This was the topic a few days ago in my DailyGood.org email that I receive, and I thought it was a great few words to express the importance of being present! Becoming a Presence Activist! No-one has taught me to be present as much as my one year old boy! Oh boy has he! From the moment he was born, I became more present, (I couldn’t stop looking at him!) and committed to remaining present as much as possible from that day forth. I held him in my arms and stared at him for hours, not wanting to go to sleep…I wanted to make sure I engraved his sweet little newborn face into my baby memory files.
Amazing how a little baby can be so fascinating to watch! The way he lay and slept and stared at everything, and the adorable facial expressions he would make. After a few days I was so exhausted though due to the lack of sleep…more exhausted than ever before….although I tried my best to remain present and savour every moment! I have to admit though, I was a walking zombie much of the time…those first few weeks. Fast forward to now, and I deeply feel the need to be present even more with him, as time is passing so very quickly! People had always told me how quickly time flies when you have a child…it’s really true! He is running now! I catch myself, as we play outside, thinking of the day ahead, or of next week, or of what I need to get done and I bring my attention back to the little stick he wants me to hold. These moments are so precious! I can press the pause button on my endless stream of thoughts, or just simply not entertain the ones that repeat, repeat, repeat the same old thing…the same old story. And then I begin to wonder how much time exactly I spend thinking about the same things every day. Great! Now I am thinking about what I think about every day….Stop!! Wow, this being present thing is not that easy! Noakai hands me one of his many books and plonks himself on my lap. I focus on the story and pictures and talk in a funny voice for him. He loves it.
I love watching him sleep. He is so peaceful…so beautiful. My little boy! Later that evening when he wakes I move him to my bed (habit we got back into!) and he snuggles right up against me, and brings my arm around him. I can smell his sweet baby hair and I am very present to this moment. I treasure it…for when he is a teenager I know that I will certainly remember these moments!
Thinking more deeply though about what it means to be present, brings up many other scenarios in my mind. I realize that my commitment to being present does not extend into all things. Sitting in a dentists chair is one of them. I try and think of anything but the noise of the drill and possibility of feeling it…as this has happened more than once to me…and that sensation is not something I want to be present to! It is really not easy to be present to physical pain! Having blood drawn is another one. Even though it does not hurt, I make myself think of other things as the thought of the needle going in is just too uncomfortable for me to want to be present to! There were definitely a few moments whilst giving birth too (without any pain medication!) that in the moment, I would rather not have been present to…although in hindsight I am happy I felt it all! This reminds me of something my father told me when he was having hip replacement surgery. He was not put under as he preferred being conscious to what was going on. So he heard the saw, the hammering and even saw some blood come up over the partition that they had up!! Seriously?! YHGTBK! You have GOT to be kidding! I could not imagine being present to that taking place! But my father talked about it in the same animated, matter of fact way he might talk about a days outing somewhere nice! How different we all are in choosing what we want to be present to!
This led to me wondering, how hard is it to be present when seeing others in pain? People we love, our children, our pets? SO very hard. And then what about those we do not know personally, yet who we see through various media channels suffering due to war or floods; children who have lost their families or have been abused, and animals who are tortured and killed inhumanely or skinned alive for their fur? The list goes on and on. How many of us can really be present to this, to really see? It can be easier to look away, to avoid, to just not think about it, as it can cause us so much discomfort in the present can’t it? And what about our own suffering, our own thoughts, our own pain? Isn’t that sometimes the greatest suffering of all? Self-inflicted. I can understand why many would choose to find ways to escape being present to this kind of pain. It is not easy!
Then there is a different kind of “being present”…a rare experience, that is almost…I believe the word is “exquisite.” I have had this a handful of times in my life. One of them was when I was in Peru. I had taken the bus around several small towns, and on the way back I had to get off in the middle of nowhere, high, high up on this mountain to wait for another bus. I remember feeling a little anxious – as I really was in the middle of nowhere – but as I stood there waiting for the bus I looked into the distance at the magnificent view and this intensely peaceful sensation came over me…the air was rich with “light” and I became instantly truly, deeply “present.” It was a vast feeling, …intensely still, intensely quiet. I was “exquisitely” present. I know that nothing would have “affected” me in this state…the day to day things that tend to “get to me”….and I realized that this feeling must be what some call “freedom.” Freedom from all that swirls around us in life…the words, the actions, the “everything” that we can take so very personally. I will never forget that day, as it reminds me of the true peace and presence that is available to me always…not just on that day, on that mountaintop, in that country. Of course it is harder to feel this present and peaceful whilst sitting in traffic on the freeway, or when you are running late for something, or your baby is just clingy and cranky and everything goes wrong on that day, or someone upsets you. But, little by little I feel I can commit to just not being so attached to it all in the present…so annoyed by it, so affected by it, create stories about it…and just know that inevitably these feelings will pass….it all will…in an hour or a few, or tomorrow…and to just relax a bit!
I think there is a good amount of freedom in that!