t anything dramatic. Honestly, I think I was thinking about a video I had recently seen on YouTube. But there I was, surrounded by all this beauty and I wasn’t paying attention to it at all. I had walked blocks and hadn’t really noticed a thing. I was far away and detached from the present moment.
This happens to all of us, all day long. We are doing one thing and thinking about another; or worse yet, we are doing several things all at once and not really paying attention to any of them. We are looking at our phones while eating dinner and watching TV all at the same time. Our society is so full of stimuli that it makes it really hard to focus, be calm and stay grounded.
It’s no wonder many of us have a hard time dealing with life when it becomes difficult. We aren’t paying attention to it even when it’s going along just fine.
Luckily on my walk I snapped out of it. I realized what I was doing, and even though there was a little pull to keep being lost in my thoughts, I overcame it and looked around.
There are a few things I have found that help me be in the present and ground myself. The first thing I did is look up. It’s extremely common for people to always be looking down, and in the age of cell phones it’s actually causing back and neck issues in some people. Even without a cell phone, when you are lost in thought and a million miles away, you will naturally be looking somewhat downward. By looking up, you can break that pattern and re-adjust your brain. It changes the normal view and you will notice things you normally wouldn’t. If you look way up, it brings your body into an extension that helps open up your body and your energy flow. People just don’t look up very often. There’s some cool stuff up there. I recommend it.
The next thing I did to bring myself into the present is I mentally named the things I was seeing as I looked around. It made me connect to each thing specifically and I began to notice details about my surroundings. Tree, sidewalk, grass, I named them and made a point to notice them and suddenly there I was, back in my body and feeling that nice breeze and basking in the sunshine. This technique is actually good for calming yourself down if you are feeling upset. Not only does it give your mind something to focus on that’s neutral, it brings you into the present and gives you some space to breathe.
After my inventory I took a moment to do one of the easiest ways to ground: I noticed my feet. I felt them against the ground; I felt the sensation of my shoes and socks as I walked. Then I took it a bit further and extended my energy and awareness past my feet into the Earth. It only took a few seconds, but it totally changed how I was feeling in a positive way.
The truth is, most of the things that upset us are in the past and we are just replaying them in our minds or we are imagining things that might happen in the future. When we take a minute to bring ourselves back into the present, we can focus our attention effectively.
We can’t change the past, no matter how much we want to and the future never really comes. We are here now and it’s the only place where we can do anything at all.