How to Anchor the Mind to the Present Moment.

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“If you think you’re free, there’s no escape possible.”Ram Dass

Mindfulness is more than simply being aware of the present moment and “letting go of the past and future”—it’s a daily practice that helps us develop loving kindness and compassion, as well as equanimity, patience and focus.

When we think of “meditation,” we often visualize a person sitting in lotus position with their fingers perched on their knees in a certain mudra. This is one of thousands of ways we can meditate. Mindfulness meditation can be practiced in any moment, during any and every activity (or non-activity, such as sitting, lying down or standing still).

Formal practice blends into informal practice over time with intention and effort.

We become more present and feel more alive in this moment, right here, right now.

The simplest way to meditate is by finding an anchor to keep us in the present moment. Here are some suggestions:

Mantra

Repetition of a syllable, word, short phrase or poem keeps the mind occupied and helps develop concentration.

Candle flame/fire

Gazing at a bonfire or candle flame (or any image) is another way of developing single-pointed focus and preparing the mind for other forms of meditation.

Mandala

Designing and coloring mandalas is a fun and creative, meditative way of getting in touch with our inner child and practicing mindfulness.

Bell

Whenever you hear the ring of a bell, take a pause. Take the opportunity to take several deep, conscious breaths. As Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, the sound of the bell is the voice of the Buddha.

Music

Listen to a song, whether classical or lyrical, rock ‘n’ roll or any genre, and pay full attention to the sound of the music.

Sounds in the environment

Notice the sounds around you, both close by and farther away. Sounds can only occur in the present, which makes them a great anchor. Even “unpleasant” sounds can help keep us mindful and grateful.

Breath

Feel the sensation of the breath entering and exiting the lungs. Connect with your breath and feel grateful to be alive right now.

Sensations

Notice the physical sensations in the body. If you feel pain, go into the pain. Notice its specific location and sensation. Notice how it changes from moment to moment, however subtly.

Emotions

Turn your awareness to your feelings. Ask yourself, “How do I feel right now?” Lately I’ve been practicing this with a technique taught by Thich Nhat Hanh. “Breathing in, I am __________. Breathing out, it’s okay to feel ___________.”

Metaphor

Picture your pure awareness as the empty blue sky. The mind’s activities are the passing clouds.

Imagine you are walking along a trail with a puppy. The puppy’s wanderings are the mind. When the puppy mind veers off the path, gently pick it up and bring it back.

Visualize sitting at a train station watching people and trains come and go. Becoming distracted by a train of thought means we have inadvertently gotten on a train. Realizing we are onboard, we immediately transport ourselves back to the bench at the station.

Writing

Last but not least, one of my favorite anchors to the present is the act of writing, especially stream of consciousness writing done by hand in a journal. This type of writing is a fantastic mindfulness practice.

The possibilities are endless! What other ways can we keep anchored to ever-changing present?

~

Author: Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Editor: Evan Yerburgh

Image: Pixoto/ Robert Mills

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Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret is a yogi, writer and teacher. Hers is the mind behind Yoga Freedom. Hailing from Austin, Texas, her home base since 2012 has been Lake Atitlán in the Guatemalan highlands where she lives with her husband, daughter and fur family. Michelle has been writing this column for elephant journal since 2010 and has also self-published several inspiring books. Michelle's practice style incorporates hatha yoga asana, dharma/Buddhist teachings, pranayama/breathwork, yin, mindfulness, chakra balancing, mantra and meditation. Go on retreat with Michelle in Guatemala!

Comments

4 Responses to “How to Anchor the Mind to the Present Moment.”

  1. Abhaya Karuna says:

    As a recently diagnosed patient for vascular dementia (not the same causes as Alzheimer's but over time has the same effects), I am interested in any comments that the Elephant might have in coping with the disease..

  2. gobanifar says:

    Thanks Michelle. That was truly enlightening.

  3. Mark Oppenheimer says:

    I think anything we can use to help people understand what meditation is and how to do it is immensely important. But this misses the point completely.

    So, beginning again: your attention will go somewhere eventually, one breath, two breaths, ten breaths later. It will go to the past, it will go to the future, judgment, speculation, somewhere. And that is an extraordinary moment when we realize we’ve been gone because that truly is an opportunity to be very different… we practice letting go, we practice starting over, we practice beginning again out of very great compassion and kindness. That’s actually quite radical.

    —Sharon Salzberg

  4. bexbourhill says:

    LOVELY post. Thanks for the tip. I find walking meditation also helps me quite a bit. I have fibromyalgia and keeping in the present can be a challenge. I enjoy reading articles that suggest ways of doing meditation as it is very interesting to me.

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