The Presence in our Presents
At this time of year, when we turn our attention to giving and receiving, it is good to reflect on what we are really doing when we give presents. Usually our gift to someone symbolises our love, gratitude, appreciation or acknowledgement of that person.
We often put much thought and effort into deciding on and finding a present that expresses the feeling or message we want to communicate, that best suits the person as we know them, and that acknowledges the way in which they are special to us.
Truthfully, there are times when we just quickly drop off the chocolates, flowers or bottle, a present without any presence!
Giving the precious gift of our presence to another person is often challenging, especially at this time of the year, when we tend to be so very, very busy. At Christmas time, we are often found rushing around, planning, fixing, preparing, distracted and neither present to our selves or others.
Being present requires that we STOP, pause, quieten down and become mindfully aware. Timothy Gallwey’s STOP Model invites us to be present to ourselves by taking a
Step Back – often difficult when we are under pressure, but when we do this we can then
Think – with a clear mind. We are now better able to
Organise – our thought and discover how we will
Proceed – to carry out what we have carefully thought through
Richard Rohr reminds us that to be present you must
“Keep your heart open and soft, your mind receptive, without resistance and your body aware of where it is, and it’s deepest level of feeling”
Presence is when all three centres, heart, mind and body are awake at the same time.
The Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us so much about presence through his meditation on tea:
You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea.
Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup.
Only in the present, can you savour the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy.
If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea.
You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone.
Life is like that.
If you are not fully present, you will look around and it will be gone.
You will have missed the feel, the aroma, the delicacy and beauty of life.
It will seem to be speeding past you. The past is finished.
Learn from it and let it go.
The future is not even here yet. Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it.
Worrying is worthless.
When you stop ruminating about what has already happened, when you stop worrying about what might never happen, then you will be in the present moment.
Then you will begin to experience joy in life.
Thich Nhat Hanh, meditation shared at Plum Village in southern France. See Evan Sutter, Solitude: How Doing Nothing Can Change the World (Tenth Street Press: 2015), 147-148.
This Christmas Season Take time –
- when you drink your next cup of tea or coffee to be in the present moment
- when you give Christmas gifts to be present to the person you are giving the gift to
- to consider giving the gift of your time and presence to someone this Christmas