You are fluid: 7 habits for living in the present moment

Most of us have heard of, or experienced, the heightened awareness familiar to high performers known as the “flow state.”

As defined by Headspace, it’s:

“That sense of fluidity between your body and mind, where you are totally absorbed by and deeply focused on something, beyond the point of distraction. Time feels like it has slowed down. Your senses are heightened. You are at one with the task at hand, as action and awareness sync to create an effortless momentum. Some people describe this feeling as being ‘in the zone.’”

Full transparency, I’ve been to the depths of darkness and back. I’ve been through financial ruin, businesses going belly-up, and turning to alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs to cope with my losses…

And now, being over 7.5 years sober — healthy, connected, living life to the fullest and in the proverbial “zone” — I have a lot of experience both in and out of the flow state.

But there’s another flow state that’s equally as important. One that isn’t fleeting, or elusive, or reserved only for the “high performers.”

It’s about resilience, or flowing effortlessly downstream in the river of life, taking whatever the universe throws at me with poise and grace.

It’s something we can all channel on a daily basis, and it’s constant.

What brings these two different flow states together?

Presence.

Without it, neither could exist.

And it was this “simple” mindset switch towards living in the present moment that changed everything for me.

You know that feeling you get when you’re experiencing a runner’s high or shredding downhill on the slopes? Or even those special moments with your kids when the rest of the world seems to just disappear?

That is pure presence, and something I try to achieve throughout my day.

Of course, reshaping the way you’ve programmed your brain for years is never as simple as it sounds. It takes practice, patience, and forgiveness.

But slowly, it gets easier. And every morning you wake up feeling lighter… happier…

More fluid.

Below I break down the mindfulness habits that help me channel a feeling of presence, ready for anything the universe has in store for me. Each are simple enough to start today and over time will take shape into something much bigger.

7 Habits to Find Your Mindful Flow

 

1. Two in the morning.

I remember the days when I slept until the very last minute and then rushed out the door. Looking back, this immediately put me in a "swimming upstream" mode for the rest of the day – always feeling a step behind.

Now I follow a simple rule: Wake up two hours before my first commitments (work, play, errands, etc).

If I want to start work at 8:00 a.m., I’m up by 6:00 a.m. Or if I have something to do at 7:00, I am up by 5:00. It gives me ample time to get centered, move mindfully, and not be in a rush.

Start your day in the flow, rather than against it.

 

2. Digital fasting.

Part of my morning (and evening routine) is a digital fast. One of the worst ways I can wake up is by opening my phone and immediately checking email, Slack, or social media. It puts my mind into a frenzy and takes me completely out of the present moment.

I aim for two hours of unplugging both before bed and after waking up. If I hit an hour I consider it a win.

Tip: I'm most successful when I keep my phone out of my bedroom. When it’s near me it’s like temptation island. That means using an old school alarm clock, and when I do need to use my phone for an alarm, I turn it on airplane mode and make sure it’s out of sight and out of reach.

 

3. Morning movement.

I prefer to do this first thing out of bed. It wakes my body up and helps me transition from sleep into a moving meditation.

For me, movement includes stretching for a few minutes and a 10-minute yoga flow – a 15-minute commitment at most.

I like to keep it at 15 minutes because then I have zero excuses as to why it’s not getting done, and to be honest, it’s all I need.

For helpful tools, check these out: Five Tibetan Rites, 10-Minute Morning Yoga Flows, Simple Morning Stretch Routine

 

4. Meditation.

Right after my morning movement, I dive into a quick 10-minute meditation. Like many people, this didn’t come naturally to me. I had to work at it – and I still do – almost eight years into my practice.

In the beginning, when my mind was running a mile a minute, I would set a goal to meditate for just one minute per day, then two minutes and so on. Until I gradually got up to 20 or 30 minutes with no problem. Like any skill, meditation takes practice to develop.

To get started, or to deepen your current practice, try these: Insight Timer (free), Headspace (free trial), 10% Happier (free trial)

5. Turn mundane into mindful.

When I used to commute on the train, instead of scrolling through Instagram or Facebook for 25 minutes, I consciously chose soothing music – I closed my eyes and focused on my breath until I got to my destination. It was a glorious way to walk into the office.

Washing the dishes, folding my laundry, transitional moments like taking the stairs or waiting in line at the grocery store...

These are life's mundane moments that I now try to turn into mindful ones by focusing on my breath, being hyper-aware of my movements/surroundings, or even engaging in conversation with a stranger.

 

6. Own my lunch break.

I’m grateful today to be working a job that I love, but it hasn’t always been that way. And whether I’m working 12-hour days on a passion project or 8-hour days at a job that isn’t my cup of tea, re-centering and finding the present moment during my lunch break is critical to keeping me in the flow state.

I worked in The Loop in Downtown Chicago for many years, and every day I would spend the first 30 minutes eating (with my phone OFF) and the last 30 minutes on a bench in Millennium Park. And every day, I'd just be...

Eyes open, fully aware. No phone, no emails, no alerts. Just me, a little slice of nature, and the other humans that were experiencing it along with me.

Compare that to scrolling through my phone while scarfing down my lunch in 10 minutes and back to work, my afternoons were always more productive and higher performing when I took time to reset and get present during my lunch hour.

On the surface it might seem like you're losing valuable work time by taking a mindful lunch break, but you'll make that back 2X in your afternoon productivity (and serenity) once you get in the groove.

7. Lose myself in service work.

Reaching out to a friend who has been struggling, buying a meal for someone in need, showing up for a family member, helping a work colleague — Being of service to my fellow humans.

When I'm feeling out of the flow, I can always rely on the age-old tradition of helping others to get me back into it. I find the best time for service work is when I don't feel like doing it.

"I wish I didn't help that person today." ... said no one ever.  

Each of these is simple enough to start immediately, but difficult enough they could take a lifetime to master. That's the beauty of a practice like this.

Progressing one moment at a time – always valuing progress over perfection.

I encourage you to pick just one this week and give it a shot. If you're struggling too much, switch to another. Eventually, one will stick, then the next.

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