Giving Presence

As we cross the threshold from the holiday of giving thanks to the holiday of giving presents, I offer encouragement to include in your giving this year—in addition to whatever actual “presents” you may give—the gift of your actual presence both to your loved ones, to strangers and lastly, but not least, to yourself. “Easy for you to say!” you may well respond. “It’s the $@#! Holidays!” (Or: “Have you seen my $#@! in-box??”)

How do we find our own presence within; how do we re-discover what some would call our higher Selves, our own souls … in the midst of the busy-ness of this season, and of our overall lives?

We know when we have touched this place of quiet feeling, a sense of assurance arises within, and our problems seem smaller, solutions more evident, or we are content to simply enjoy life as it is, now, no matter what our circumstances.

"We know when we have touched this place of quiet feeling, a sense of assurance arises within, and our problems seem smaller, solutions more evident ... "

Our children benefit, our spouses, our families, our colleagues.

I have learned for myself that the how is as simple as stopping. In my work of late, I’ve been using the term “surrender.” Surrender in the very best sense, meaning we stop trying to control everything around us (a futile task!), and even what is within our own minds. We stop. Emotions may continue, energies in the body. Chaos may swirl, still, for a while. But we do not need to continue to feed our thoughts, which add complexity to the storm. We can stop.

What is here, under this surrender, within this stopping? Under thoughts of what must be done, what we must do, what we must achieve, or change, and how we can prove our worthiness, or disprove our unworthiness? What is under, beneath, within, before and after our “to do” list, whether accomplished or not?


Beautiful Sunset - Ami Chen.


Within simple presence, when the mind is quiet, we discover the universal feelings of connection, love, peace—and a fulfillment that includes all others in its gentle embrace. When “me” and its non-stop trajectory is lost, when self-concept is forgotten, even if only for a moment, we are actually found.

I am very fond of the authors Hugh and Gayle Prather (Hugh has now passed on). They reflect in their book, Spiritual Parenting, on the idea that the Christian holiday at this time of year is perhaps particularly joyful because it celebrates the birth of a child.

The child’s mind, the child’s innocence, the child’s feeling all are not actually lost as we age. They are obscured by thought. It is that richness of mind and connection to life Jesus referred to when he said, “Be like the little children.”

I believe our gathering together and preparations for the holidays reflects our deep desire to feel love, to feel connected, to feel delight, to feel presence, to feel a sense of the sacred. Indeed, most of our efforts in life are directed subconsciously toward these goals. Ironically, and wonderfully, we can stop at any moment and find this presence is already here!

" ... We can stop at any moment and find this presence is already here!"

Perhaps we must first become present to ourselves before we can show up as present for our families … What does this mean for you today? An unscheduled walk in the woods, or by the ocean? A hot cup of tea, and your favorite chair? A good lie down in bed? A moment with your pet, or on your meditation cushion? Or perhaps simply slowing down in whatever activity you find yourself in, now.

Ask yourself (and tell no lies!): Does what you think needs to be done really need to be done? And if so, does it need to be done today? This minute? Is there something more important, more essential that could be discovered first—that might pave the way gently for good things to come?

Your present—your presence—gifted to yourself. I suggest this is this best gift you could “give” this holiday season. We could make a pact. I will give it to myself, if you will give it to yourself. What do you say?

Ami Chen Mills-Naim is author of The Spark Inside and State of Mind in the Classroom (revised, 2nd printing due in 2016). She leads the “Everyday Satsang” drop-in class through Santa Cruz Yoga. Next class is Sunday, Dec. 13, 2-4 pm at 1010 Fair Ave. Suite E. Class fee is $15. Ami also provides personal and professional coaching, is a global speaker, and leads retreats, webinars and trainings via the Internet and in person. Find more at


Everyday Satsang

Satsang is a Sanskrit word meaning “association with Truth,” or with “the Self.” In Hindu, Buddhist and other Eastern religious—and spiritual—worlds, this is a very common word that usually means: people coming together to listen to, to be with a spiritual teacher, and with each other, to “attend Satsang.” But to dive deeper into the word, and its meaning, is to see that satsang can happen anywhere, at any moment. Seeing some truth of life, whether a relative truth, related to our own families or lives, or an absolute or universal truth, this capacity to feel truth, to know truth, is perhaps the most important “resource” we can call into lives—for our families, with our loved ones, for our work, for everything.

"There is a source of insight inside of each of us, and inside of each child, that, when tapped, reveals truth that is just right for us, just right for our families and lives."

I was feeling stressed today, and running around the house sort of getting nothing done, but feeling like a lot had to be done! The kids were off school for a mid-week holiday, which, as a working mom, tends to leave me in the lurch—with stuff on my calendar (this article to write!), and a house full of my kids, and their friends needing to be fed and tended to.

My oldest daughter stopped me, looked me in the eye and said, “Mom, breathe!” She said it with the conviction of her own inner “truth.” Obviously, I was losing it a little. And then I looked into her eyes and smiled. I smiled because she was right. I smiled at her growing maturity and wisdom. And I breathed.

In that moment, association with Truth, satsang, meant tending to the deeper wisdom in the moment. Was stressing out going to accomplish anything? Was barking at the kids going to make life easier for me, or for them? Was I lost in thoughts of what needed to be done; and not looking at what actually could be done, or not done, for that matter? Could I stop in satsang, if only for a moment?

Diving more deeply into this word, with its meaning of Self, of “associating with Self,” we recognize the peace, the insight, the silence we experience as our Selves, our deeper Selves—our core. When our minds are quiet.

I have worked for more than 20 years with children, families and communities, helping people to see we each have access to Truth, and of course, to our own Selves! And the mistake I see most for parents, and for all people, is that we turn everywhere in trying to “fix” our problems or help our children—to experts, friends, books, to an absolutely endless catalogue of information on how to and what to—and we forget to turn within.

There is a source of insight inside of each of us, and inside of each child, that, when tapped, reveals truth that is just right for us, just right for our families and lives.

But it takes a calming down, a stopping, a trusting of a silent inner space that is both unknown, and also beautifully familiar. It may take a moment, hour or day of rest—of self-care. It may take even longer, but from a foundation in our own, inner satsang, life (the same life we have always had) shows up as more gentle, more fun, more graceful, more fulfilling, and, in the end, full of Truth … and full of love.

Ami Chen Mills-Naim is an individual and family coach, global speaker, and author of The Spark Inside and State of Mind in the Classroom. She leads public retreats (next retreat in Paonia, CO, July 15-17) and trainings, and a monthly drop-in class at her home base in Santa Cruz, California. “Saturdays for Mind & Spirit" (formerly "Everyday Satsang") through Santa Cruz Yoga. Coming dates are Saturday, May 14, June 11, July 9 & Aug. 13. 1:30-3:30 pm. Fee is $15 to cover facility and Meet Up costs. For the latest updates on this class, including possible venue changes, please join the local Meet Up Group or check Ami's Events page.

Spiritually Oriented Parenting Books

In follow up to my last radio show and podcast, Natural Parenting, I am listing some of the books that have been most helpful and inspirational to me as a parent, and as an evolving, spiritual being.

In some cases, I have found the writing itself to be simply beautiful and poetic, and so the poet and lover of literature in me is also recommending here. Here we go:

Parenting from the Heart, by Jack Pransky

This is the go-to book for parenting from a 3 Principles understanding, and has been recently updated to reflect a simpler and more profound understanding of the Principles.


" ... warm, beautiful loving thoughts for our children are always there; they've just been covered up by extraneous thoughts."

"We do not have to do anything to make our children become good kids. They already are."

Parent as Mystic, Mystic as Parent, by David Spangler

You can perhaps see from the title why Your Mystical Mama might like this book.

"If I thought I understood the mystical path before, it was nothing to what I have learned in the past fifteen years in being a parent to four wonderful individuals: John-Michael, Aidan, Kaitlin and Maryn.

It may seem strange to equate mysticism with parenting. The one seems so transcendent and pure while the other seems so mundane and--with four kids at least--messy! But mysticism for me ... is not found only in some higher, numinous realm. It is found all around us, waiting to be recognized and nurtured ... in the people and places that make up our world ... A mystic seeks the presence of God not to escape the world, but to be more present in the world in a loving and empowering way. And nothing draws you into the world in a loving and empowering way than learning to be a good parent."

Spiritual Parenting: A Guide to Understanding and 
Nurturing the Heart of Your Child, by Hugh & Gayle Prather

One of my personal favorites.

"Our spiritual unity with our child is the reality that allows us to love our child and our child to love us. This connection exists between all living things, but within the parent-child relationship, most adults tend to be more open to the ancient mystical insight that to give is to receive."

The Parent's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents
a new interpretation by William Martin

From Chapter 6, "Relax Your Grip":

"The Tao is continually giving birth
to your children
and to you.
You are not their source.
The Tao is the Great Mother
and the Source of all that is.
Her resources are inexhaustible.

If you empty yourself
of your own expectations,
you will see that your children
will never be
outside Her love."

Whole Child/Whole Parent, by Polly Berrien Berends

This book was such a surprise to me! When a friend gave it to me, I could not believe that one woman had written such a profound and far-ranging masterpiece on parenting and spiritual consciousness. I fell in love with it.

" ... now we are going about love differently. We recognize, affirm, and proceed as if our child really is perfect consciousness; and we treat everything else as transitory. We still deal with the immaturities--ministering, caring, correcting, comforting, teaching, serving as needed--be we do not affix them to our child. Instead, we consciously separate him--his true, conscious, whole self--from everything else that seems to be. In this way, an environment of letting be occurs in which the child most effortlessly becomes what he truly Is." [Note, bold face is mine.]

And let's not forget what my own daughter, Ali, age 9, recommends for all parents and caregivers in the simplest, and perhaps most profound terms:

1) "Just relax."

And if you feel you cannot "relax," and too many "things" (thoughts) are stressing you out:

2)  "Do things more slowly."


Join me for "Natural Parenting Part II" at 10 am PST at Contact Talk Radio on the internet, March 8, 2013 ... On the "On the Front Porch with Ami Chen" radio show.

With Love &
Happy Parenting!

Your Mystical Mama