Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why Be Stressed, Pre-occupied, Fearful? Just Be Present!

Being in the lion’s pit of life is interesting at times, isn’t it? This is real tongue-in-cheek stuff. One day or even one afternoon can present so many opportunities to become waylaid with worries, fears and anxieties… enough to last the rest of the day, and into the next, easy!

But, this is where control over our troubled mind and our mental processes can come to our rescue.

Recently, I had the privilege of reading an extraordinary piece of wisdom titled, “Practicing awareness in everyday life.”[1] It’s all about the subject of awareness; the skill of staying in the present. The author says it’s the most important skill that we could acquire.

The issue is about how much of our awake time we spend partially or completely distracted from our present activities, because we’re focused on the past or future--“neither of which exist.”

As we experience life, there are so many things that have just gone or are about to hit us that consume our ordinary thinking. This leaves us drained of the attention we could place in the present. No wonder we struggle to listen to people properly half the time.

This subject is all about staying ‘in the truth.’ It’s about sticking with our senses and what they tell us to feel, in the moment. We’re told to focus, particularly around decision-making, on what we’re actually thinking, feeling, saying and doing--that is, we need to be intimately aware of ourselves.

Even simple tasks such as brushing our teeth should require all our ‘manual’ attention. The objective here is to train the mind to think manually, and resist our preponderance to go into mental autopilot. We should “practise awareness until we can operate ‘automatically on manual’, so we can choose to ‘manually go to automatic’.”

What this means is once we’re trained to be aware at will, we then have the ability to become more competent over our attitudes; we become ‘attitudinally competent.’ We can then screen out the unhelpful emotional distractions, scheduling our focus on these for times when we wish to deliberately reflect on the past and plan for the future. We effectively hold the moment (emotionally) and deal with it at a predetermined time later.

We should become adept at being a silent observer of ourselves, being attuned to our thoughts, feelings, words and actions. There is no more basic a goal for a person to have than to become self-aware, and that continually so.

We must resist allowing our minds to wander and meander in undisciplined ways; sure, when we watch a movie and want to relax, a free mind is fine; but truly, do we think an unfocused mind dribbling through the immediate past or near future is helpful? It can’t possibly be and the “running of ‘old part-fiction movies’ is insanity.”

Reflection and planning must be restricted to “fully truthful” aspects. We need to determine what truth there is, sifting out the innuendo and assumptions.

So, let’s get to work on not being pre-occupied mentally and simply stay in the moment practicing awareness. Even during so-called stressful times, we’ll benefit from the fresh perspective and strength that comes as a result.

[1] Daniel Kehoe, You Lead, They’ll Follow: How to inspire, lead and manage people. Really. Vol. 3 (North Ryde, NSW: McGraw-Hill Australia, 2004), p. 74-75. All quotations in this article come from these two pages of the book. Daniel Kehoe acknowledges the contributor, David Deane-Spread, as the author of this particular article. All quotations herein are from the source article referenced. More on David Deane-Spread at

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