Remind yourself to be present

I’m currently reading The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters (which is excellent, by the way). Much like TBYB! applies the principles of commercial marketing to our own growth, The Not So Big Life uses architectural patterns from Sarah Susanka’s famous Not So Big House series to suggest ways we can relate to personal issues like our relationship to time.

In one exercise Sarah suggests stopping every 15 minutes to just observe what’s happening in your mind and body. She calls it “Planned Pauses.”

If you slow down your body but find that your mind is still racing, you may want to implement the following practice. … Every fifteen minutes, take ten seconds to pause and simply notice what is happening in your body and in your mind. You’ll need some sort of timer with a repeat function to notify you every fifteen minutes. … Although this exercise sounds deceptively simple, its effects can be profound because it will bring you into the moment over and over again.

–Sarah Susanka, The Not So Big Life

Most of us have at least one device nearby that knows what time it is, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find out when 15 minutes have passed. In my case, I use two computers and carry a Windows Mobile-based phone. You might also have a watch or a PDA. Since my phone is with me all the time, I decided it would be the best device to take on the task of measuring 15 minute intervals.

A bit of searching turned up a Windows Mobile application called Chronos for PocketPC. I’m sure there are others, but Chronos fits my purpose very well as it can be set to either chime or vibrate on the quarter hour.

After trying this for a few days I must say it is quite a nice little practice. The default sound for Chronos is a very pleasant zen-like gong, and its simplicity is a good match for this message. I’m learning pretty quickly to stop my racing mind whenever I hear it and get more present. I’ve always had trouble meditating, but it seems that even I can pay attention for (almost)10 seconds.

The whole purpose of personal marketing is to devise ways to automatically remind ourselves of things we want to think about. Most of the time I’ve oriented my ad campaigns toward thinking about things I want to do. This one is more focused on being, and it feels good.

Other ways you could prompt yourself about a mindfulness practice:

  • Set an hourly chime on your watch.
  • Place a reminder object in a frequently visited location like the bathroom or your car.
  • Set up your Serenitext account to deliver randomly-timed text messages (up to 10 per day).

How do you remind yourself to be present?

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