- Anne Nisenzon, PhD
How To Be Here When Here Is the Last Place You Want To Be
Updated: May 3, 2019
Whether you are brand new to mindfulness or have been practicing for a few years, you probably know that a major component of the practice is to be present with the here and now. Of course that is much easier said than done, especially if you are in emotional or physical pain. We are naturally geared to escape pain and move towards pleasure, even if doing so comes with negative consequences. So how do you “be here now” if your present state is painful, scary, or stressful?
Unfortunately, there is no easy or straightforward answer to that question. Rather, it is a choice you must make over and over again when you are practicing mindfulness to gently guide yourself back to the present moment. When you choose to follow your thoughts, they can often lead you into more stress as you think about all the things you need to do in the future or should have done in the past. If you choose to refocus on the present when your mind starts to wander, it is very difficult at first but you will slowly learn to be with “what is” and accept it without judgment. It doesn’t make the stress or pain disappear, but it can help you work through it so it does not hold you back from living your life.
It may seem confusing to work on accepting difficult or painful moments. You may wonder, “Why would I choose to be present when the present moment is so awful?!” This is a fair and logical question that turns a lot of people away from mindfulness. However, the present moment is really the only time you have in which you can make choices and take action towards things that you value. You can’t change the events of the past and you can’t predict what will happen in the future. So noticing and staying in the present allows you to slow down and be less reactive when you are in a painful spot. Staying in the present moment through a mindfulness practice can also help you be more kind to yourself. You can acknowledge the pain you are in and respond to it with compassion, rather than fighting with yourself or dismissing it.
It is also important to know that even if you practice mindfulness every day, it is (and will always be) challenging to stay focused on the present. Our minds are designed to wander and be on the look out for threats which can come in the form of stress, fear, or regret. The best you can do is to notice when your mind floats away and gently guide it back for a few minutes (or even seconds!) before it wanders away again. Being kind to yourself goes a long way in stress management and learning how to live through the emotional or physical pain that we all go through sometimes. Optimal Health Therapy can help you learn and practice mindfulness so that you can fully live and appreciate the valuable moments of your life.