“All you really need to do is accept this moment fully. You are then at ease in the here and now and at ease with yourself.” – Ekhart Tolle

If there’s one thing you can’t escape, it’s the present. In fact, there’s no other way to live. You cannot, for example, take action in the past. That’s over and done with. By the same token, you can’t inhabit the future, for that time has yet to arrive. All you have, therefore, is the here and now.

Why is it that people have so much difficulty accepting this fact — and learning how to be fully present in the here and now?

Could it be that we’re too mired in painful memories of past misdeeds, failures, disappointments and inconsideration? Are we conflicted about our part in what’s happened that has brought harm to others? Are we filled with shame, disgust, guilt and anger? Do we find it nearly impossible to get past these powerful emotions and return to the present?

Could it also be that we use daydreaming about the future as a sort of escape from the present and any and all hard work we need to do in order to take action on the changes we so desperately desire? In this respect, a concentration on the future is a coping technique, although not a very good one. For one, it doesn’t work. Sooner or later we’ll have to come back to the present. The dog has to be taken out, dinner has to be made, and the kids picked up from school, an assignment turned in, a project due that the boss urgently demands.

Instead of relishing and embracing the present, we often revert to old habits — staying stuck in the past or obsessing over the future. With such a distraction, no wonder nothing much gets done in the present.

Consider this: You can change this self-destructive (or at least minimally productive) behavior. It will take determination and a willingness to do things a little differently, but it shouldn’t be all that difficult. After all, if you’re willing to take a different route to work in order to stop by your favorite coffee shop for your morning cappuccino, you can accept and adopt a mindset that’s more focused on the present than the past or the future.

Here are some tips on turning your thoughts to the present:

  • Give yourself little reminders. Use sticky notes or audible or visual alerts to remind you to come back to the present. This low-tech technique actually works to reinforce your desire to be in the here and now.
  • Reward yourself. Think of how pleasant this moment is and reward yourself with some little thing — reading a chapter of your favorite book, flipping through magazines for decorating ideas, taking 10 minutes to call a friend, indulging in a soaking bath.

    When you take the time to reward yourself, immerse yourself fully in the moment. Feel everything about this time, luxuriate in it and be thankful for it. This is a great way to inhabit the here and now — and one technique you’ll likely use again.

  • Get up and move around every 20 minutes. Another helpful tip is to get your move on. Instead of remaining sedentary for hours on end at the computer, your desk, watching TV or lounging on the couch, make it a point to get up and move around. Take a walk outdoors. Climb the stairs. Fold the laundry. Pick some flowers or dig around in the garden. Sort items for donation, recycle or re-use. Whatever the activity is, if you’re up and moving, that will serve to bring you back to the present. The act of getting up itself reminds you of the activity you’re about to do — in the here and now.
  • Make it fun. Invite a friend, neighbor or co-worker to join you in some activity or event that’s happening now or you make happen. There’s nothing like the camaraderie of friends to emphasize the present and your part in it.
  • Celebrate every moment of life. Keep in mind that this moment that’s happening now will never again return. The fleetingness of time, far from being something to dread and fear, should help reinforce the importance and the sacred gift of life. You live now. You have the opportunity to make things happen now, to celebrate every moment of life. Take this time. Be present.