The Art of Being Present

by Julie Redstone -

There is an awakeness that comes from a clear mind, unobscured by wandering thoughts and preoccupations, and there is an awakeness that comes from a clear heart, willing to engage with life as gift and as an ever-unfolding revelation of the purpose of Creation.

EMOTIONAL DEPTH - Such an awakened heart cannot respond indifferently to life because it sees the outstretched hand of the Creator at every turn and in every particle of experience. It cannot turn away from feeling, no matter what feelings may occur, because it perceives emotional depth as the great gift of individualized consciousness. This gift stirs the response of individualized life to the Source of life as it displays Itself in all living things.

THE SACRED IN EVERY MOMENT - To be awake and present is to take responsibility for noticing - for maintaining an intimate connection between the self that IS, and the rest of the world that IS. It is to know that within the domain of this relationship lies a profound revelation of the Source of all within every gesture, every interaction, and every experience that takes place. It is to perceive the sacred in every moment.

In today's overscheduled world, being continuously busy is sometimes a necessity but often a choice based on the drive for outer success, wealth, and the symbols of what is often taken to be a 'life worth living'. Being busy, as opposed to having time 'on one's hands', is perceived by many as a testimony to a life that has merit, purpose, and meaning.

By contrast, idle hands - hands that remain receptive rather than active in relation to time, suggest that time is being wasted - that one could do more, achieve more, accomplish more. No matter if these hands are connected with one's heart and with the heart of the world. For many, it is only the visible 'doing' of things that creates a sense of security and lets us know that time has meaning. The existence of a space of silence in which awareness can broaden is often not considered a gain. Nor is simply being here, responsive to the very air we breathe, considered a virtue.

NOTICING - Is it any wonder, then, that we, as a collective humanity, have forgotten the sacred art of being present, that we have placed 'noticing' on the back burner of experiential values. And what would we notice if we took the time to do so?

In order to answer this question, it is helpful to sit in one place, breathing quietly, eyes somewhat unfocused, listening, seeing, sensing. Though one can do this profitably in a bare room, it is easier, at first, to sit in an environment where there is just a little movement present. Now, close the eyes and pay attention to the other senses. Feel the comforting fabric of surrounding life as if it were an envelope or cocoon, gently cradling one's essential self. Notice everything without discrimination, without opinion. Try to feel the intimacy of connection with what IS.

OPENING OF THE HEART - Spending time for a few minutes each day being awake and noticing is a good way to begin the practice of being present. It is a good way to begin to expand one's idea of what constitutes a meaningful life. And yet more than this is needed if one is to truly embrace what IS, and to be 'present in the present'. What is needed is the greater opening of the heart to the one Self that exists within all.

ONENESS - This perception of Unity and Oneness has an opportunity to grow at any moment in which we interact with another soul. It is nourished by an absence of judgment and by a willingness to be open to the deeper levels of who that other might be. Such openness comes from a state of innocence and of childlike grace. It comes from knowing that the 'other' is part of the same 'ALL THAT IS' as oneself, therefore of one Heart, one Breath, one Life.

The gift of being present as it applies to relationships is that it brings love to every interaction, no matter how small or insignificant. It brings the Divine into every perception, no matter how ordinary. And it brings gratitude into each moment as it unfolds.

THE ESSENCE - As a sense of being present deepens and one's capacity to 'notice' flowers, the deep richness of life and of love can be found everywhere and separation nowhere. In this state, one senses only the One who lives within all. One feels the Essence within every other. Here, consciousness can only affirm the greater life of which it is a part:

I Am and You Are. We are both of the stars and of the dust of the earth. We are both of the rocks and of the sandy shores. We are water and we are sky; we are earth, and we are air. We are the Breath that life breathes through Itself, in a single and continuous song of Creation.

OUR WHOLE SELF - To truly be present, we need to be available to the moment with our whole self. This requires not only an act of attention but also an act of integration so that we are drawing upon all parts of ourselves to 'be with' another.

When we think in terms of roles in life, we split ourselves up into parts - a father role, a mother role, a teacher role, a student role - we are not our whole self. Many times, we feel the pressure of social expectations which cause us to believe that we must remain within these roles. However, true expression, intimacy, learning, and healing for ourselves and others cannot come from separating ourselves into parts. It can only come from being touched and touching others in the deepest possible way so that our presence with them, even for a moment, makes a difference.

To step out of a role is not an easy thing but it is a simple one. We need to think of ourselves as souls, here to serve the purposes of love and healing for the earth and for ourselves. To see love as the primary purpose that we bring to all situations, no matter how rule-bound or role-bound they may be, is to strive within each one to make of it a moment of meaning.

THE EYES OF LOVE - Sometimes the access route is through the eyes of another. When we look in another's eyes, we see and are seen. And what we see depends very much upon whether we are operating out of fear or out of love. If we are operating out of fear, we may see judgment, distance, or coolness in another. If we are operating out of love, we will see the beauty of the soul of another. This cannot help but be true, for each human being is a soul, come to the earth with gifts of great beauty. And so if we look with the eyes of love, we will see the soul of love in return.

UNIQUE - Often, courage is needed to remain in a place of integrity and wholeness when others around us are not. Often, we must remind ourselves of the purpose for doing so - the purpose for remaining true to ourselves at all times. This purpose has a deep spiritual taproot. It is the root of our knowing that we are unique in all the universe and that the space we occupy cannot be filled by anyone else.

BREATHE WITH AWARENESS - To be true to ourselves, it is often helpful to breathe with awareness - to breathe, and to feel the life of God filling us so that we become an extension of all that is pure and holy and loving. If we are not connected to this greater life, we are more vulnerable to the imagined or real shortcomings that we may feel on the level of the personality. If we are connected, there are no longer shortcomings, there is just love to be shared in all situations, all of the time.

THE GIFT OF LIFE - The recognition of the greater Life that is expressing within the physical is the key that unlocks the door to being present. For this greater life flows through us and through all else. It is the ground of our being and the reason we were created. We are expressions of the One, manifesting in an utterly unique and irreplaceable way. Being faithful to that understanding means that we must be ourselves as an expression of honoring the gift of life. When we hold this in mind and heart, we can learn to lead a seamless life, one in which we are, at each moment, fully present, fully alive and fully ourselves!

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