What does being in the moment really mean? The art of the pause.


What does being in the moment really mean?

The art of the pause.

Being present is at the core of mindfulness (Kabat-Zinn, 2012). Signalling being in the moment. That is, being fully aware of this moment in time, not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. As our brain is hardwired to think and get lost in our ruminations, being present is about noticing what you are doing, thinking, being, saying at this very moment in time.

Being present is closely associated to awareness, and especially self-awareness. This awareness can support us to increase our ability to be in tune with our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. Our intuition plays a huge role, and this is when the saying ‘listen to your gut’ plays a huge role.

When present with what is happening for us in this moment, we allow the opportunity to cultivate our ability to observe our self. This awareness allows us to notice how we are feeling, how we talk to our self and how we act and communicate how we are thinking and feeling to both our self and others (Barbash, 2018). By paying attention, over time, we can develop our ability to be present, and to tune into our intuition. We can do this through informal and formal mindfulness practices (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). In attending to this, being in the present, is the mental state of being engaged in the now minus emotionally reacting to our thoughts.

Mindfulness involves an attitude of radical acceptance, curiosity, and awareness (Brach, 2003). That is finding a balance between change and acceptance. This can be one of the tricky parts of mindfulness, and often a part of what has some of us give up or think that it is not for us.

When being present and noticing with curiosity, we open up the opportunity to engage in observing self-sabotaging behaviours or ways of being that cause unnecessary suffering (Brach, 2003; Chang, 2018). In this way we are encouraged to reflect upon and look at our experiences non-judgmentally. As such, “radical acceptance requires that you look upon yourself, others, and the world in an entirely new way” (Chang, 2018, para 2). In doing this we open up possibilities to willingly let go of our ideas about how we should be and simply accept the way that we are… in this present moment (Chang, 2018). In this way there is a clear need to alter and notice destructive behaviours while simultaneously working towards radical acceptance of our self just the way we are.

Being in the moment with who we are can be difficult as we are challenged with noticing aspects of our self that we may like, and others that we dislike. However, this noticing, appreciating, and labelling without judgment assists in being able to truly accept oneself. This is where patterns and belief systems begin to reveal themselves to us. In doing this without judging yourself or blaming others it is said that we are able to truly accept who we are, able to embrace how we might grow and develop an acceptance to acknowledging who we are and how we may make long lasting changes in life.

How can we do this?

This is where I just love the work of Tara Brach (2013; 2018). Tara notes that as we embrace life through a non-judgemental stance, we are able to embrace ways of being through a pause. When we pause, stopping for a moment in time we can mindfully notice what emerges for us.

As we pause, we can notice patterns that may emerge, such as how we feel emotionally and tune into what the body does. Through a pause we notice how we might respond or react. This is where we learn about our self as we engage with our noticing. Once more a curious stance begins to emerge. As with all aspects of mindfulness, a non-judgmental stance requires attention and working at it with an approach to developing a muscle in the body.

As you explore the pause, be aware that the pause may look different in different situations (and indeed different for each person). You may pause in the moment, like a slow motion playing out of what you notice before you respond. Or it may be a pause post event and your reflection can support your growth and different response in the future. Or it may look and feel totally different to you than these two examples.

What we all will notice though that is when we are curious about how we are in the moment there is a significant shift in how we are present.

Enjoy the exploration.

You may also like to read…

Confused about mindfulness?

Mindfulness and strengths

Learning from failure: 4 tips to mindfully managing expectations of perfectionism


Barbash, E. (2018). Mindfulness and Being Present in the Moment: Being mindful can increase mental and emotional well-being. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/trauma-and-hope/201801/mindfulness-and-being-present-in-the-moment

Brach, T. (2018, October 6). The sacred pause [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.tarabrach.com/sacred-pause/

Brach, T. (2003). Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha. New York: Bantom Dell.

Chang, L. K. (2018). How to Practice “Radical Acceptance”. Retrieved from https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/dialectical-behavior-therapy/how-to-practice-radical-acceptance

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2012). Mindfulness for beginners: Reclaiming the present moment - and your life. Canada: Sounds True, Inc.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 144-156.