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

 

God's Breath Has Come ... Have You Lost All Your Leaves?

About a week ago, I felt the first breath of spring on my cheek, on my being. It was physical--the humid warmth, the raw smell of green growth. It was mental--a new focus, and simultaneous expansion of the mind. It was spiritual--a settling into great peace and contentment, along with the stirrings of excitement for new ventures.

Let me tell you, this "winter" was hard! (One must put winter in quotes in California to appease all our Northern friends.) Winters in California are easier, of course (or, perhaps) than winters in North Dakota and similar environs. However, the trees lose their leaves, the rains and cold come ... It is still very much a season of interiors. I become tired of my home, tired with myself and many issues arise, patterns of thought that still have not lost their grip on me.

I told my Step Mother/Second Mother (who also suffered a hard winter, she said) that my saving grace this winter was a passage from a book by Adyashanti that spoke of trees, which lose their leaves, in winter.

Before the leaves come down, great winter winds shake and blow--a powerful cleansing of the Earth. Spiritually, winter, if one allows it fully, can be that cleanse for us, for "human" nature. As when one runs about with a broom and duster in the house, sometimes dust must be kicked up before it can be swept out.

I saw all of these attachments that still cling--leaves shaking, dust swirling--ways I continued to define myself by that which is external to Me. Nothing really to do with these thoughts and feelings, but be the tree--allowing it all, secure in its rootedness to that which is greater and stronger ... In fact, existence itself!

Can one be naked, a winter tree? Can one be nobody and nothing at all? Winter comes to test our defenses, asking that we drop them all ...

And now, the breath of spring has come, God's breath.

Have you lost all your leaves?