In last month’s column, we covered a focusing exercise to increase your attention span. In this issue, we will address ways to keep your mind more in the here and now of the continuing present moment.
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” — Henry David Thoreau
What distracts you from this focused state is your ego. The ego is the source of the constant stream of thinking that you can get caught up in. The stream involves non-stop analysis, judgments, complaints, labeling, and speculation. It’s the ego that ultimately decides what’s unacceptable, undesirable, unwanted, or shouldn’t be as it is, or at least in its present form.
The ego likes to be in perpetual motion. It believes that if it is not actively functioning by endless thinking, it will become irrelevant, unnecessary and perhaps even die. That is why the ego likes to continually wrestle with problems, solve puzzles, hold grudges, and offer its opinions and advice.
“A full mind is an empty bat.” — Branch Rickey
When egos encounter problems or difficult situations, they frequently do so with overthinking, resistance, avoidance, and negativity. The ego actively opposes the current unfortunate situation because it can’t remain in control and alive without you thinking continuously about the past or the future. It has trouble letting go of things.
To the ego, the present moment of now is relatively boring. The past and the future offer much more to think about — regrets and resentments about the past, or fears and worries about the future. The past contains one’s personal story, and the ego sticks to it, as it replays the memories. From the past, the ego jumps quickly out of the present moment and right into the future.
Many of the ego’s distracting thoughts are not related to the present moment and current condition, and are therefore not real. The only thing that is real is the ever continuing and present moment in the here and now. The here and now is the only place and time when you can focus and have any functional influence, power, or control.
So how do you get past the ego and its preoccupation with the past and future? Simply and totally by accepting each moment just as it is in the now, without hesitation, resistance, or judgment. You don’t have to do anything, other than consciously allow the present moment and current conditions to be the way they already are. Let them continue to be, without your conscious thought or further deliberation. When you do that, you effortlessly enter into the now
You can create a temporary gap in the ego’s stream of thoughts by directing your focus of attention to the continuing present moment and focusing on it as it actually is. In this way, you draw consciousness away from other mental activity and create a gap of no-mind in which you are highly alert and aware, but not thinking with your left-brain ego. In this focused state, you are fully conscious, focused, and fully present.
Being in the present moment of now creates a feeling of timelessness by inserting space into the ego’s endless stream of thoughts. When you notice that your thoughts are drifting into the past or future, just redirect your attention back into the now. Become intensely conscious of the present moment for as long as you can. Keep notes about your progress.
“The present is in the eternal now.” — Abraham Crowley
Focus Exercise — Being in the Now
Set up a time and place where you can have at least 5 minutes of undisturbed time to complete this exercise and take notes. When you’re ready, go for it!
- Sit down and get comfortable
- Close your eyes
- Take several deep breaths
- Bring your mind into your present reality
- Totally accept the conditions of your here and now
- Let go of any thoughts of the past or future
- Try to keep your focus in the here and now
- Redirect it out of the past, future, or other thoughts
- Remain mentally quietly present in the here and now for as long as possible
- Write notes about your experience
When you have had your first few glimpses of the moments in between the thoughts of the future or the past, you’ll find yourself in a focused state of timelessness. You will become more aware of just how rarely you are focused in the here and now of your current conditions.
Just knowing how you are distracted by your ego will help you to concentrate more in the continuing present moment of now, even if it only lasts for a couple of seconds. As you continue this practice, the time will last longer and occur more frequently.
Dr. Don Greene’s latest book is Train Your Own Hero. Dr. Greene, a frequent contributor to Allegro, is a peak performance psychologist and has taught his comprehensive approach to peak performance mastery at Juilliard, Colburn School, New World Symphony, Los Angeles Opera Young Artists Program, Vail Ski School, Perlman Music Program and the U.S. Olympic Training Center. During his 32-year career, he has coached more than 1,000 performers to win professional auditions and has guided countless solo performers to successful careers. Some of the performing artists with whom Dr. Greene has worked have won jobs with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Concertgebouw Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Opera, Montreal Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, National Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the Dance Theatre of Harlem, to name just a few. Of the Olympic track and field athletes he worked with up until and through the 2016 games in Rio, 14 won medals, including five gold. Dr. Greene has authored ten books including “Audition Success,” “Fight Your Fear & Win,” “Performance Success,” and most recently “College Prep for Musicians.” In 2017, Dr. Greene was named a TED Educator and collaborated with musician Dr. Annie Bosler to produce the TED-Ed talk “How to practice effectively…for just about anything.” The video went viral and received over 25 million views across Facebook and YouTube. For more information, visit www.trainyourownhero.com, winningonstage.com, winninginsports.com and collegeprepformusicians.com.