There’s a lot of talk about the present moment so in this blog I’m going to explore what the present moment is and what the healing effects of the present moment are.
For many years I heard people talk about the present moment but had no real idea what the fuss was about. Then something happened around 4 years ago; I suddenly became aware that I spent most of my time listening to the thoughts in my head. And while I was engaging with that never ending stream of narrative, I was missing what was happening in life, in front of me.
From that moment I’ve been fascinated with exploring what this present moment thing is; how to be in it more and the positive benefits of it.
What is the present moment?
I’ve written about the present moment and how nature can help teach us about it but I don’t think I’ve ever really explored with you what it is.
The way I see it is this…
We have what is happening. That’s what I like to call ‘the facts’. This is also the present moment. So right now for me the facts are that I’m sitting at my laptop, typing, while it rains outside.
Then we have the story of what is happening. That could go something along the lines of “I don’t know what to write, this is boring, why does it have to rain? I hate the rain. I’ve got no energy; it’s so dark I can’t wake up….”
More often than not we inadvertently end up taking ourselves out of the present moment because we are listening to the internal judgements about it.
In attempting to make sense of the present moment our mind creates a story of what it believes is going on. This is based on past conditioning, experiences, habits, what we’ve been taught and a whole lot of other ‘baggage’ we’ve collected along the way.
You’ll notice that when sticking to the ‘facts’ (‘what IS’) there is very little discomfort, struggle or suffering. I’m sure you’ll notice, even in my silly example, that if I started to believe the story of what is happening there would be a lowering of mood and possibly a stepping away from the activity of writing.
When staying with the facts, with no judgment or interpretation, there is just the simple act of fingers typing on the keyboard and a noticing of rain.
What happens when we leave the present moment?
As a world expert in making up stories that I believed to be true, it was a huge relief when I realised that I no longer had to believe those stories.
Don’t get me wrong, my mind still creates them and I often disappear into them leaving what’s real and true behind for a while.
But then I wake up and notice what’s really happening. And as soon as I engage back into the ‘facts’ the discomfort disappears.
So what happens when we leave the present moment?
It starts with the brain…
The brain is a wonderful thing but it hasn’t evolved in one area. The response to fear.
When we are threatened by something a whole series of reactions happen automatically in our body. To keep it simple, when there is a threat our ‘fight or flight’ system is triggered. It’s a complicated chain of events involving chemical messengers, hormones and more, that enables our body to quickly react and escape from the threat.
The problem arises from the fact that our brain doesn’t know the different between a ‘real’ threat and a thought-created one.
In other words, if you are thinking about an event that is going to happen (or you think will happen) and that you’re scared about, your body will respond in the same way.
For years I didn’t see why this was an issue. Now I see just how detrimental to our physical health this is.
Chronic activation of the adrenal glands
What I find really amusing (now) is that years ago a functional health doctor told me that he believed my physical health problems were arising from an event years ago that activated the adrenal system, and that never got ‘switched off’. His answer to that was to get some Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) help. As an NLP Practitioner I knew this wasn’t the answer, but at the time I didn’t know what the answer was.
Now I believe that what he was pointing to was in fact correct.
Invisible to me, I had been a worrier my whole life. The result of that incessant worry was the activation of my adrenal system with the associated imbalance to my hormones, digestive system and more.
What I didn’t know at the time (and nor did he) was that my thinking was in fact activating the system. My body didn’t know that the things I thought were threats weren’t real, and so it did what it should do in order to prepare me for escape.
Digestion, fertility, immunity and other functions are not necessary when running away from a tiger. (And if you’d like to read more about the long term physical affects of stress then take a look at this simple article.)
Understanding and disengaging with thought
Knowing that stress, anxiety and worry can lead to health problems isn’t very helpful. It’s a bit like telling someone who experiences insomnia that lack of sleep leads to dreadful physical outcomes. It makes things worse because it creates more thinking!
However, what is incredibly helpful is understanding the nature of thought; that it naturally flows when we ‘allow’ it to. The fact that we have 60,000 thoughts a day, yet only are aware of a handful, proves this point.
When we become aware that we have left the present moment (or what IS) and have vanished into our thoughts, we have the opportunity to come back. And the great thing to know is that our body lets us know when we’ve got lost.
The tightness and discomfort (or symptoms) we feel in our body tells us that we’ve left the present moment and have started to believe a ‘story’ about what is going on.
Rather than believing that the symptoms mean we need to DO something, this understanding allows us to take a step back.
Because once we’re in the present moment, rather than in the story of what is going on, we are open to fresh thinking and ideas. It’s where solutions come from.
The healing effects of the present moment
When we are resting in what IS, rather than what our mind wants to make up about what is going on, there is a sense of peace. Another term for that is peace of mind.
When our mind is settled our body is able to rest, and in a state of rest it is able to function properly. This is a healing state. Our natural state, or the way our body is ‘supposed’ to work.
I keep using this analogy but it’s like giving birth to a child.
The body knows how to get the child out and it’s going to happen one way or another. We can either resist it (go into the mind and create stories about what is going on) or we can go with it (be present, without judgement or attachment).
The former creates a great deal more discomfort than the latter. I know, I’ve done it both ways!
If this interests you and you’d like to explore more around health, and in particular gut health, then join my Invisibles Of Gut Health 5 week, live online course. It’s the best way to start to get an appreciation of where health comes from and explore the healing effects of the present moment for yourself.