By Megan Fowler
During one of my various trainings as a Jumpstart Corps Member I was introduced to the idea of “Being present.” This has turned out to be one of the greatest pieces of advice I have received so far.
In today’s modern world we are constantly bombarded with overwhelming amounts of stimuli that are competing for our attention. From cell phones and social media to homework and co-op applications there are endless activities, responsibilities and social interactions that are vying for our focus. As a college student there is an immense amount of pressure to simultaneously maintain good grades while balancing all those other factors, as well as getting involved in clubs and figuring out how to prepare for post-graduation life. This barrage of pressure and responsibilities occupies our thoughts in an unceasing battle, making it hard to focus on one thing let alone the multitude of tasks on the ever growing to-do list. This is where the importance of being present comes into play.
Making an active effort to be present can be a coping mechanism for everything that is running through your mind which, let’s be honest, is only adding stress and pulling your attention in a million directions.
It can be extremely hard to shut off everything in your head and wholly dedicate your attention to the current moment, so here are a few tips I have to help you learn to be present:
Take a breath
Being present starts with a breath. Each breath is a new moment and by focusing on taking a deep breath you are beginning to actively make an effort in narrowing your focus to the present. In through the nose, out through the mouth.
What are you doing right now?
At the same time that you are taking that first deep breath start to change your thought process. During that breath ask yourself “what are you doing right now?” Right now you are reading, but are you being present? Where are your thoughts? Your emotions? Your hands? Your sense of time? In this moment you are reading … that’s it … so just read.
Be a witness
Take care in noticing the little details of the moment. Observe what is around you, what you are doing, the details of any interactions you are participating in. Don’t just let the moments pass by but be sure that your mind is not lingering on the past or dragged down by anticipating the future.
Let the rest go
All those other factors that are beating at your mind must be let go. While participating in your service placement there is nothing else in that moment that you can change or control. All you can do is live in that moment, or miss out on it worrying about all the things waiting for you at home. Whatever is not there in the moment, let it go. Be there, right there, right then. Be here, right here, right now. That’s it.
Come back to the breath
Being present takes a lot of practice and active effort. When you realize that your thoughts have barged in and you have lost your focus, just restart. Come back to that first breath and start again. Let go of everything else that is not involved in the moment, become aware of what exactly it is that you are doing and notice all that is in the moment. Be present.
With dedication, being present can change the way that you experience life. Your memory formation is strongest when you are fully attending to the situation around you and the task at hand. College offers so many opportunities and it would be a shame to miss out on fully enjoying them because you are too busy battling the thoughts in your head or distracted by your phone. Whether you’re serving at your community partner, taking an exam or just spending time with your friends, take a breath, focus on what you’re doing, and let go of the rest.