Being present

It was weird. I had set up the blog for while I was away with every post I would usually publish. During my absence, I still managed to visit the blogs I would usually read and answered all the comments. In fact, there was absolutely nothing to show I was not at home and at my desk. Even so, the number of page views halved. That happens every so often for no apparent reason and it is not worth even thinking about. This time, though, the stats had been that way for exactly the duration of my absence. I can understand the change when it is obvious that I am away, when posts and responses might be erratic, but on this occasion, there was nothing at all to even hint that I might not be at home.

“So, in effect,” said my friend as I pondered the enigma, “the only thing that is different is your presence.” He was right and that was an interesting idea. There was no observable alteration in my usual routine, but somehow, my lack of presence was communicating itself.

I suppose it is the same sort of thing as when you are speaking to someone who makes all the right noises at the right moments, but who is not really listening. They may be genuinely preoccupied with something else, or simply not interested, but what they are not is present… and you can feel it.

That you can feel it is easy enough to explain in terms of those infinitesimal changes in tone and body language that we learn to read from the earliest age. But you can generally feel it just as clearly even without the visual and auditory cues. Silence and stillness can communicate presence just as powerfully as they can show disinterest… so I got to thinking about the whole idea of being present.

 

We talk a lot about ‘living in the present’…as if we could ever live anywhere else. We might focus on the past or future, but we can only be in the present. Are we always present though? The answer, for most of us, is ‘probably not’. We spend a lot of our time living on autopilot… a useful knack for routine actions, but not the most effective way to drink the essence of every moment. Our attention, instead of being open wide, is either tight-beamed onto one focus or so diffuse that we take in no more than a general impression. Either way, we can miss not only the details but the heart of the moment too.

Many of us are not even present to our own professed beliefs. We say the words, without paying them a great deal of attention, but fail to put into practice what we truly believe we believe. Most of us are horrified by examples of injustice, prejudice and cruelty… and most of us will be guilty of them at some point in our lives. Teachings of love and kindness are ignored in the pursuit of success, ambition can overrule conscience and ego blinds us to our own reflection.

One of the things we do in the Silent Eye course is to share techniques to combat this lack of presence, and even the simplest exercises can dramatically increase our sense of ‘being here’ and our awareness of the world around and within us. It is surprising how small the changes need to be to open ourselves to being aware of our own presence in the moment. I wonder if it was through some trace of far memory or prescience that we learned to call a ‘present’ a ‘gift’…

For there is another kind of Presence too, that is only felt as we learn to be present. Call it what you will, define it as you must… it is heard in that still, small voice within, that echoes across eons and touches heart, mind and soul, opening the doors of perception to a wider experience of life.

59 thoughts on “Being present

  1. I’ve noticed the same thing … not when I’m “out of town,” but when I’m inattentive or just busy with other things. Maybe it’s something in the way we put our pieces together. Or maybe it’s something we DON’T do. Maybe it’s something missing? Lately, I’ve simply been busy and having a hard time finding space to sit and concentrate. So maybe the concentration is what’s missing. It’s an interesting question.

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    1. It is odd, isn’t it? If it is just attention, it makes you wonder just how acute our sensitivity is to the emotions and engagement displayed by others and how that affects our lives.

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    2. I do it too. Too many things I have to think about every day. It is frustrating and overwhelming often, so when I do come across something I really love to read, I don’t feel like I am giving it my full attention even though I am trying so hard. And getting older, I am tending to forget things too. I am very loyal to people and I have a very disabled friend who has been through a major challenge and tragedy in her life when her home and all her art was destroyed in the worst fire in California, so I am trying to help her as she is just living wherever she and her caregiver can stay right now. The only memory she has is what is on her old blog, and part of that is about to go away with Google.com, so I am struggling to save what I can for her before it does, and I have only the slightest knowledge of how to do what I am trying to do. And I have my studies, and all the volunteer things I do to try to help make life better for those who have little voice of their own, so it is a challenge. I live with my significant other, who has his own physical challenges growing worse by day and six dogs, a couple of them with their own physical challenges, and a cat, and I would not change a thing. So if at times I seem feeble-minded, I hope no one takes offense. It is like trying to pack the whole world into a day and to keep all that is so important to me in one place. I struggle greatly with this more and more each day, but at the same time, I am so happy that I was here to help others. So yes, an interesting question and one for which I don’t have any answer. Life is so full anymore even when we would not have it so.

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  2. Maybe those ‘bots’ they are always talking about, knew you were not at your computer? That it hadn’t been switched on, even though business was being conducted as usual? Definitely, food for thought, although we will probably never know the answer…

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  3. You are so right especially when we go through many difficult situations. I was talking with someone the other day and remember saying to myself ” listen to her”.

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  4. How interesting, Sue. I didn’t notice that you were out of town. But I know what you mean about visits dropping when we are not there to receive them. Presence, being in my body, takes significant slowing down for me and occurs most easily when I’m in nature, when computers are nowhere in sight. 😀

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  5. This is so well done… (you are a wonderful writer, I think) Much to ponder, and I especially liked the idea of present/gift. If we all could keep that connection in mind perhaps we’d value presence more and work a little harder at it. It can be rewarding effort, for sure.

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  6. Well-put observations, Sue. I particularly appreciated your wording here: “Our attention, instead of being open wide, is either tight-beamed onto one focus or so diffuse that we take in no more than a general impression.”

    I was just having this very discussion with someone this week: about “that difference.” It mystifies him still. But I’ve seen and experienced it so many times by now (in the moments when I am present) that I notice it everywhere. My friend was saying, “But I did everything you suggested and the interaction still went badly,” after which he enumerated how he had smiled and said X, Y, Z and “even used that phrase” that he and I had talked about the week before. I listened to it all. Then I asked, “But do you like this person?” and “Were you expecting this person to do something for you in return?”

    He paused, then said, “No, I don’t really like them and I did expect a certain outcome … but I did everything right! Why does it matter how I felt or what I wanted?”

    And all I could offer was “people can tell.” A perfect sequence of actions can fail, and an imperfect attempt can reach the heart. And it comes down to all you’ve said here: whether we are present (and what is in that true self at present).

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    1. This is such a great discussion, for I think most of us try very hard to “be present” with whomever we are interacting with at present. But as I am learning in my studies with The Silent Eye Mystery School, there are others present all the time too, and they do tend to grab our attention to suit themselves at any particular time. The human mind is the most puzzling entity that I think anyone in this world can deal with. Not to sound crass or cheap, but I was thinking that the one time I can think of where we are actually totally in the here and now is in orgasm. It is as if our minds, aside from the help of our physical bodies, are exactly where we are, with no judgements and no thoughts for anything else. We are lost in not only the physical world, but also in the spiritual side of mankind. And we are with the exact person we are with, without any interference from within or without.

      I think as we all try to understand our own minds, I wonder if there are mysteries in this life we will never have the keys to unlock. Something strange came up for me that I remember reading in Sue’s and Stuart’s posts about the wheel that was often used to torture and kill people. Isn’t it an odd thing that someone would choose a symbol of completeness and wholeness to do such an opposite thing? So will we ever have answers to these many excellent questions and comments? I doubt it in this lifetime. Thank you one and all for this truly mind-shifting conversation. My mind is on overflow.

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