Present Moment Awareness: Tips and Tricks

As you’ve learned from prior posts, there are three main tenets of mindfulness meditation, of which present moment awareness is one. (The other two are nonjudgment and acceptance.) In this post, I’ll share some helpful tips for keeping your awareness on the present moment during meditation.

This is one area where many new to meditation struggle. The mind can be busy…and you simply cannot turn off your thinking!

But I have great news! You don’t have to stop thinking! You’ve probably noticed that the more you try not to think, the more thoughts and judgments start to arise.

Instead of resisting, allow what is happening to be your present experience.

What is present moment awareness?

present moment awareness is placing your attention on what is happening now.

If what is happening now is that your mind is thinking, you simply step back from identifying with the thoughts, and instead identify with the observer of the thoughts.

Here are some tips and analogies that have helped me through the years to become more present during meditation:

  • Imagine you are standing on a train platform, and a train is passing through on the tracks in front of you. The train is your thoughts, and you simply watch them stream by without assigning any meaning.
  • Use your breath to ground you in the present moment. Pay attention to the flow of air along each area of its path. You can start off by practicing some 4-7-8 breathing as I’ve taught you here.
  • Simply count your breaths. Count each in-breath and each out-breath up to 20, and then start again at 1.
  • Imagine your mind is the sky. Your thoughts are the passing clouds. Notice the space between the clouds, the blue sky peaking through. Drop into that space.
  • Use a mantra, a simple phrase that you mentally repeat. One of my favorites is “so hum”, meaning “I am.”
  • Say yes to whatever emotions or feelings are arising during meditation. Go to that part of your body where you feel the emotion most strongly and study how the emotion feels in your body. Is it hard or soft, rapid or slow, does it have a texture or color?
  • Imagine you are seated on the bank of a river. The gentle flow of water passing by is carrying your thoughts away like leaves floating on the water’s surface.

Hopefully these tips will help you during future meditation sessions as you cultivate your sense of presence. The more you practice, the stronger you will become at this skill.

“Don’t worry about anything. Even if you find your attention wandering, there is no particular ‘thing’ you have to hold onto. Just let go, and drift in the awareness of the blessing.”


What is Grounding?

Recently I’ve become interested in grounding…and not the kind where you send your teen to his room with no supper. Grounded meditation is meditation where you make direct contact with the earth. Sometimes it is also called earthing.

The easiest way to achieve this is through making contact with the earth’s surface with bare feet or hands. However, grounded meditation studios, chairs pads, and blankets are becoming more widely available.

Why consider grounding? I’ll explain in layperson’s terms, and then we will dive into some of the medical literature.

The earth has a natural, subtle electrical charge. This is why electrical circuits are often connected to the earth through a grounding wire for safety, which allows an alternate path for electricity to flow back to the earth in the case of a short-circuit. When a circuit is “grounded”, it is safe.

Being grounded applies to people as well. Our bodies are full of electrical circuitry, containing trillions of cells which transmit information at multiple frequencies to maintain function of the heart, muscles, nervous system, etc.

Grounded meditation allows for the electrical system of the body to reconnect to the earth to reset.

What happens when you make direct contact with the earth? One theory is that excited and mobile electrons from the earth’s surface are able to spread over the body and enter the body where they can have antioxidant effects.

Grounding has many benefits, such as decreasing inflammation, reducing pain, normalizing sleep, improving the immune response and reducing stress, to name a few.

So…is this just a bunch of woo woo, or is there scientific evidence that this works?

Scientists have shown measurable changes in human physiology from grounding. For instance, when studying grounding’s effect on inflammation, they have studied chronic wounds and can see visible decrease in the inflammatory signs of redness, warmth and swelling.

Thermal imaging camera data has also been collected showing the effects of sleeping grounded on reducing full body inflammation.

Furthermore, studies have shown that sleeping grounded for 8 weeks normalizes the stress hormone cortisol and improves pain. The participants reported better sleep and less pain.

Additional studies have been done on electrophysiology, heart rate variability, and the immune response.

If you are interested in reading an excellent medical review on this subject, click here.

In this modern day, our lifestyle has led to less direct contact with the earth, and this disconnect may be a major contributor to unwellness.

It is quite possible that your path to wellness is right under your feet.