I never realized how valuable living in the present moment was until I learned about the theory through yoga, meditation and reading tonnes of learn to be your badass self books. But I was originally introduced to the concept of how to live in the present moment way before that through travel.
Travel forces the body to be in constant motion but allows the mind to focus and stabilize. The mind usually stays there with you in the moment, focusing on the task or adventure at hand.
There’s no time to be overthinking the past or obsessing about the future while overlooking a sunset over Angkor Wat or hiking through the Andes. Life in travel mode happens now.
While gallivanting, there are so many stimulants keeping the senses occupied that it’s easy for things to stay fresh and exciting. And with that level of excitement, why would your mind wanna go elsewhere?
Then, when you finally have a moment of calmness while sitting on a long flight or lounging in a hammock, the vibe is so smooth that the over-chattering mind still doesn’t kick in here either.
In my 20s, I spent most of my days either gallivanting through exotic countries or packing my bags to move to yet another temp home. These situations made it very common for me to live in the present moment without even realizing I was doing it. I had to in order to stay safe and to be able to completely enjoy the adventure that I was living. I never realized how uncommon this present moment living was until I started settling into a less travel-filled lifestyle.
My mind in sedentary mode
Once I ended up in a more “settled” lifestyle, it took no time to notice how drastically different my mind was. Stillness and routine created new habits for my mind.
I spent a lot of the working days lost in daydreams about remote lakes and ridiculously green hillsides. Commutes were times to obsess about the past (what if I would have… I can’t believe I said/did/wore…, etc.). Conversations with friends were a chance to fixate on the doom of our futures and any chance I actually got to be still and connect with my mind was unconsciously filled with Whats App, Spotify and sudoku.
I no longer spent my days hanging out comfortably with the task at hand. The present moment had somehow become a distant friend I hadn’t gotten to hang out with in a while. Instead, my mind was kept distracted and occupied by complete shenanigans all day long: deadlines, chores, appointments, all being done quickly and unconsciously, like a robot. I moved from one task to the next, never even realizing I was doing it.
Even in social contexts, it always seemed so rushed. More friends, more events, more plans, making new plans while I´m still in the current plan to make sure I didn’t even get one nanosecond to just be. Be here, in the now, with myself.
This seemed to be the norm for most of my peers too; spend as little time in the present and in stillness as possible. Keep the mind busy and distracted so that we don’t have to confront it’s sadness/madness/weirdness/confusion or whatever other negative emotions were trying to avoid.
But this way of life wasn’t working for me. I was stressed, I was disconnected and I felt like I had veered off course. I knew that something wasn’t working for me, but I didn’t understand what.
My guide to living in the present moment
Then randomly one day at a second-hand bookshop, I picked up a book that would change my life forever. This book would become like the guide my next, most important, adventure yet.
The book, The Power of Now, taught me something that I subconscious knew as a traveler but needed to understand in more depth to be able to bring to my new more static life.
This new adventure guide helped me realize that the only real moment in life is this very moment, the now. Five seconds ago only exists as a memory in my mind and one minute from now could be a world apart from what I imagine it will be. And constantly allowing our mind to do run-throughs of those “fake times” is a waste of brain power and unbeneficial to our wellbeing. Then even worst is that we tend to identify with all those bazillions of thoughts that we allow our mind to generate about those “fake times”.
Then instead of dealing with the dissatisfaction of our thoughts about the past, or the fear of our future, we tend to seek shelter in busyness and distraction. Numb the brain so that we don’t even realize the bad habit we’ve allowed our mind to create.
The beauty of learning how to live in the present moment is that it gives us freedom from needing mind distractions. So much peace and tranquillity can be felt from being able to be still and quiet with ourselves. Finally, it seemed like there was an escape from the distraction and busyness addiction that had become a part of my norm.
Check out this short video that pretty much sums up the Power of Now in cartoon form.
The wild adventure starts here
I never even finished the book, I was too eager (well plus I wasn’t totally digging the author’s flow. I LOVED his ideas, but I didn’t love his writing style). A little bulb had gone off in my head. I was ready to live my regular day-to-day life with the mental habits that I had developed during my travel-filled days but without the constant movement.
I wanted stillness, I wanted present moment living, I wanted happiness and life satisfaction.
The pursuit of these things became my new adventure. I was going to search and connect with the real Jo, not the Jo my annoying chattering mind convinced me I was, but the real me. To do that, I would learn to be present.
I never imagined that after over a decade of gallivanting the world, the biggest adventure of my life would be my journey to the now; a place that has existed so close to me all along.
This journey to the present moment has had tonnes of enriching benefit, the main one being to help me connect with the true, authentic me.
Trips to different countries and mysterious, new cities have always been key experiences of growth and learning for me, but nothing has compared to this new journey that I’m talking about. I don’t wanna sound cheesy, but there is no other trip that I’ve been on, where I needed so much courage and strength to take each step of the route. Traveling the world may be exciting, but traveling to explore the internal workings of your mind is a whole other kind of exciting.
Figuring out how to live in the present moment
For anyone who has no idea about what the hell I am talking about, I invite you to take a peek into the wild world of living in the now and do the following activity. I promise, it´ll only take a second (by a second, I mean 5 minutes).
- Sit comfortably, but get rid of any hunched shoulders or excessively rounded back.
- Take a deep breath in, taking the air in slowly and consciously. Then, breathe out. (Do it for real, I’ll wait…)
- Bring the type of awareness you have while feeling the wind in your hair to the movement of the air within you. Feel it’s strength and its presence.
- Feel the air move through your body. Notice where it’s most obvious to you. Maybe in your nose, throat, stomach or chest.
- Keep feeling the air come in and out of that part of your body for a few minutes.
- If you get distracted for a sec, don’t panic. As soon as you realize you’re thinking of whatever else, just go back to paying attention to your breath.
- If you can, do this for 5 minutes.
How do you feel now? Maybe you feel a bit less tense or with a bit more space in your chest or in your back? Ok, I get it, this 5-minute exercise hasn’t changed your life. But can’t you feel a tiny bit more peace than you did before doing it?
Planning our adventure into the now
Slowly, while I build the library of articles and guides on this blog, I’d like for us to become like travel pals. But not the let’s travel the world together type of travel pal. Instead, I’d like us to share this journey of discovering different ways of creating a more present, authentic and conscious way of living.
The first step in adventure planning: deciding the destination. So, you’ll need to start by deciding where you’d like to live each moment of your life adventure: in the past, in the future or right now. If you decide that you’d like to be more present with the experiences that fill your days, then I’d say, let the adventure begin!
Warning: this route can be bumpy and uncomfortable sometimes, think 24-hour bus ride of hell through the mountains with a wacko bus driver but for the mind and soul. It can be hard and discouraging, but I assure you that its worth it. I wouldn’t choose any other route.
Interested in getting on course to living your own authentic path? Sign up for the You Choose the Way newsletter to get weekly tips to find your own true life trail, and I’ll send you a FREE copy of my new workbook GETTING YOUR SHIT TOGETHER. Think of it as a mini-manual to help you create your own personal life map.
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This info is priceless. Where can I find out more?