My gifts to you, after 40 years of dedicated psychotherapy practice, are these core, timeless truths. I saw them consistently revealed to clients from all walks of life, as we worked together to increase each person’s happiness and well-being. I invite you to use them to increase your own and your family’s well-being.
Unfortunately, we tend to
- pay more attention to our remembered past and to our imagined future than to what we see, hear, touch, smell, or taste in our present moments
- pay more attention to negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences than to positive ones in our past, present, and future, and
- resist, rather than accept, those negatives, which serves only to strengthen them (resisting negatives is as counterproductive as trying to put out a fire with gasoline).This agitates our minds and bodies in unpleasant ways and encourages unproductive thoughts, feelings, and actions. Our physical and mental well-being is decreased by night and by day.
Fortunately, we can learn to practice “presence” (also known as “mindfulness”) on a daily basis. We have the potential, anytime and anywhere, to
- pay more attention to the present than to the past and future
- pay more attention to positives than to negatives in the past, present, and future, and
- accept, rather than resist, negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Doing so helps to calm our minds and bodies in pleasant ways that encourage productive thoughts, feelings, and actions. Practicing presence increases our well-being by night and by day.
Paying attention to being centered in the present moment offers us expanded wisdom and ability to practice presence. It helps us accept what cannot be changed at this moment and to change what can be changed now or over time.
Many people, especially in Western cultures, believe that accepting negative circumstances in our remembered past, present, or imagined future is “weakness” – in the sense that doing so requires “liking” or “approving of” or “falling victim to” those negatives. This is not true.
Rather, true acceptance consists of non-judgmentally noticing and allowing those negatives (and any negative thoughts and feelings we have about them) from the wise vantage point of the present moment. Liking, approving of, and falling victim to negatives have no role in true acceptance.
Accepting negatives in the past, present, or future can be rewarding for anyone of any age and in any culture. First among the benefits is that accepting negatives weakens them (in contrast to the unfortunate practice of resisting negatives, which strengthens those negatives).
Another benefit is that accepting negatives frees us to change (for the better) whatever is changeable over time. Carl Jung wrote, “We cannot change anything unless we accept it.”
In truth, accepting negatives is strength, not weakness.
A helpful, easy way for you to pay attention to and become centered in the present moment is to focus on how it feels and sounds to breathe “low and slow” – so called “abdominal breathing.” Low, slow breathing helps the part of your nervous system that’s in charge of calming your mind and body to do its job well.
To breathe “low,” fill your lower lungs first when you inhale, and empty your lower lungs first when you exhale. Let your abdomen do the work of pulling the air in and pushing the air out.
To breathe “slow,” do this for the duration of 12 seconds: slowly inhale cool, dry air (filling your lower lungs first) through your nostrils for five seconds (count “1,2,3,4,5”)…, hold your breath for two seconds (count “5,5”)…, and then exhale warm, moist air (emptying your lower lungs first) through your mouth for five seconds (count “5,4,3,2,1”), as if breathing out a sigh of relief… Pay close present-moment attention to how each breath feels and sounds as you inhale and exhale… And when your mind inevitably wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath, without judgment or criticism.
Accept (notice and allow) your mind’s wandering from the wise vantage point of the present moment.
This process may seem difficult at first, but rest assured that you’ll soon master it, rewarded by its results. Let each low, slow breath you take last a
total of 12 seconds, from start to finish.
You’ll enjoy 5 calming breaths per minute – in effect, 5 “now’s” per minute.
Breathe abdominally for a minimum of 3 minutes in a row (ideally, several times per day) to help you become centered in the present moment and to enjoy the many added mental and physical benefits.
NOW – THIS LOW, SLOW BREATH – is the best time for you to
- pay more attention to your present than to your remembered past and your imagined future
- pay more attention to positives than to negatives in your past, present, and future, and
- accept rather than resist those negatives. Practicing presence while you breathe low and slow effectively helps you to calm your mind and body in pleasant ways that encourage productive thoughts, feelings, and actions. It effectively increases your well-being by night and by day.I wish you well!