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?

Presence!

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 www.AmiChen.com

 

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.

Trusting Our Children, Trusting Life

I was out in the garden today. As those of you in California know, we've had a drought, and things haven't been looking so swell. I haven't had time to put the energy in, but I've been worrying about the garden nonetheless. It's looks a bit crap, frankly. I've been thinking I should be mulching, fertilizing and pruning. But, as I say, I was out watering early this morning (we have to water before 10 am), and I noticed that even without my attentions, many of the plants seem to be thriving--looking healthy, looking good! Some had new flowers, or were standing quite tall, exuding their handsome greenness, or shiny new leaves and graceful symmetry. They were doing it all on their own.

" ... I remembered that Life thrives with or without our attention, and there is room to relax. Room to allow. Room to trust Life."

And I remembered that Life thrives with or without our attention, and there is room to relax. Room to allow. Room to trust Life.

When our children begin to seem "out of sorts," or issues arise around school, friends, or siblings, I know as a mother and parent that our first impulse is often to fix the problem--or at the very least worry about it! And of course, I have done. I have interjected, lectured, become fearful (and thus, angry) sent kids to their rooms, outlined a homework schedule, planned to speak to principals and teachers, researched private schools, looked up counselors.

And while there is nothing wrong with actually doing any of these things, we can dive so deep into the "parenting" role, that we forget that it is not our job to fix everything for our children, or our lives in general. We have another option: We can step back, and allow wisdom to emerge from the child, or wisdom to emerge from the husband, or wisdom to emerge from somewhere … We don't know where!

In my nearly two decades of working with families, I have seen that when parents overly worry or try to control their children and their children's problems and lives, children often become stressed and worried and depressed themselves. Now, their job is to be "good," and feel good and do well in order to make sure their parents are not worried and stressed out! An unhappy situation for all.

" ... when parents overly worry or try to control their children and their children's problems and lives, children become stressed and worry themselves."

I am not saying it is not okay to seek professional help, or to help our children in our own ways (and certainly some parents neglect their children's problems when they should be paying attention). It is just that so many times, when I have worried about one of my children's issues, I have noticed--very quickly--that as I ramp up about it, the child ramps up (becoming more anxious, digging their heels in, and so forth).

One of my daughters was very afraid of dogs, and this was getting in our way of going to the beach and going to public parks. It was creating conflict with dog owners. I noticed she was influencing her sister, and they were both becoming afraid of animals in general. The problem was obvious whenever we were outside, and my friends kept asking: What are you going to do? They recommended courses of action: perhaps a counselor? A special program?

But I wondered, short of having a dog as an actual counselor, how would it help to just talk to a human being about dogs? Nothing really felt right to me, and so I put my hands in the air, and let it all go. You could say that I prayed. Whatever our religions (or lack thereof) I believe all of us to be spiritually "connected" whether we realize that connection or not. Very simply, I believe that there is a deeper intelligence in life that flows through all of life and is in each of us as well.

"When I'm trying to control life, I'm trying to use a very small mind to control something so vast and unfathomable that one cannot even contain it in thought!"

When I'm trying to control life, I'm trying to use a very small mind to control something so vast and unfathomable that one cannot even contain it in thought!

Eventually, through happenstance, I enrolled my daughter in horseback riding lessons, and although she did learn to ride horses a bit, the riding lessons quickly became about overcoming her fear of dogs. There were dogs at the ranch where the horses were, and one day she told me: "Mommy! I sat down on a bench and a dog came up to me and for some reason I was just calm, and I wasn't afraid!"

Being around the big horses, too, I think, helped her to lessen her fear of animals in general and then finally on one of her last lesson days, a tiny brown puppy showed up at the ranch looking for a home.

"There is wisdom in life that is 'spiritual'--which simply means it is beyond form, it is not contained already in our personal thought systems, in what we already know."

She would become our dog, "Coco," of course, and we struggled with the decision to take her home--with so much fear around dogs in both girls now. But when she got home, Coco became our dog therapist and promptly started working on the girls'  issues, and with great success. She's with us still, and both girls are now doing fine with almost all dogs (big dogs still scare them sometimes.)

Coco

People ask me what spirituality has to do with parenting, and this is what I say: There is wisdom in life that is "spiritual"--which simply means it is beyond form, it is not contained in our personal thought systems, in what we already know--but it is always a benediction and blessing, an Answer. If we can relax more, step aside, and enroll wisdom in our family lives, we notice that its fruits are love, peace, health, connection and harmony.

Ami leads a monthly drop-in class called "Everyday Satsang" for parents, gaurdians and everyone else, through Santa Cruz Yoga at 1010 Fair Ave. Ste. E on Sundays, 2-4 pm. Coming dates are Oct. 25, Nov. 15 and Dec. 13.

This is first of a series of monthly blogs by Ami Chen on parenting, written especially for Santa Cruz Parent. Ami is a professional coach and consultant, as well as global speaker, trainer and author. She is author of The Spark Inside: A Special Book for Youth, and State of Mind in Classroom. She has worked with families and schools for more than 17 years.