03 Jan 2024

Be the main character this new year, with the power of presence.

By Grace Parker, Counsellor at The Eaves

How are you feeling this new year? Mixed emotions? Anxious about the future, regrets about the past? It can happen, but what is missing? The Present.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.” Master Oogway – legendary Kungfu Master, who happens to be tortoise. Kung Fu Panda is a great film series! It has Jack Black in it – need I say more? I recommend.

The disappointments of the past, and the weight of the future can be a crushing place to be. This year – choose not to be there. Instead, like Master Oogway suggests – open your gift. Be in the mindful present.

Your past self – did their best for you, even if they didn’t meet your standards, they carried you here in this moment – the most important goal there is. They have also given you an opportunity to reflect and change moving forward, which is another great gift.

Your future self? Doesn’t exist yet. (Or not at all – but that depends on how existential you are!) Now, like welcoming any friend over for coffee – it’s a good idea to plan a bit. Tidy up, hoover – make their arrival welcoming, warm and as easy as you can. But don’t let it consume you – staring at the clock, checking your phone for updates – they will come when they’re ready.

Better to be your present self. As they are with you always, don’t forget about them. Don’t forget about, you.

Take in what you’re doing right now, experience your flaws with kindness and curiosity, and celebrate your wins and your strengths. Be conscious and an active participant in your own life, you can build this awareness with practice. Like a video game – look at your options before acting out of impulse.

Example: You are late for work, and now you’re stuck in barely moving traffic.

Here are your options:

A: Honk your horn, swear and try to cut corners. Eventually arriving angry and flustered, with some poor soul in the firing range. You’ll either hurt someone or yourself unintentionally, most likely with bitter words and toxic energy. Anger tends to bite if left unchecked.

B: Be anxious and tearful, clinging to your steering wheel as you imagine all sorts of disasters that could go wrong upon your arrival, which only makes you more upset and fearful. You arrive exhausted of course – because you’ve been mentally torturing yourself. Your work will suffer, which gives another excuse to further torture yourself.

or C: Take a breath. Let your work know you’ll be late. Then accept the traffic is out of your control – be present in the moment. Using your time to reflect, and give yourself a moment of pure presence. Whatever that looks like for you (some examples below) so you arrive calm and level headed.

What does that mean Grace? I’m glad you asked. Let’s continue with this example. Once you’ve let work know you’ll be late, reflect how you could avoid this in the future, whilst still being kind to your mistakes. What made you late? Think about it. If you slept in – you clearly needed the rest. How can you give yourself more rest whilst avoiding sleeping in? How do you feel about being late? What does it bring up for you?

Once you’ve processed that – you’re still stuck in traffic – how can you spend this time in a fulfilling, present way? Maybe people watch, look at your surroundings (so important in our digital age is actually looking around above our screens! Having time to daydream is like releasing air out of a balloon; our thoughts are expelled, and suddenly we’re thinking about nothing at all. And our brain has a moment to reset.)

Then of course there’s the obvious choices – blasting your favourite tunes and having your own karaoke session. Or if you find your brain is hungry, a podcast discussion can go a long way. Or maybe your brain is well and can handle some more tasks – in which case you could plan your food-shop for that week, or call any appointments you’ve been procrastinating.

All are a good use of a present moment where you found yourself stuck – what could’ve been a “waste” of your time, you actively turned into a moment for yourself. Your present self.

If only we could have our options in life pop up above our heads in little banners, like the SIMS! Visually making us stop and think for a moment. But alas we don’t, but the options and control we hold are still there, we just have to decide to: Stop. Think. Feel. Act.

Be the main character of your own life, no longer puppeteered by your unconscious. Take pleasure in the life around you, happening right now – the sounds of birds outside your window, the feeling of your lungs expanding with a deep breath, or the joy in sharing dinner with close friends.

Kids and animals are great teachers of presence – a cat will happily stare out the window for hours, and kids who experience their favourite food for the first time are enthralled by the feeling. A little dance. Squeals of joy. Smiling, looking to you – making sure you’re paying attention to this moment.

True happiness is found only in the present, not looking back or looking forward. It can be hard to remember this in adult life, as so much goes on and not all of us have the pleasure of being cartoon, Kungfu master tortoises mediating to sunrises – but we can have moments of presence that we can plan in, until it becomes a habit and then even – unconscious.

Look for those moments. I promise you; they are there. You have time. It could be just for 5 minutes when you’re making your morning tea – feeling the warmth of the mug surround your hands, watching the colour change as you add the milk, noticing your thoughts of the day ahead are already forming as you swirl the spoon.

Still with me? It can feel odd and unnatural at first, but I promise you, you’ll experience the magic that comes with being present. Your nervous system calm, your thoughts less rushed, and your feelings no longer in control of you. Be loving and kind to all of your selves; past and future. With your present leading the way – and I’m sure your 2024 will fall into place. Good luck!

The Eaves Counselling and Psychology

Grace Parker, Counsellor and Psychotherapist at The Eaves, is based in Haslemere. To find out more about Grace, or to enquire about her latest availability, please visit her profile here

The Eaves Counselling and Psychology Ltd is a select professional body of Counsellors, Psychotherapists and Psychologists, providing high quality psychological care Monday to Saturday between 9am and 9pm from our practices in Guildford, Godalming, Farnham, Haslemere and online.

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