This ‘being present’ movement is great on paper, but there were moments today when I was pining for my ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ days.
Those lost and unconscious days also came with 50lbs extra pounds on my body, feeling disconnected and hanging on my hook waiting for the next person to need me.
But it had it’s benefits. Like the hiding from the world. There was comforting darkness. There was sweet avoiding and being unwilling or interested in addressing the feelings I hadn’t processed over decades. It was just me, my surface facade of “everything is fine”, my bathrobe and Turner Classic Movie Station to keep me distracted and entertained.
Now THAT was blissful.
I use to believe that to “be present” I would walk around in some altered, zen-like state sitting in an ashram chilling with the Dalai Lama. The most peaceful person on earth.
What I know today is really quite the opposite.
It has been described that to be present is the simple act of being with whatever you are doing – fully. To watch and witness it all. To be open and willing to experience whatever presents itself inside and outside of you.
This is where master gurus say they meditate 24 hours a day – meaning WHILE they are living life. Like gardening, walking or talking to friends. That they are fully there and not thinking about the next thing to say or do. They are in the moment… and the next… and the next.
I’m good with that, as long as I’m walking through a warm, lush field of swaying grass at sunset on an all expenses paid vacation. That would be EASY to be with.
But what about when I am wrestling my 2 year old to change his explosive diaper, have kids tormenting each other for fun and no clue what to feed them or me for dinner (which is now an hour late) because I chose to spend that hour cleaning up an unplanned video for my next ‘Daring to Suck’ challenge? (…more on this tomorrow).
Was I present? Yes. Fully.
Was it blissful? No.
I felt the buzziness in my stomach from juggling too much. I noticed my shortness of temper and lack of patience with my kids who only wanted my love and attention. However, I also noticed I caught myself before it got worse. I felt my feet on the ground and took a deep breath in and out. I got down on the floor to read them a book and shake off the mounting tension. I smelled their hair and noticed how grown up and helpful my five year old is all of the sudden. I laughed watching my 2 year old struggle to hold a ‘grown up’ spoon. And in doing so, the light and space inside my body came back… phew.
This is sweet recovery from the practice of presence.
Some days ignorance is easy to pine for when we feel overwhelmed, but recovery and grace are pretty cool bonuses in the world of presence too.
We all know that life isn’t a field of tall grass every day. It’s messy and awkward. We have voices in our heads, stories we become aware of and time constraints that bring pressure. We bump into people who see things differently and there are disagreements and we can’t control how the world shows up in our presence.
But we CAN control our responses and our recovery. These moments are our do-overs.
And the only way to be back in the drivers seat of our own experience is … yes… to be present. We just may not like what we see or feel when we slow down.
Which reminds me of this thing called learning.
I cannot emphasize enough that this is a practice (like yoga, as I mentioned) and there is no finally getting ‘there’. As much as that may piss you off, it’s true. So let THAT gem wash over you as you curse my name.
I do have some relief for you though (which I hope you see it that way). It’s a perspective-saving model I discovered in my journey that helps me understand what we are really going though in life – Learning.
The Four Steps of Learning (and Consciousness)
STEP ONE. You DON’T know what you don’t know. (aka. Ignorance is bliss. La la la….)
STEP TWO. You KNOW what you DON’T know. (aka Awareness. This step SUCKS the most. Vulnerable. Awkward. Mistakes live here.)
STEP THREE. You KNOW you that you know more. (aka. Trial and Error. Sucks less. More confidence. Lots of practice.)
STEP FOUR. You know. (aka It’s second nature. Comfort. Ease. Like Breathing)
These steps are important to be aware of in EVERY experience we have, because we are always on at least one step (or straddling two) AT ALL TIMES. Note that we may ‘linger’ on some steps longer than others but eventually things change whether we want them to or not.
Knowing this process exists is also an opportunity to obliterate the idea of “getting it right”, perfection or getting to the “end”. We are always in process.
So the question becomes,
What kind of a learner to you want to be? One that embraces and goes with the flow of “what is” or one that resists every step of the way?
When we reach that fourth step, there is enjoyment and rest – but life will ALWAYS happens and we become aware of something new (again). Here we are, back at step one again. And around and around it goes.
It’s actually comforting to me in a lot of ways.
It reminds me that we are all connected. That I’m not alone in this process. That whatever is going on in the moment will change if I am willing to pay attention and lean into whatever it presents – from receiving love or experiencing joy to surfing the waves of discomfort and thrashing around in change.
It’s all a part of these steps and totally normal.
And in this, none of us are alone.
My recommendation to us all?
KEEP PRACTICING. And know that wherever you are is just wherever you are. If you were meant to be at the top of the steps, you’d be there. So breathe. Be kind to you in this learning process and know you are in very good company (the rest of mankind).