“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.