On Being Present

My mind has a habit of drifting, wandering, and I find myself carried away. Either into a warm, nostalgic memory, or some vision of the idealized distant future. I love teaching and practicing mindfulness with my clients, but I have to ask myself, how often am I utilizing this technique for my own self-care? During a short visit to the Carolinas this past week, I had an insightful conversation with my grandmother. She asked me a simple question: “are you satisfied with your life?”. A question that I’ve been hesitant to ask myself lately. Living so far away from my birthplace, I was infatuated with this brief homecoming, basking in past memories, taking in the golden, feathery sunsets and lush greenery, gazing up at the massive old trees, comparing it all to the scenery of my new home. As if I were trying to decide which landscape I prefer, which one feels more authentic, which one reflects where I need to “end up”, or “settle down”. Which is why this question seemed so daunting. Am I satisfied? Expending energy hazy with nostalgia or hyper-focused on future plans, will I ever be? Life never turns out quite the way we plan or imagine (although sometimes, it’s even better), and obsessing over that can be self-destructive. In my graduate program, we often discussed a phenomenon called Destination Addiction. It’s the unattainable idea that whenever a certain goal is reached, happiness will automatically follow. We also discussed the theory that we remember events in a better light than when we actually experienced the event. These cognitions are what can keep us disillusioned and distant from the present moment, from current, ongoing happiness. Practicing mindfulness (being present and nonjudgmental in the moment), appreciating the little things that make us feel at home, and focusing on the amazing aspects of everyday life, these are a few basic essentials for self-care and feeling satisfied. Sunsets are beautiful anywhere, but we have to be present in order to appreciate them.

How do you stay present?

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