Right Here, Right Now

“The past is a ghost, the future a dream and all we ever have is now.”

-Bill Cosby

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

Mother Teresa

The theme of living in the present occurs throughout the Burnout Recovery Guide, as well as many other systems of self-care and self-help. We have all heard about it, but it can be overwhelming when you already feel burned out and jaded. So what is a burnout survivor to do?

First, don’t worry about it. Sometimes self-help advice is exactly what we need to hear, and supports us in healing, but at other times we are not ready to hear it and it is just mumbo-jumbo that annoys us. That’s okay. Don’t be hard on yourself because it isn’t working for you right now. All you need to do is find out what DOES work for you right now.

There are many ways to leverage the wisdom of living in the present, many of which have nothing to do with the Mother Theresa’s or even Bill Cosby’s of the world.

For example, Jesus Jones’ song “Right Here, Right Now” encourages us to live in the present moment, despite being packaged in an 80s rock song. Losing yourself in making or listening to music is a great way to live in the moment. Any kind of music that draws you in deeply will work, though for me listening to and singing along with that particular song works very well, because the meaning aligns with my intention in listening to the song.

Other “living in the moment” songs:
“Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin
“Us” by Regina Spektor
“This Moment” by Katy Perry
“All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow
“We Are Young” by Fun
“Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield

Any of your senses can be used to remain in the present. You can “watch the world go by” sitting on a bench, listen to birds chirping, mindfully enjoy some chocolate, notice the feel of your butt or low back on your chair, or your feet on the floor, or the feeling of a hot or cold shower. I guarantee engaging nociception works a present-moment exercise, too, though I can’t recommend doing it on purpose.

I am going to reveal some of my health care nerdiness and share some examples of my own silly sensory present moment exercises. I loved learning about the Romberg test. I don’t know why, but it made me happy when I learned about it in nursing school. I sometimes close my eyes while standing or sitting, and just pay attention to my sense of proprioception, and the unconscious engagement of my balance muscles. It only takes a couple of seconds, and takes me directly into the present.

I also loved learning about the Weber and Rinne tests. To this day I can never remember which is which, even if I put my fingers over my head for the “W” shape for the Weber test. I just test both at the same time and look up which is which if I get a positive, which rarely happens anyway. However, I really like the vibration sense instilled by the tuning fork, as well as the pure sound. For several years I carried my tuning fork with me, and when I was feeling anxious or just needed to reconnect with the present, I would knock the tuning fork on my thigh and put it on one of my mastoid bones to feel the vibration and hear the sound, and pull myself away from the past/future and reconnect with the present.

Yes, I am a nerd. But I am okay with that.

Dancing is another great way to engage with the present that does not require any meditation experience. You don’t have to be on a dance floor, or do it in front of anyone, or do any specific dance. All you have to do is move your body and pay attention to that movement.

Paying attention to your breath is another great present-moment exercise. I sometimes find it hard to keep my attention on the breath, especially when I am really stressed. I’ve never been able to do the whole “imagine the candle flame” meditation. I usually pick a specific point to pay attention to, like my nostrils, or the movement of my abdomen, or the sound of the breathing itself, and having that concrete thing to pay attention to helps. When I am too stressed to hold on to any of those, I count my breaths instead, and try to keep my attention on the counting.

Give some of those present-moment exercises a try today and tomorrow, and see if any of them work for you. I may even have just inspired myself to start carrying a tuning fork again, since the memory of it is making me smile so much.

Take Care of You!



  1. Rima says:

    I loved the nerdy paragraph (wide grin) just for the sake of how you enjoyed it while writing about something which you know won’t make much of a sense to a layman like me :)

    • Samantha says:

      Thanks Rima! I try to keep it real. Those tests are well known to nurses and some other health care professionals, but not particularly useful to anyone else.