Are you always all there? Maybe like me you’ve found yourself pondering some great question or problem as you drive along. You suddenly ‘wake up’ and realise you’ve been driving on autopilot for the last several miles, clearly in a sense not present, yet presumably driving perfectly safely.
There are in any case degrees of presence. You walk along similarly, pondering the mind’s current obsession, oblivious to whatever glorious surroundings you may be in. Something catches your attention; you examine it intently, fully aware of that object. You continue, looking at things around, all much of a muchness.
Then one day, perhaps in spring, you are more fully present. You see the buildings, particularly enjoying those that are more beautiful. You can see the quality of aliveness in the trees and vegetation around – and entirely deeper quality than that of the buildings. You see a different quality of aliveness in the animals and birds you encounter.
Another day you have had some special experience, perhaps an intense workshop, encounter, sunset, exceptional scenery, love experience. The world is alive and intense – a deeper quality than on every other day. It sings to you and you sing back. You are all one with it, fully present.
I get a sense of this on more ordinary days, when I remember to change the normal focus of the mind, pull back and become aware of all that is in peripheral vision. Suddenly the world is in full three dimensions, rather than the two dimensions offered by focused vision.
In personal encounter the ever-present challenge is to be present to the other person, particularly difficult with someone who is only present to themselves.
Presence has an inner dimension. Psychology tells us that as we become aware of, present to, inner attachments and traumas we can begin to move beyond them.
Apparently irreconcilable problems can be resolved if all involved become truly present to the situation, moving beyond attachments and egoic concerns – attested to by the practice of Quakers over the centuries.
In a sense we can see life as a challenge to become more present. Are not the great sages and poets simply more present to the world and less concerned with all the everyday concerns and fripperies of life.
The current popularity of mindfulness and meditation are encouraging signs that, despite whatever is not working in the world, we are all increasingly becoming more present to each other and to our predicament. Only through increasing presence can we see beyond the polarities that are driving societies to destruction towards the solutions that will sustain a livable planet for all. Deeper presence is actually what we need.
May you all have good Christmas presence!
Featured image a sunset at Big Bend national park, Texas 2010