“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
I love my work. I love running a business and I spend large portions of my day on my phone between emails, texts and client calls. I have perfected “being in the zone.” When I’m really focused on work, its almost like nothing else exists. I like to think when I close my laptop, I can shut work off, but my brain just doesn’t do that. Last night, my daughter crawled into my lap while I was working and proclaimed it “bath time.” I closed up what I was doing and took her to the bathroom where we filled the tub with bubbles and I hopped in with her. I was kind of proud of myself for shutting down early and focusing on Madeline. Until Madeline starts belting out “Let It Go” from Frozen at the top of her lungs and I realized that I had been sitting in the tub with her this whole time, running through my to dos and planning out my trip, not paying any attention to her at all.
I think the key to being present in your life – for your kids, your husband, family, friends – is to set some ground rules for yourself, to attend to the things that would distract you from being fully present for them. Here’s what I suggest:
1. Plan and then let it go
I’m so busy, and let’s face it, I’m one of those driven Type A people that I actually have to force myself to shut down in order to be present every day. Sometimes, I even put reminders in my calendar to block out time that is just for Madeline or my husband. But I also know that if I plan my day – schedule out every project I need to work on and stick to it, that when it’s Madeline’s turn, I won’t have all those work tasks looming over me, unfinished. Every morning, the first thing I do is to take time to plan out my day. I’m not talking huge to do lists – I hate them, and will quickly ignore them if they get too long. And then stick to the time I promised to be present. If I don’t know what’s coming, I can’t even make the time for my family or myself.
2. Define ‘meditation’ and then do it
Again, I’m Type A. The very thought of sitting still with my legs folded, back straight, palms up on my knees – doing NOTHING – is excruciating. Two minutes, five minutes, ten. It actually causes stress trying to live up to some standard of what I’m supposed to be doing. The idea of meditating is to create a calm, clear, centered mind and there are a million ways you can do that if the ‘usual’ definition of meditation doesn’t work for you. I’ll do an extra long yoga class because I know I actually need the first twenty minutes to get out of my head. Running is another meditation because I get out of my head and into my body. If you can devote yourself to taking some time each day – whatever way works best for you – you will quickly see the value in having a clear, calm mind for everything else.
3. Create Phone Rules and enforce them
I admit it. I am all but surgically attached to my phone. Once it is in my hand, I am on it nonstop until I put it down again at the end of the day. Texting, emailing, phone calls – ALL. DAY. LONG. I have three additional batteries charging at all times so that I can switch them out as the day goes on, in addition to the battery in my phone, and I will go through ALL of them in one day. But I realized that my family was suffering. I was suffering because I could never put my phone down.
So, I had to create rules for myself and then force myself to live them. @hayleyhobson
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I don’t charge my phone at my bedside, so I’m not tempted to look at it if I wake up in the night, or the minute my eyes open in the morning. I force myself to wait a little while when I wake up in the morning before I check it for the first time. When I have a family day, the phone stays home.
Putting Madeline to bed last night, I didn’t bring the phone in with me. She started telling me this story. I just sat there for twenty minutes listening to her talk to me, completely focused on her story. That is what being present means.
I have just given you three great tips to help you live in the present. In what ways do you get distracted? When do you notice it the most? I would love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below.
Hayley Hobson is an author, speaker, business coach, yogi, Pilates instructor, and holistic nutritional expert based in Boulder, CO. Her unique and intelligent style promotes strengthening while softening—empowering her clients to heal not only their physical bodies but their hearts and minds as well. To learn more about her nutritional courses, events, and custom programs, visit hayleyhobson.com or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.