• Self - Improvement

    How To Forget The Past And Find Peace In The Present

    peace in the present

    peace in the presentI often find myself needing to “check-in”  with my stress and anxiety levels. In a conversation about stress reduction and mindfulness, a friend of mine recommended the book Peace Is Every Step by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the content. Once the book arrived, I dove right in. After reading only 15 pages into the book, I had to toss in my bookmark and reflect on the heavy content. There was so much to think about in such few words! As a result, what follows below will be the first part of my mindfulness series from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Peace is Every Step.


    Right away, Thich Nhat Hanh discloses the core takeaway points of his first chapter:

    • Breathe
    • Reconnect
    • Be present
    • Be intentional
    • Choose happiness

    Breathing consciously gives us the opportunity to reconnect with our body and mind in order to bring awareness to the Present moment in order to savor its peacefulness. The Buddhist monk gives different breathing exercises to practice this. He starts with the exercise of:

    “Breathe in, I am breathing in. Breathe out, I am breathing out.”

    I closed my eyes to practice this and immediately started to connect my mind with my body. In doing so, I noticed a flood of relaxation wash over me as the repeated mantra began to soothe my arms, my legs, and eventually my entire body. In exchange for the simple mantra above, I started to replace the phrases with:

    “Breathing in, I am present. Breathing out, I am at peace.”

    As I repeated this over and over, I began to truncate it, with my breathing, to:

    “I am present. I am at peace.”

    I love the simplicity of this exercise and how it allows me to bring consciousness to my breathing. This mini-mantra restores my mind-body connection and brings awareness to the Present moment.

    Be Intentional

    In the act of being intentional, Thich Nhat Hanh mentions “bells of mindfulness” as reminders to turn your attention inward and in the Present. During his training, the scheduled ringing of the temple bells were acoustic reminders to Thich Nhat Hanh to pause and appreciate the current moment of time.

    For me, being stopped at red traffic lights (re: Being Fooled Into Thinking You’re Not Uptight, When You Are) is my visual “bell of mindfulness.” This brief pause in my day reminds me to intentional redirect my thoughts into the Present moment. Another visual “bell” I schedule into my day is with my Morning Mantra. I like having a printed copy of my Mantra taped to my bathroom mirror at home and on the wall of my work desk. Having it in two different locations reminds me of my affirmations and intentions at many different points during my day. (you can print mine here for free)

    I find it helpful that these two visual reminders are structured into my day to help me live Presently. Paired with my breathing mantra, “I am present. I am at peace,” I can redirect my thoughts to inner stillness and happiness.

    Choose Happiness

    What is preventing me from being happy in this moment?”

    When I first read this question, I immediately reflected on a recent travel headache I had experienced. It was full of flight cancellations, errors in rebooking, and multiple changes and relocations to my flight itinerary. The inconvenience and disruption of my original itinerary completely zapped me of my happiness at that moment.

    Upon reflecting on this experience, I started to realize that my mindset was focused on the past and the future events. I wasn’t happy because I wasn’t intentionally focusing on the Present moment.

    Thich Nhat Hanh states:

    The past is gone. The future is not yet here.”

    In my travel example, I was upset that I could have been on a flight to warm Sedona, AZ to meet up with great friends.

    I was frustrated that I wouldn’t be there until the following morning.


    The past is gone. The future is not yet here.”

    Once I realized there was nothing I could do to change our current situation, my fiance and I chose to make the best of the Present moment. We saw the opportunity as a way to spend one-on-one quality time with each other. We ordered room service in our hotel, went to bed early at night, and felt rested and rejuvenated the next morning.

    “I am present. I am at peace.”

    We were even able to sustain our happiness despite the long airport security lines the following morning. Actually, a refreshing thing happened to us while we were waiting in the security line.

    peace in the present

    As we slowly advanced through the winding lines, an infant being held in a fellow passenger’s arms made eye contact with us. As she was being bopped and coddled, she looked directly at both my fiancé and I, and warmly broke into a wide, toothless smile.

    Talk about an amazing visual “bell of mindfulness”!

    One child’s smile immediately kept me in the Present moment, brought me comfort and joy, and made me instantly feel at peace.

    I encourage you to think about certain parts of your day that are structured and routine. Perhaps you have the same morning routine every day. Maybe you stop at the same coffee shop on your way to work, or log into the same computer each morning, or listen to the same podcast day after day. Think about how these could potentially serve as your own “bells of mindfulness.” Whether it’s an auditory, visual, tactile, tasteful, or olfactory sense, allow yourself the opportunity to breathe in a sense of presence, and breathe out a sense of peace.

    Interested to read Peace Is Every Step? Find it Here

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Sarah June 2019 at 7:02 PM

    Very helpful! Can’t wait to dive in to more posts, thank you!

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