Do you remember the first time you fell in love?
What was it like?
Typically, our heart flutters or races; maybe we become faint, or trip over our words (and our feet); all our tension melts away, we forget our to-do list…the world shrinks away into the brilliance and simplicity of that one person in that one moment…and we utterly forget ourselves.
One of the best and most important ways we show someone our love is simply by being present with them. Experts on long-term healthy relationships emphasize this more than any other practice: when your significant other comes home after a long day of work (or vice versa), turn everything off – the phone, the computer, the TV – and set everything down – the dishes, the workbooks, whatever is in your hands – and practice simply being present with your mate.
Have you ever met someone in passing who strikes you as the most radiant, peaceful person you’ve ever seen? Images of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, or Mother Teresa are profoundly moving for many people – so much that scientists have bothered to study the physiological effects of these images, finding that merely looking at someone with a bright, open, smiling presence will lower blood pressure, reduce tension, lift depression, and speed healing.
Eckhart Tolle emphasized presence as the very essence of knowing God, and what is God but perfect LOVE. God is here and now, no where else and at no other time. Love is here and now, no where else and at no other time.
Devotional practices such as the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, and the intense rituals directed toward Tantric Dieties in Hindu and Buddhist practices last for several hours or even days, during which devotees may completely forget to eat or sleep as they are so caught up in the presence of Divine Love.
Right where you are, take a few deep breaths: with each breath, you become more centered, more relaxed, more present. Draw your present-moment awareness within, stay present with your internal reality at this moment. What do you notice? Pain…tension…hunger…oh, and that never-ending laundry list…simply notice what you notice without judgement or trying to fix anything. Just be present.
Continue to allow your breathing to be full and calm, to bring your posture into a free and open feeling, and to brighten, sharpen your awareness with presence. “Now I am completely present.” Continue to notice what you notice. When you find your mind wandering down a long trail of thoughts, judgements, and lists, snap your fingers and say “presence”. Does your awareness open, does your vision brighten, do you feel free and clear just in that tiny moment? Try it again: snap your fingers and say “presence”. Breathe into that moment, without holding on or fixing anything. Simply notice what you notice, and continue this practice of pure, uncomplicated, unfettered, PRESENCE.
Now that you have a taste of presence – an awareness that is not fabricated or wrapped up in thoughts like “I’m doing it!” or “I suck at this!” – try it with someone else. Think about someone you love very much whom you will see later today – your kids, your spouse, your parents. Visualize that moment when you walk through the door and see them, watch yourself putting down your things, forgetting the next things on your list, and simply being present with them. It may help if you are sitting together on the couch, for example, so your bodies and minds can be open and relaxed. Physically turn your whole body toward that person, relax your hands in your lap. Keep your posture open and relaxed. Gaze into their eyes with your heart. Listen with your heart. Stay present with them, stay present in that moment – just like the first time you fell in love.
Once you’ve rehearsed this a little in your mind, do it! Staying present will take practice, but now you have tools: remember the free and clear feeling you felt when you snapped your fingers and said “presence”; remember how you feel when you see a picture of Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama; remember that you truly love this person, and that being wholly present with them is one of the most potent ways of showing them your love.