Be Where Your Feet Are (and other Mindful Mantras)

A.B. Kaplan's picture

‘If we spend our time regretting the past or worrying about the future, we lose the present’

How many times a day do we find ourselves day dreaming? We all do it. We recall a memory and find ourselves wanting to return to that previous moment in our life. Or, we begin thinking ahead and say to ourselves, “I can’t WAIT until ___ happens” (fill in with your choice of events).  This is what I refer to as ‘time traveling’. When we ‘time travel’, we take ourselves out of the present moment and travel in time to some other place, location or time. We may ‘time travel’ back into the past or forward into the future and as the quote above mentions, we lose what is happening in the present. So then, how do we stay in the ‘here and now’?

Being here, being present now actually requires practice. Think about it: we ‘time travel’ many times a day don’t we? And we’ve been practicing this for quite a long time. If we kept track, we might be amazed to discover the number of times we found our minds somewhere else. So it stands to reason that doing the opposite (staying present) then requires practice as well.

Everyone has memories and there are times when we ‘time travel’ into the past because we want to return to those past times. We may find we feel depressed as we reminisce. We savor many of our memories. However, we know we cannot return. We don’t have that time machine to bring us back and those times have passed. On the other end of the spectrum, there are times when we ‘time travel’ into the future. In our minds we develop outcomes of events that haven’t even happened yet and we begin to feel anxious. We worry day after day about these events because we have no way of knowing the outcome. We feel a little bit out of control. We spend lots of time making predictions and assumptions about the future. It’s as though we have that magic crystal ball to determine our ‘what ifs’. 

So why are we all so eager to ‘time travel’ and so resistant to ‘be where our feet are’? Andy Puddicombe explores this very concept in his article “Here, Not There”.Mr. Puddicombe makes the point about being here and now when he states, “given that life can only be fully experienced in the present moment, in the ‘here and now’, it’s surprising just how much of our life is spent in the ‘there and some other time’  ”. He goes on to say that, “…the mind has a tendency to drift towards that which we haven’t got, that which is different, exciting or new”. Maybe it stands to reason that the ‘daily grind’ seems a little too ‘ordinary’ sometimes?

Be where your feet are, staying present, being mindful, and awareness in this moment are all terms for mindfulness. They all have the same meaning which is to stay present and aware in this moment without allowing internal or external elements to alter our focus. Mindfulness is often thought of as the foundation for the many other skills learned in DBT. And like learning any new skill, learning to be where your feet are takes time, energy and practice.

Mindfulness can be defined as “being distracted 100 times and the ability to bring our mind back to the present 101 times”. The practice of mindfulness helps provide stability and structure. It helps us to bring our thoughts and our mind back to the present. It helps us work with the resistance we experience when practicing to stay in the here and now.  Practicing awareness, staying present in this moment, becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings while identifying our desire to be somewhere else can help remedy that resistance.

Mindfulness may initially appear to be a fairly simple and easy skill to master. However, mindfulness requires practice, practice, practice.  The more we practice bringing our thoughts back to here and now, the more we begin to see that we can be aware and avoid ‘time travel’ if we choose. Remember, you are here now; that, in itself, is being mindful. Take time daily to be where your feet are and live life in the present.