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Serenity through Presence, One Moment at a Time

Many times in life, things do not go according to our plans. Our computer will no longer accept a password we are sure we saved correctly, or we found a leak in our toilet, and the water dripped to a lower level in the home, causing water damage. If we were calm before this event, that moment of tranquility will dissipate in a blink. The line of thinking can go to, “how the heck am I going to pay for this mess?” This leads to outburst of disbelief and instantly looking into who to blame for the situation, accompanied by cursing, anger, and unrest about the circumstances.

       In these tumultuous circumstances it becomes nearly impossible to see things for how they are unless you have had prior practice. For instance, forgetting one's password is pretty standard. As annoying as it is to go through the process of resetting your password, it does not take that long to complete the task in most situations. Water damage in one's home can cause significant financial strife and overall anxiety, but whether we like it or not, something like this is often a part of home ownership. Fact is, with time things do fall apart, nothing stays in the same state for eternity. If one expects to buy a home but then believes will not have to invest in it, is out of touch with reality.
       Keeping our composure during difficulties is not easy. If it were always easy to remain calm, then there would be no market for all the anxiety-reducing drugs and medications used in our society. Treating a mental diagnosis through a healthcare provider or an individual self-medicating themselves to numb the pain of existence are two examples of the difficulty of stabilizing our mood. Although life will continue to give us challenges until our final days, it becomes vital for us to develop the skills to stabilize our mood as much as humanly possible.
       While one goal of mindfulness meditation (Vipassana) is insight/awareness, an equal mind state to that aim is concentrative meditation (Shamatha-Buddhist term translated as "tranquility of the mind"). Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn also included Shamatha in mindfulness-based stress reduction in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts, which popularized this ancient practice in the west. 
       One does not necessarily need to undertake concentrative meditation practice immediately. Occasionally pausing at your desk while at work or before bedtime, focusing on your breath for a minute and nothing else. It can give you a momentary calm in the middle of a hectic day or help settle your mind right before going to bed. 
       Experiencing those moments of calmness might lead to curiosity about how to develop a concentrative meditation practice.
       How does one practice concentrative meditation? 
       Meditating with Physical Sensations: Practice this method for 3 or 5 minutes, at least once a day, or more if you need it. Rest your awareness on the sensations in a specific part of your body, such as your forehead or face. Notice the sensations you are experiencing, such as tingling, warmth, itchiness, or pressure. Just allow yourself to be aware of the sensation for a moment or two, then let go of your attention and let your mind rest as it is.
       While the calming aspect of this practice is essential, another equal component is developing our ability to focus. Our minds will naturally wander off no matter what we focus on. However, the practice of bringing our attention back to the breath or whatever physical sensation we choose repeatedly throughout the time we participate in concentrative meditation.
       How this translates from the "cushion to our lives" can be all-encompassing. Think about the times you have been talking to someone, and your mind starts to wander off from the conversation. Or, you have been staring at your computer for minutes and completely went off track, and you're not doing work. There are many scenarios where our minds go on autopilot or default mode, and we are not focusing on the present moment.  
       It is crucial to understand that staying in a focused state throughout the day is not humanly possible. What is doable is to improve our ability to pay attention over time. If we can improve our attention span by 1% each month, how different would life be a year from now or three or five years?  
       Improving our focus can enrich our lives so much that it becomes impractical to consider not trying. Think how more present we would be in our families, passions, and lives. The impact over time is something that could not easily be quantified. However, we know it would change things significantly. Do not risk going through life without having your focus at its highest level; who knows what you might miss.

Vertis Williams is a Positive Habits Life Coach and a Mindfulness Trainer. He is a regular presenter at employee and team-development events. Contact him to request more info on his Workshops or on his Coaching Services! Click HERE to Request a Complimentary Habit Coaching Session!

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