The greatest gifts that I can remember receiving throughout my life are not ones that have come in a box with beautiful wrapping, although those can be nice too, but the ones that remain truly vivid for me are the gifts of sharing a moment, fully engaged with other people. These moments are usually with one person a loved one, a friend, family member, a student or a group of people. These moments may include the exchanging of ideas, stories, laughter, and even tears or maybe a moment of shared silence and attunement.
What is presence? Presence is a state of mindfulness. When we are present, we are alert, attentive and receptive in the moment. When we are present, we experience heightened emotional feelings that bring excitement, aliveness, and revitalization. Presence creates a real connection and rich intimacy. Being present can also bring us in touch with the life giving pulsation of Spirit and bring about a cathartic transformation.
If being present can make us feel so good, why do we fall short of being present? It is the ultimate love test. Let's take an intimate relationship, for example. In the beginning of an intimate relationship, we usually enjoy the experience of being present. We listen to every word, look into each other’s eyes, are inquisitive and interested, and express a great desire to connect. Most people refer to this as the honeymoon stage; a time of carefree enchantment with our loved one. As we settle into a relationship however, we can end up getting distracted or zoning out when we spend time together. Other areas of life call to us and we fall into half listening, more time watching TV or on the computer, and less time sharing the gift of being present with one other.
Our lack of being present usually is a result of several of our human challenges. The first is our wanting nature, which is our list of desired life experiences. Our wanting can be directed at a number of things at one time; a new home or car, more financial freedom, fulfillment in our career or in a specific area of relationship. Our lists can preoccupy us endlessly.
Secondly we can experience the challenge of pressure. Our career, family obligations, and our to-do list can run us like a machine. These pressures can make us feel that we have to be one or two steps ahead to balance it all.
Our third challenge is aversion. Specific interactions with the other person can bring up an aversion to being present. We may have a tendency to avoid when we don't want to discuss something that might issue sensitive feelings or be a repetitive topic. We may want to avoid when we ourselves, the other person, or the relationship, are going through a period of difficulty. Aversion can also creep up when we feel challenged.
Our wanting nature, pressure and aversion create distraction in us. We can go through the motions of interacting and engaging in our lives and wonder why we are discontent, bored, and have lifeless relationships. We can lose our joy of life and relationships when we spend our moments distracted, distant, stressed and not fully present.
When we have difficulty being present we can learn to guide ourselves to reconnect through our senses. We can use visual connection, verbal communication, touch, and listening to bring our awareness into the present moment with another person. As we learn to utilize our senses as a connector into the moment, the easier it is to engage in the present.
Connecting to the moment through the Senses:
• Visually connect by meeting each other eye to eye connecting soul to soul.
• Initiate verbal communication by making a positive acknowledgment about the other person.
• Utilize touch by holding hands, and giving a hug or kiss.
• Become an active listener, engaged in what the other is saying.
Tips for Giving Presence
• Spend time together without phones, tv, or the computer.
• Enjoy conversations that are not about logistics and work.
• Listen on the phone without multitasking.
• Play games and enjoy activities that require you to interact mentally, emotionally or physically.
• Take a walk, a swim or bike ride together.
• Cultivate a spiritual practice together.
• Create a ritual such as afternoon tea once a week.
• Meet for a spontaneous outing.
One of the wonderful gifts that we can give to each other in a love relationship, is the offering of our presence. We can become a genuine gift for that special person in our lives. "You must be present in order to win." And what we win is the gift of the moment that is real, fulfilling, magical and memorable.