Cultivating Present Moment Awareness

There are a number of questions we may find ourselves asking at certain points in our life: 

Why do I feel discontent?

Why does my life feel hollow?

What is the meaning of all this anyway?

These questions often come up at times when things aren’t going well or when a setback or loss has occurred. For some, these questions may be more persistent and gnaw away at them leading to anxiousness, unhappiness and depression. 

The common denominator that links these questions and their resulting discomfort is the fact that we so rarely are able to be in the present moment. 

Current research shows that the mind has the capacity to be in the present moment for a mere 7 seconds. Effectively “now” can only be achieved for 7 seconds. 

Our attention span has reduced from 14 seconds to 7 seconds in the last decade. Much of this can be attributed to the proliferation of digital devices and the apps that populate them. While they may offer tremendous opportunities, we can’t ignore the fact that smartphones and apps pose challenges too. 

Social media apps are designed by highly paid engineers to keep us scrolling, to pick up the phone again and again, and to seek the dopamine rush from swiping up or down, left and right. In other words, they are deliberately designed to create addiction. And guess what? It worked! 

With overuse, smartphones and their apps can create neurotic and addictive tendencies. 

This all impacts our ability to be present, to be in the now. Why is this important? 

Books have been written about the power of now, ancient traditions like yoga have practices to cultivate present-moment awareness, and modern psychology uses tools to help us live in the moment. 

It is in the present moment that we find peace. 

It is in the here and now that we find clarity. 

In mindfulness we find balance.

All of these make life richer, fuller and more complete. They reduce suffering and the sense of lacking. 

Any yet present moment awareness seems illusive and unattainable, but it is not. We can approach it as a skill that we all can develop. 

As we move forward in a technological determinist age we must develop this skill. The following 6-step framework can guide the way.

6-Step Framework for Present Moment Awareness in the Age of Devices

  1. Embrace routines - eschew randomness
    Routines like regular sleep and waking times, regular meal times, scheduled visits to the gym and other social engagements help to create order in our lives. Whereas randomness contributes to a sense of disorder and being under the control of external forces.
  2. Turn off app notifications
    Deactivating app notifications (the chimes or vibrations) prevents us from being compelled to check the most recent post. This is an essential part of breaking the addiction to dopamine hits the notifications cultivate.
  3. Reduce screen time
    Devices may begin to feel like an extension of our arms, a new appendage, but they are not. Put them away when doing focused work, in the desk drawer for example. And give yourself specific times to check for messages, at the top of the hour for 5-10 minutes only.
  4. Schedule time for stillness practices
    Engage in meditation and other mindfulness practices daily to build the capacity for stillness without distraction. Start with something short like eyes closed and breath-focused awareness for 1-3 minutes, then over time move to longer practices.
  5. Eliminate screen time before bed
    Sleep hygiene is important. Prepare the mind for sleep by disconnecting from devices at least 30 (if not 60) minutes before sleep.
  6. Permanently turn on the eye comfort shield or night light settings on your devices
    The blue light from screens plays havoc with melatonin levels and can disrupt your sleep, cause eye strain, and permanent damage to your vision.

This framework will prove fruitful in building more present-moment awareness by tackling one of its most strident opponents, digital devices.

Good luck with this framework.

If you have any questions please reach out to me.



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