What does it mean to be present? When we are present, we’re all here. We bring all of ourselves to each moment, engaging fully with inner and outer experiences as they unfold. We don’t impose our will on events and situations. No longer insisting that people, places, and circumstances conform to our demands and expectations, we are open to what is. As we live this way, we experience more ease and flow. We become awake and alive.
We’re able to truly meet others where they are. Setting aside our agendas, such as the need to change, control, impress, or fix others, we simply attend to what’s occurring in the immediacy of the moment, and respond to that. Rather than just listen to our thoughts and beliefs, we listen to ourselves and the people we are connecting with from our whole being – mind, body, feelings, and spirit. We’re open, authentic, and unrehearsed. People feel safe and “seen” in our presence, and they often open up to us in ways they may not be able to with others. Our presence may evoke presence in them. Because our hearts are not guarded, we feel more empathy and compassion. People feel genuinely cared for by us.
How Do We Practice Presence?
We pause many times throughout the day to check in with ourselves and see if we are here or, if not, where we are. We get to know the particular ways that we get distracted and that we leave the moment. Then, without self-judgment, we gently choose to return to the here and now. Sometimes it’s helpful to direct attention to what’s going on in your body: notice sensations, sense your feet making contact with the floor, sense your hands, and your breath. At other times, “unhooking” from a mind state can snap you back to the now. Once you are back, relax and stay open to what is present in your awareness.
Maintaining Presence Is Not Easy
One evening, a number of years ago, my daughter, Heidi, was at my house and she was in a lot of pain in her lower back and rib cage. I offered some “motherly advice”, but it wasn’t what she needed at that time. She turned to me with a strained look on her face and said, “Please, Mom. I’m really hurting. Just love me. Please – just be here.” I stopped talking, went over to her, and put my arms around her. That was a turning point for me in deeply understanding the importance and power of presence. She might just as well have been a Zen teacher in my living room that evening, exhorting me to “Wake Up!”