When I was 18, I visited a Zen monastery. For the first time, I meditated for 3 days straight–the hardest thing I’d ever done. It hasn’t become easier since then.
If you’re anything like me, you probably feel similar about meditation. Forcing yourself to sit down on a daily basis requires an incredible amount of discipline.
Perhaps you set out to make meditation a habit multiple times, and failed. Or maybe you can’t even get yourself to do it once.
Sitting down? Buying a cushion? You just want to be more present. But it seems like all the advice out there caters to the idea that meditation is the one thing that you ought to do for your health.
But what if you can’t get yourself to do it the standard-way?
1. Your Partner
An intimate partner is the best tool for mental presence you will ever encounter.
Why? He or she is around you most of the time.
Try to remember the last moment you were totally present with your partner. Aware only of them. When did you look in into their eyes, literally ignoring anything else around you?
Hopefully before you split up to go to work this morning.
It’s easy to get caught up in the daily routines of everyday life. You go to work, come back from work, eat, watch TV and go to sleep. Never truly paying attention to anything, your days become a blur of color where you don’t even know when one day beginning and another one ends.
You might come home from work and have a lot on your mind, so you give your partner a robotic kiss. You might even go to bed without really looking at each other even once.
But what if you practiced forgetting about everything else and start paying attention to your everyday activities? What if you left everything at work and brought only one thing: unwavering attention to the things happening right now in your life.
Accessing the present moment through the love you feel for your partner is the easiest way to get in contact with your higher self.
Next time you spend time with your partner, remember that they can literally serve you as a gateway to a state of presence. Focus in on their eyes, breathe their existence and fully take in their company.
Try to express your love or attraction for them through your eyes. Zoom in. Before you know it, your forget yourself. You become present.
And your relationship will benefit, too.
Eating is one of the most pleasurable things we can do. It’s no coincidence that people have business meetings over lunch. You probably took your first date into a restaurant, too.
Food and the process of consuming it has the capacity to relief our minds from the stress we experience. It makes us present. Why do you think so many people stress-eat and snack when they feel sad? Eating makes you temporarily forget your problems.
There’s a keyword here: temporarily. Do you know the way most people eat? Fast. Possibly holding a cellphone. Likely watching TV. (Long dinners around a big table are old school.)
Whenever I’m at work, for example, I have to eat fast an only between customers. I don’t chew properly. No enjoyment. And every time, it leaves me feeling dissatisfied and annoyed.
If you eat like that, the presence you feel will last no longer than the duration of your meal.
But what if you ate for 1 hour instead of 15 minutes? What if turned every meal into a form of meditation.
You probably have about 3 meals a day, perhaps some snacks. Changing your habits around food will add up quickly, multiplying your Zen-monk capacities.
Next time you eat, don’t just eat.
Try to have lunch together with somebody else. Talk while you eat. Taste what you’re eating. Chew, don’t swallow.
Invite friends for dinner. Laugh. Pause every now and then and remind yourself how lucky you are to have food on your plate. Focus on the food, not on what your boss did at work today, or who broke up with whom.
When you eat, nothing else matters.
Many people work in an artificial environment, or go to school in grey concrete buildings. You use the car or the train to commute, and the air you breathe is not exactly nourishing.
No wonder you get into your head after a long day. Pale colors everywhere. It’s not your fault. It’s literally your environment which facilitates a lack of presence.
But not so long ago, you were an ape. You walked around endless fields, climbing trees and breathing clean air.
One of the easiest things to do in order to get in touch with the now (which is really your natural state) is therefore to return to nature. It’s always there, waiting to assist you in accessing the present moment.
You only need half an hour. Pick the nearest forest or park and go for it. If you don’t have any of that, being by the sea will do.
You don’t have to sit down and force yourself to be present. Do whatever you want. Play something, have a picnic, walk around. You’ll get into a present state just by smelling, seeing and experiencing your surroundings.
Hows that for a magic pill?
Recently, my mother told me about spiritual friend of hers. The last time they met, she asked my mother: “How is your spiritual development going?”
This woman is supported by her husband, and has all the time in the world to do yoga and other spiritual practices.
My mum laughed and answered: “I don’t really have time for spiritual development. I simply try to be mindful and appreciative of every moment I have.”
Personally, whenever I meditate, I feel great. And if you can get yourself to do that every now and then, I’d highly recommend it.
But it’s not a necessity to sit down and meditate. Far from it. The things that are linked to happiness; a present mind as well as gratitude, can be practiced on a moment-by-moment basis.
One great way to be in the moment is to give your full attention to your partner, or even a friend.
Another approach is to eat every meal as if it was your last.
So is going out into nature, and letting your thoughts dissolve in the chaos of the threes and waters around you.
Throughout your day, you will find an endless opportunities for getting into the now. If you start with a few, you’ll make it a habit to seek them out.
Over time, you’ll be able to mediate without ever having to sit down (although it helps).