Live in the Moment: You Can Stay Centered in the Face of Chaos


By Elizabeth Herman | Posted: February 13, 2020

The human mind is notorious for producing trillions of thoughts, some of which can throw you off your center and create feelings of anxiety or terrifying illusions.

But, by calmly placing your attention on the present moment through physical processes like breathing, you can reduce any tendency to follow your mind into the abyss of arrogance, fear, and ego. By accepting that you don’t know a lot, you can engage with the newness of each day. By looking at life from the perspective of a witness, you can detach from outward circumstances and establish inner peace.

Realigning yourself and your mind becomes easier after you’ve intentionally practiced breathing, engagement and witnessing for a while. 

Why Breathe?

In Jay Dixit’s article in Psychology Today, a research study shows that “Living consciously with alert interest has a powerful effect on interpersonal life.” In this study by Whitney Heppner and Michael Kernis of the University of Georgia, subjects made use of processes that slow down breathing, tasting and other involuntary acts to set the stage to become immune to negative feedback from the outside world. Groups that savored the sensations involved in slowly eating a raisin did not react aggressively to social rejection, while groups that didn’t go through that attention exercise exhibited angry and hurtful behavior.

In the same way that people who practice meditation become immune to the negative effects of the hurts they experience, Dixit recounts that “among those who’d eaten the raisin first, it didn’t matter whether they’d been ostracized or embraced. Either way, they were serene and unwilling to inflict pain on others—exactly like those who were given word of social acceptance.” This serenity was a sign of increased resilience that stemmed from a conscious practice of awareness.

This phenomenon of producing increased mental and emotional strength takes place because, as Kernis explains, “People are less likely to link their self-esteem to events and more likely to take things at face value.” Without the involvement of your feelings about yourself, the world becomes less threatening and you become one with whoever and whatever is around you, accepting both the world and your place in it. 

So, taking the time to breathe, taste, and savor life when you’re feeling good can improve how you react when events start to challenge you. This explains how yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises can positively impact every area of your life, including your relationships with other people and how you respond to them.

The beautiful ‘I don’t know.’

The beginner’s mind is a valuable tool for realignment. Circumstances change constantly. Not only does the outer world change every minute of every day, but every cell of your body, and therefore your mind and emotions, also continually evolve and transform. Some changes may be subtle and some may be drastic. But to adapt to these ever transforming conditions, it helps to constantly reevaluate what we know and don’t know.

Recognizing the limits of prior knowledge helps us open up to the vital innovations that are needed to solve new problems. As professor Ellen Langer puts it, “When we’re there at the moment, making it new, it leaves an imprint in the music we play, the things we write, the art we create, in everything we do. Once you recognize that you don’t know the things you’ve always taken for granted, you set out of the house quite differently. It becomes an adventure in noticing—and the more you notice, the more you see.”

By seeing everything in a different light and changing every day, we can stay centered in the face of instability and take on the qualities of leaders who forge new paths. We can offer the world a new way to bring others and ourselves safely into an unknown present and future. Insecurities and fears no longer feel so jarring and disruptive; constant renewal becomes possible along with a stronger sense of self-awareness. 

The seer– not the scenery

As you begin to adapt to changes with a willingness to learn and a focus on your breath, an opportunity to encounter your true, transcendent self can arise. You may see that the one experiencing your life is far greater than your thoughts, your body, your feelings, and any outer conditions. You can start to perceive every moment with greater centeredness, knowing that you’re stronger than any challenge that comes along.

As Dixit advises, “Think of yourself as an eternal witness, and just observe the moment… As you draw your next breath, focus on the rise of your abdomen on the in-breath, the stream of heat through your nostrils on the out-breath. If you’re aware of that feeling right now, as you’re reading this, you’re living in the moment. Nothing happens next. It’s not a destination. This is it. You’re already there.”

By appreciating that each moment is enough, you relieve yourself of focusing on the future or the past. Getting in touch with the present moment brings you to your center. And eventually, your center becomes more and more aligned with what is staying the same in you, despite all of the changes in the scenery. Your essence becomes eternal, because you are the seer, and that will never change. 

For practices that will help you realign your thoughts with the ultimate witness known as your true self, find an Art of Living Happiness Program near you.

Elizabeth Herman writes, offers writing support to clients, teaches, and volunteers for a better world. She has a PhD in Rhetoric, Composition and Literature. Find her on Facebook or Twitter.


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