It is much worse to have no presence than to have no presents...
Writing a post on presence in the month of December has become an annual tradition for me. This time of year is unique in that it is one of both reflection and of looking to the future. But ironically this can have an effect of removing you from the present moment, which is life. When you look to the past and long for the future, you have no presence; you may be surviving but you are not living. Can you see the difference?
I'd like to make this annual post on presence more special by committing to you (and to me) that I will finally publish my book in the first half of 2015. Within my forthcoming book, there is an entire chapter dedicated to presence.
Here is an excerpt from that chapter:
To say the least, not all moments in life can be blissful. And so we escape them by allowing our mind to drift away to the past or future. But you can make the best of the not-so-blissful moments with presence. Consider an example from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, The Miracle of Mindfulness , where he gives guidance on how to wash dishes, one of your humble author’s least favorite house chores:
When washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.
Here are a few points on presence I've shared in previous posts:
- Be Awake: See the beauty of sights around you. Smell wonderful aromas. Listen for the sounds of life--of people, music, and even traffic. Touch things and think of how they feel. Taste your food by eating more slowly and be conscious of the flavors.
- Be Mindful: Observe the wind blowing in a tree and watch the movement of the branches and leaves. Remain aware of your footsteps, your breathing, and your thoughts.
- Be Quiet: Find a moment to observe silence, both of the outer world and of the inner voice. Find a focal point, such as a burning candle, and allow the repetitive thoughts and daily worries to fade away without force.
- Be Easily Amazed: Everything can be amazing--Life, love, a sunset, modern technology, or anything that you experience, even if you have already seen it or felt it a thousand times.
- Be Present While Being With Others: Greet a stranger with a smile. Make eye contact with a loved one and hold your gaze just a little longer than usual. When at a party, or with your family, try listening instead of speaking. Laugh out loud with a child and see the world through their eyes.
- Be With Life: Mindfully put down the camera (or whatever device you use to take pictures) so you will not ironically miss the experience you are trying to capture.