I am here.
During this time of physical distancing, we have the chance to deepen our love and closeness with the people inside our “bubbles,” in particular. Physically, I’m at home with my family for the foreseeable future, but it’s important to ask: is the rest of me here, too? Am I 100% present right now or just 50%, maybe even 30%?
My body is definitely here, I know because I’ve checked. Are my mind and soul here, too? Am I truly present for the people I love, or am I distracted by the news, Netflix, house cleaning, or something else? Am I distracted by my worries or even the monotonous humdrum of my own boredom? Am I running my business from home and in my mind 24/7, instead of just during the hours of my usual working week? These are great questions to ask ourselves right now because. . .
To be truly present for another person is a gift far greater than anything else.
Full presence is a 100% ME kind of experience. I’m talking about a presence so pure and strong that it blows away both our own and another’s distractions like the wind dispersing cloud to reveal a beautiful blue sky. To be and remain present, cleans the internal windows of our souls, guiding us back to an inner stillness that is powerful and liberating. Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh explains the value of such a presence here.
Being Present For Kids
Children, in particular, need the undivided presence of caring adults. When I was a little girl, I longed for my father’s attention more than anything else in the world. My dad was a geologist who ran his own mineral exploration company in Alaska and usually spent many weeks away from home. When I did get to see him, it would be on Sundays, so I waited for those days as most children wait for their birthdays. It was Sunday afternoons that I would get to ride on the back of his dirt bike up and over the “tracks” that laced the hills surrounding our home in the bush. I can still remember what it feels like to cling to him, leaning against his back with all my weight as we bounced over those trails, hoping the ride would never end.
But it always did, and despite all the Sunday afternoons my father and I shared, they never seemed to be long enough for me. I would miss his presence terribly during the other days of busy-ness and distraction.
But right now, every day is Sunday.
Today my father lives far away in Baja, Mexico, but he is still the one person who can bring me back to presence faster than anyone else. This is because every moment that he did give me his full attention became a gift so precious that it became a barometer for what true presence can feel like every since. Because he was able to give me his full attention at those times, I was able to know what true loving presence felt like, and, even though I know can give myself this kind of attention, those memories of my father’s unconditional love will stay with me forever.
As human beings, we can spot a distracted person a mile away.
Children, in particular, have this fine-tuned ability. Sometimes when I think about the lack of distractions I had growing up – we didn’t even have a TV until I turned 10 – I worry that today’s children might never know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of true presence because our tolerance for distraction has grown so much.
Sometimes as parents we worry about giving our children too much attention. We fear they may become attention-seekers and spoiled. But this is counter to my experience in working with both my own four children and thousands of others as a family coach. What I’ve found is that…
Children do not become needy for attention if they get it regularly and feel as if they can count on it fully.
But if the only time our children get our presence is when they misbehave, they come to believe that acting out is the fastest and easiest way to get our attention. We have such a strong need to be seen and noticed that we will settle for negative attention, criticism, or even condemnation, rather than live without it. Something to think about the next time your kids start driving you crazy. Keeping track of how much time you are fully present with your children – versus slipping into presence with them only when they act out – is a useful exercise.
A Fast Way to Presence
Another helpful thing to do throughout the day is to take a slow, deep breath in, following your inhale and the rise of your chest all the way up until you can’t anymore, and then do it again. This is a quick way to bring yourself into full presence. You can also check-in with yourself throughout the day and ask what percentage of your attention is 100% at each moment.
As we clear our own inner upset, whatever form it takes, we then have an opportunity to be fully present for others and fully alive, too! Get in touch if you’d like to check how present you’re able to be.