I’ve been listening to podcasts on the Barkley Marathons and a little bit of Tom Segura. I’ve been alternating decaf with a little bit of Gatorade and water. I’m completely enjoying my drive to Boston where I’ll get to spend a few days with my son. It was a tradition that we started when he was 12. We’ve done it off and on since he went off to college, and even through Covid.
Though I’ve cleared my calendar for the next few days, I can feel my attention being pulled elsewhere. And ‘elsewhere’ is always on problems. How am I going to set these next workshops up? I need to make sure that I get back to this client on Thursday. What are we gonna do about the next trip to Pennsylvania? These are all legitimate and valid issues mind you. I realize this. but I’m not there right now. I’m in the car, trying to remain focused on the good time that I’m having… But my mind won’t have it.
I think this is pretty common for most people. In fact, it’s common for the whole human race. That’s how we’ve survived without the benefit of claws, fangs, or fur! We all have a built-in voice, I like to call it, our inner critic. It’s that voice that lets us know that we are not completely out of danger yet! You may feel like you’re having a good time or you’re about to have a good time… But don’t get too comfortable! You still have a lot of things that could go wrong in the future.
Maybe I’m not a hunter-gatherer looking for berries anymore, I’m probably not gonna starve. I have no trouble finding clothing. The roof over my head’s been taken care of, but that doesn’t stop a 200,000 year old safety program from running in my brain. The truth is the more exciting the moment, the easier it is to stay in it. Excitement comes in all shapes and sizes, all forms really. It could be exciting because you like what you’re doing and it’s stimulating, or it can be exciting because you’re rubbernecking on the side of the highway and trying to see what happened to the car that’s off the road. Stimulation is stimulation. At least it is to the brain anyway.
In the podcast I’m listening to, Dr. Elisha Goldstein, a psychologist and author, is saying that our central nervous system is overstimulated. One of the very first steps that we can take, he says, is to slow down. Simply be mindful and aware of how quickly you were doing things and deliberately bring the speed down.
But the real question is, how do I stay available to do that? How do I keep my attention on what I’m doing right now in the present moment at hand instead of creating a future that doesn’t exist?
One of the greatest things that you can do to keep yourself present is what I like to call freeform awareness. No need to jump into the lotus position or fold your legs over your head in some kind of classic yogic meditation. Although these things are really awesome. Freeform awareness lets you use what’s at hand in the moment that you’re in where you are.
All you need to do is to notice, through your five senses, everything that’s going on for you at any moment. Like Dr. Goldstein says, slowing down is enormously helpful. Just taking a moment to notice the signs on the roads, what you’re hearing, what you’re smelling, what the temperature is like, who you’re speaking to (if you’re speaking to anyone); noticing everything and anything going on around you. Your mind can’t be in two places at once, so the moment you’re noticing anything your five senses are picking up in the moment that you’re in, then you are in the moment that you’re in.
Another great tool that you can practice is anticipation over anxiety. Look, we all know it’s easier said than done to stay in the present moment, especially if it’s not exciting. It’s easy for our minds to wander, and when they do, by default, they are going to wander to the problems that we have. This is where you can learn to build your mental-emotional muscle. Just as there are things that are in your future that you’re not looking forward to or pose a risk that can create anxiety in you, there are also things that you probably have coming up in the future that you can look forward to. You always have the choice on where you put your focus. You don’t have to stay in that feeling of anxiety. Choose to place your focus on something that is motivating, nourishing, or exciting for you and you’ll create anticipation for what’s to come.
I am passing exit 13, which is Newport. I’m noticing that I have about 32 miles until I can get to a rail trail in Grantham, New Hampshire. There’s a lot less snow here and it’s already 42°. I crack the window so I can get a little bit of air. Even these small awarenesses put me in my center a little bit better. I am really grateful for this trip with my son, and, if I feel my mind get tripped again, well, I’ll think about the fact that I’ll be going to the movies with my son tonight, which will bring joy to my heart!.
If you would like to learn tools and skills to help you improve your emotional aptitude, reduce your emotional isolation, lessen your avoidance of shame, fear, and anxiety, and enable yourself to reach your goals, break old habits, or create new ones, I can help. I provide emotional resilience coaching, so you can achieve your goals. We can meet either virtually or in person at my office in Waterbury, Vermont. Just click the button or the link below for a free consultation and let’s talk.
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