Present Moment Awareness - Christine Kane

“As you look at, listen to, touch, or help your child with this or that, you are alert, still, completely present, not wanting anything other than that moment as it is. In this way, you make room for Being. In that moment, if you are present, you are not a father or mother. You are the alertness, the stillness, the Presence that is listening, looking, touching, even speaking. You are the Being behind the Doing.”

I’m reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth for the third time as I participate in Oprah’s on-line seminar. I read the above passage yesterday and was reminded of a sweet conversation I had with one of the participants at my retreat two weeks ago.

She talked about living her life in a state of presence. She said that in December, she focused not on her many goals, but on her present moment awareness. During the month, when she was with her husband and kids, she was “really with them.” Rather than worrying about what had to be done next, she just gave them her full attention. She was more in her body and less in her head.

As she told me about it, her lips slanted into a very cute smile. She added that, even though nothing particularly special “happened” that month, out of nowhere, her husband said, “Wow. This was a really good month, wasn’t it? We had a really good month together.” She knew without a doubt that his feeling came from the fact that she had fully been present to him.

We both marveled at how that works. True attention simply works magic.

For some reason, our conversation made me remember a moment a few years ago when my husband and I were visiting Fairfax, VA – where I grew up.

We were in a park, and I was on the swings. (I love swings.) Over at the sliding board, there was a mother and her two little girls. The girls – about 4 and 6 years old – were climbing in the area above the sliding board. Each time they wanted to slide down the slide, the mother would hold her arm out in front of them. She wouldn’t permit them to go down the slide until they had answered a series of math equations. “What’s 4 plus 6? What’s 8 plus 2?” Only when the child got the answers right was she allowed to go down the slide. Only when they “performed” were they allowed to have fun…

I think of that mom often.

I think of her when I’m with my nieces, and I feel my own urge to try to help them “improve” rather than just be with them and delight in their outrageousness and beauty.

I thought of her when my friend Beth called me as she was on her way to a massage and told me that she tries to make herself work extra hard before a massage so that she can feel like she “deserves” it.

I think of her when, on a cold weekend day, I can feel the drill sergeant in my head telling me all the things I need to do when I just want to read a fun book and go for a long hike with my dog.

She is like so many of us. In that moment, she forgot how to witness, how to appreciate, how to delight, and how to simply “be” with her daughters.

Start right now and see if you can bring a little more awareness and presence into this moment and into your whole day, not trying to change anyone or anything, just being present to your work or to the phone call, or to what you’re reading. Really listen when you’re listening. Really see when you’re looking. Really taste when you’re eating. It isn’t “hard work” to do this. It’s simply a state of awareness that’s easy to forget. See if you can remember it today.

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30 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Susan

    Hi Christine,
    Found you through Connect Simply, Heidi’s blog:)

    Here is a link to Barbara Kingsolver’s book entitled High Tide in Tucson. There is a short story in this book of short stories/essays where Barbara takes her daughter to the zoo. She, Barbara, is ready to help her daughter “learn” about the animals, but here daughter has different ideas. She wishes to swing on the bars…for hours! I think of this often as I try to just “be” with my own children. I found the same passage in Eckhart Tolle’s book to be fascinating:)

    Good to meet you!
    Susan

  • Joy Langtry

    Christine, thanks so much for writing about this. I LOVE the dynamics between Oprah & Eckhart – they are so very different, yet so synergistic in this creation.
    I’m convinced that Oprah is making this accessible to a remarkable number of people who may not have otherwise ever exposed themselves to this book. The tipping point, indeed!
    Thanks, as always.
    Love,
    Joy

  • Christine Kane

    megan – yea, i know that little caustic voice inside well! thanks for sloggin’ through to the end of the post. glad there was a smile too!

    pat k. – in the most recent seminar (#4) there’s a segment when eckhart calls pets “the guardians of being.” which is beautiful, of course. (at the time, my husband and I were sitting on the sofa listening to the audio, and my cat was laying on his back in between us with his paws straight up in the air. (my husband rolled his eyes at eckhart’s statement and we both just cracked up.) anyway, you’re right about the multi-tasking! it’d be sort of funny to imagine someone reading that book with the tv on and while making dinner and talking on the phone or something.

    monica – what you wrote is exactly what happens with emotions. at my retreats, the very first hour is spent in silence. all the women have come fluttering in from various places in the country (some come from other parts of the world!) and the first thing i have them do is wander outside along the hiking trails and spend one hour in total silence. no reading or writing. many of them report back that the first thing they experience is profound emotion and sadness. when that happens, if you can just resist the urge to judge it, then usually it just plays its course and moves through. and yes, you are often taken to a deeper space once it gets out of the way. emotion is just energy really. have a great trip!

    lisa – wow! that’s lots of stuff. i think it comes down to your awareness. if your mind is ruminating while you’re walking in the woods – and then you get mad at yourself for ruminating because you’re not being present, you’re just adding one more thing onto the mix. but if you can just observe the ruminating, then that’s one step closer to being in the present. and yea, i think you can go to the woods to think. i have better hikes when i’m fully in the woods just taking it all in. And as for “being in the now” – when you’re REALLY in it and experiencing it, there’s just not an allowance of multitasking. It’s not that multi-tasking is WRONG. It’s just that when you’re fully experiencing this moment, you can’t be also worrying about this next thing or that other thing. YOu’re just fully enveloped. And it’s not mental in the least. It’s full body living here now absorbing the moment. When I do that, I simply don’t have the multi-tasking gene anymore or something. If you like to multi-task, then go for it! No one is saying it’s WRONG – it’s more about missing what’s right in front of you to be experienced. Yea, maybe that mom had agreed in advance to combine play and math. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter. What I saw was a moment that was filled with mental activity – and the energy of it felt frantic. When Eckhart speaks, he calls it “sign posts.” His words are pointing in a direction – but they can’t take you there. you have to go there. I try to let these teachings wash over me, and not figure them out so hard. It is true, though (is it not?) that most people haven’t got a clue what NOW is?

  • Christine Kane

    diane – yes, it’s always good to watch the part of you that’s reading and already prescribing the book to others! 🙂 that’s a sure sign that we need to be the ones to really sit with the book. and it sounds like you absolutely made the right choice. (not that there’s such thing as a wrong choice!)

    deb – i would even challenge you to boil your water on the stove and avoid the microwave altogether! 🙂 (Is it me? or does microwaved water not do tea very well?) and you know, i’ve been through so many levels with being a musician and being self-employed – and i’ve gotten scared and had very little money and lots of money – and it still all comes down to presence and taking action with presence. all of that stuff is just the waves on the water. you’re way deeper than that!

    thanks mary! yes, the last post mentions my 2 year anniversary of blogging. I was going to write a lot more about blogging – but then, it just seemed like there’s plenty of other information out there! i love the improv idea. performing – when it’s done right – is that very same thing. while i was listening to eckhart talk on the 4th seminar – i was thinking about how performing always works when you’re in the present moment. i get stage fright less and less now because i just know that it’s always about just being there. i’ve thought about taking improv classes just to experience what you describe.

  • Lisa Call

    Excellent post Christine. I’ve been practicing just being with my kids since they got home from a 3 month trip a few weeks ago and it has made a huge difference in our relationship. Life is much more peaceful at our house.

    There are times when I have to play the mom role (please empty the dishwasher, feed the cats, clean up the living room, cook dinner, do homework, go shopping, etc).

    Figuring how to integrate both of these things into a the relationship is difficult. I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are times when it is appropriate for a mom to ask a kid what 3+8 equals.

    Maybe on the slide isn’t that time – maybe that mom is always like that and not living in the now. Or maybe that mom asked the kids “we have to do 10 math problems today – would you guys like to do this sitting here or would you like to go to the play ground and do 1 problem for each slide down the slide?”.

    Which leads to the multitasking question – is it bad to combine play time and work (being and doing)? Is it even possible? By doing the math is the mother even capable of just being during the rest of the time?

    Should we do just one thing and focus on that one thing to completion before doing something else so we should always pick the “answer the 10 math questions then you can go to the playground”?

    I have no answers – I’m working through my own life trying to work out what might work. In monday’s broadcast Eckhart said something about how walking in the forest is not the time to plan for the future in response to Oprah saying that she might go to the forest to do some planning.

    Which implied to me he thinks multitasking (and the mom doing math on the playground in any circumstances) are not preferred ways of being – that focusing on a single thing at time is the way to go to stay in the now.

    Any thoughts on this Christine? I’d love to hear them.

  • Monica Parker

    What a lovely and poignant post, Christine! As I’m sitting here going through a massive to-do list before I get on a flight and disappear for 3 days (no not vacation but educational which is the next best thing) my head is a swirling mass of past, present, and future. What would it be like to focus on the present right now?

    I have to admit that sometimes I avoid the present because to sit still and be in the moment might release a wellspring of emotion that I’m not sure I can handle. I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. But maybe that’s emotion’s way of knocking on the door to say “let me out.” Then once it’s out you’ve got the clear, cool water of the present in which you can submerge and refresh yourself.

    Anyway, thanks for giving me at least a moment’s pause and reflection with your beautiful post.

  • Pat K.

    I find the best way to read Eckhart is to do so very slowly, in chunks, so that one can digest his words and the meaning.

    Being in the present moment is something we can learn from our pets, because animals live FULLY in the present moment. They don’t need to “forgive” because they don’t hold grudges, they don’t “worry” because that has to do with the future, the know what unconditional love is and practice it always, they experience total focus (ever see a cat watching a bird?), allowance (imagine putting up with us humans!), and acceptance, all because they live in the now. Observe and learn from them. 🙂

  • Megan

    christine…came across your blog through a mention on Leah’s creativity heaven at
    http://www.creativeeveryday.com/creativeeveryday/2008/03/inspiration-gal.html. Started reading this post thinking “yeah, yeah another reminder to be present” and finished with a little smile on my face & a slightly thawed shell. thanks….it does make a difference.

  • Mary Miller

    Hi Christine! Excellent post, as always. Another wonderful way to practice & reinforce totally being in the moment, is improvisational theater. To create an improv scene you must completely be in the moment to create relationship with your fellow players & create the scene. Any mind wondering, mental chatter or trying to think of something clever to say next is called “being in your head”, thus not being truly present and not connecting in the scene. It’s a wonderful excercise in being completely present im the moment, and contrary to popular belief, improv doesn’t have to be funny—just honest. PS-Say didn’t you just celebrate the 2nd anniversary of your blog-congratulations & thanks!

  • Deb

    This is one of those issues where culture is running (at least rhetorically) at a 100 mph the other way. We’ve been so hammered that the only people who get hired and keep their jobs are multi-taskers. Even though individually (privately) we know and research keeps validating that multi-tasking is a myth.

    Do you know how hard it is to stay in the kitchen while the microwave heats the tea water? Of course it makes sense to grab those 90 seconds to zip down the hall and check an email account; right?

    Diane’s comment reminded me about something I once heard that we prefer to focus on who else could use the information we’re hearing or reading or watching because it takes the focus and pressure off ourselves to clean our own side of the street.

    That said, I left a line of work I took three years to prepare for when the kids were grades 4, 6, 10, and 11. It wasn’t popular with one of us but in the kids lives and my experience of mothering it was the only choice that made sense. I was surprised when it came up as a topic recently by more than one party completely individually. The kids remember it as positive influence on their youth and the unhappy party is still unhappy even though we were fine and even prosperous at the time. But then one of us knows the children (now adults) really well and the other hardly knows them at all but thinks they do.

    When a part-time job I had went away last summer I strongly sensed the impression to focus on writing. At the time we had more income from other sources and my weekly contract column covered my expenses. But things have shifted and the income is not as plentiful as it was and there is not much left to squeeze. However, this area has a glut of over-qualified workers to compete with for minimum wage. So everyday I look for work, find none, and this voice in my head whispers that the work isn’t in the want ads. Whatever that means. But I need some to show up soon all the same.

  • Diane

    As always Christine, I appreciate your thoughts! I’m on chapter 5 of The New Earth. I’d bought it years ago and never got around to reading it until Oprah’s big push. I can’t seem to get through a chapter without thinking “Gee. so and so really needs to read this!” Then I think “Yikes, that is my ego talking!” I’m reading and re-reading hoping it all sinks in.

    Six months ago I wasn’t sure about many things in my life. EXCEPT one thing was thankfully so loud and clear. I needed to be 100% available for my son. Long story but leaving a job is scary and I explained to him we wouldn’t have money for “extras” but we could squeak by for a year. Best thing I ever did! Knowing it could not last forever has really made me value each minute of every day. Listening to my gut instincts has a way of always paying off.

  • Christine Kane

    hi jennie joy — firstly – i have a DVD in my shopping cart called “Backstage Guitar Lesson” where I lead you in a class about my songs, all the open tunings i use and how to play songs in open tunings, etc. you can get it for $5 if you get my dvd “live at the diana wortham theatre” — otherwise, just email me at christine@christinekane.com. mary catherine is a hard song to play because it’s in open D – and i’m all over the neck on it. so it’s not so much about chords as it is about “positions” of the hand.

    hope that helps! hope to see you at a retreat too!

  • Jennie Joy “JJ”

    Hi Christine!
    When I discovered your music not to long ago, I felt like I had been missing out on something for a long time! I love it. It’s the kind of music you don’t just listen to, you feel it! I love that kind of music.

    I was wondering if you could share some of your chords with me. I wanted to play some of your songs for people…
    I really want to play the Mary Catherine’s Ash Wed. Journal Entry… if you could share those, that would be AMAZING!

    I hope I get to attend one of your conferences one day… I’m a Big dreamer, but with a history of playing small 🙂

  • Christine Kane

    hi marcy – thanks for the note. Yea, I just got an email from one of the women who had taken my e-Seminar about this very issue of goals and intentions. she was worried that her ego was making the goals. I told her that my experience is that it’s not about “getting rid” of the ego – but more about being in the moment while still setting the goals. (i know for me that taking action steps with goals in mind has taught me a lot about my own ego and all of its resistances!)

    irene – that’s funny about how it scared you. my husband and i both admitted to being totally freaked at the thought of eckhart sitting on a park bench all day long! i love how oprah is handling this course.

  • Irene

    Hello Christine,
    I appreciate your post a lot. It made me think of the time I have spent with my nephews being there with them. In return they are there with me. Every moment in the now is a bliss. This makes me think the first time I encountered the Power of Now and how the moments of Ah! Ha! scared me and at the same time thrilled me. A New Earth is wonderful and doing the course with Oprah and Eckhart is opening more doors. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Marcy

    Christine,
    I just found your blog when searching for vision boards. From what I read that is a common way for folks to find you! I love your post on A New Earth. I have been watching the recorded webcasts because of some technical difficulties. One of the things I have been thinking about that your post brought to mind is goal setting. I have been struggling a bit with that and the book is helping me to remember that it’s OK to set goals but your mind still belongs right in the present moment, not on the goal for the future. It helps to remain that present and open to the universe, because you never know what could pass right in front of you that is even bigger than any goal you could imagine. So, my focus is just to remain open and try to manifest a lot of flow and peace in my life. Thanks for writing your blog. You are inspiring me to do a better job with mine!

  • Christine Kane

    Thanks Tig!

    Thanks Danny… Yea, it’s weird because sometimes I don’t feel like I can speak with any authority about kids, since I don’t have them. But at the same time – it’s all about presence and awareness – and all things are connected. So, I think I’m pretty tapped in to children. I just don’t have as many schedules to manage on a daily basis!

    Dee- it IS great. Isn’t the registration at, like, 3 Million people now? I think this could be the tipping point of the planet!

    Jenny – it’s worth sitting for many weeks and months reading it over and over. Being someone who’s very NOT enlightened 🙂 , I keep finding new layers in it each time I read it. And there’s always the reminders to come back into the now…

  • Jenny

    Excellent post, Christine! As a mom of two young kids who are growing up way too quickly, I really needed this reminder. I’ve noticed that our best days are always the ones where I leave the dishes alone and the toys on the floor. They’re only little once, right?

    I can’t wait to finish reading A New Earth. I borrowed it from the library, but had to return it before I was finished due to a waiting list. I think I’ll just head over to the store tonight to pick it up instead of waiting. Thanks for that reminder as well!

  • Dee

    Hi Christine,
    Isn’t it just great how people ALL over the world is able to have this GREAT lessons from Oprah/Echart thanks to the http://www…I am following it from England (just like I keep an eye on your blog for inspiration) AND THE MOMENT I saw the subject/title of your blog in my RSS feed I just KNEW you had to be following it too. I read “The Power of Now” a few years ago but put it down half way through… But with A New Earth I am just addicted… I guess the time must just be right for me to learn this powerful information NOW

  • Danny

    I think it is great that you used the example of children for this topic. There is so much we can learn from kids when we choose to be present for the lessons.

    I read somewhere once, that kids spell “love” T I M E. Over the years, I have expanded on that to realize that, really, we ALL spell love that way. What you are touching on here, at least from my perspective is that clearly, we need that time to be pure and present rather than dictated to us by some inner (or outer, as the case may be) drill sergeant. This is especially true for children.

    I am forever glad to be a dad, so I have a reason to be present, every day. Thanks for reminding us just how important it is to choose our presence.

    Danny

  • Tig Wallis

    Excellent points, Christine. Too often we spend all of our time thinking about the future and forget about the present. We all have 1,440 minutes in a day; what you do with yours is up to you.

  • Christine Kane

    kathy – the audio version of the book is just as powerful. i first listened to it when i was driving through iowa and missouri three years ago. it had a profound effect!

  • Kathy

    The New Earth is an amazing book. I am reading it too but haven’t had time to do the Oprah web seminar yet. I can’t wait!! The book comes with me on all my trips and I can feel it’s power just by having it near me….even though I’m only part way through. I find that it takes focus to read it though with the right intention so sometimes I just carry it with me but am not reading it. Being aware of that thing called ego has been enlightening and already changing my life for the positive.

  • Christine Kane

    sue – my stuffed animals were a VERY big part of my life as a kid. (and i made lots of clothing for them too!) it’s good you’re able to let her feel okay with that. for me, it was always a battle between my mom and my stuffed animal world. I was always split in two and a little nervous. yay for you for letting her be messy!

    kasie – your blog is beautiful – and yes, you are a busy mom. (and so creative too!) even a few moments of stillness and awareness can shift a whole day. (not to mention your relationship with your kids!)

  • Kasie@~The Art of Life~

    What a great reminder! It’s so easy to lose sight of the present moment. So often we’re thinking about the past and what we would have changed or worrying about the future.
    The present is a gift. As a busy Mom I needed that reminder. 🙂

  • Sue

    thanks Christine 🙂

    Yesterday, my daughter and I were the only ones home for a bit. We were playing with her stuffed animals in her room in a big imaginative way. I had to almost (literally) bite my lips not to say, “Wow, we need to clean out up your room tomorrow, we can barely move in here!” I had to make a decision right then to be in that moment, and once I got over my ‘mom’ role like Eckhart says, I was able to enjoy her, and realize much of the mess came from her diligent making of clothes for these animals, so of course, they had something to wear to school.

  • Christine Kane

    thanks mags! i didn’t know he was 60. you’re right – he’s kind of ageless. (he reminds me of yoda or some kind of elf-ish spritely character in the hobbit.)

  • Mags

    Hi Christine

    Thanks for the great post, and the reminders of the different ways in which we forget that the energy of being (with all the joy and peace that comes with it) is available to us always and doesn’t have to be “earned” through busywork.

    I’m also following Eckhart’s web classes with Oprah, and enjoying them so much. Did you know Eckhart is 60 (to me he looks about 40)?! He’s definitely the best example of the positive effects of being present!