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Imagine coming into the presence of a baby. (Or, if it’s easier, a baby animal.)
Eyes round and open, she is awake and alert, expressions flitting across her face.
Would you ignore this luminous presence?
Or would you take in her precious being with an attuned, loving, perhaps even grateful greeting? Perhaps some sweet words, a higher-pitched, maybe even cooing, voice, a soothing tone…
In so doing, you acknowledge that her presence affects you. That she is here and you are here. That you are connected with her. In a way that feels nourishing and contactful to both of you.
What if this were the way we lived our lives?
In contact with each other, with the earth, with the other-than-human beings, and with the rhythm of our lives, all the time?
What would change?
I know I would feel more open, more grateful, more awake, more alive… more present.
From what I understand, our indigenous ancestors lived in this way—in deep contact with themselves, each other, and the earth—and from this deep experience of kinship, in deep gratitude.
Our Native American brothers and sisters, indigenous to North America, continue to carry this relationship of kinship, of respect and gratitude into our modern times. They remind us of what is possible.
As you know, I’m all about practicing presence!
It’s my tagline, afterall: “practice presence for life.” And I’ve written a whole e-book about small, doable rituals you can incorporate into your daily life to feel more present.
But I think there is something else I’m exploring here.
It is what all my presence practice rituals are pointing toward. Like the Buddhist story of the finger pointing to the moon, we don’t want to get fixated on the finger, but to focus our gaze on the moon.
All my presence rituals are meant to support a dropping into this deeper contactful presence.
So, what is presence, anyway?
Right now, I am experiencing it as a full-bodied, full-souled contact with myself and “the other.”
And when I feel it, I feel grateful. Presence and gratitude go hand in hand.
Since many of us don’t often get the chance to interact with a baby—human or animal—how about practicing with an alive being you connect with daily?
- A partner or child
- A pet or plant
- Some other being outside—the snow (a good choice this winter in MN!), the sun, the moon, a tree, or a mountain?
Find a specific living being—human or otherwise—and let that being teach you how to be fully present. (You might also find some of my other presence practices/rituals help prepare you for this. Poetry is one of my favorites, so here’s one:)
Praying by Mary Oliver
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
Here are a few suggestions* for getting started:
- Open all your senses to this being—sight, sound, taste, scent, touch. And keep returning to your senses when your mind sidetracks you back into thoughts. Take this being in as fully as you can.
- Receive how their presence affects your whole bodysoul—body, heart, mind, soul. You might experience it as pleasant or unpleasant. Continue to drop thought and come back to body and heart, in particular.
- Make some sound—words or otherwise—to express your experience. It might be joyful or sweet, or you might feel sad or angry or confused. Express whatever it is with sound.
- Notice how you feel nurtured having greeted this being.
- Take some time to receive any greeting in return.
- Then thank the being for this contact that brings you here, in touch with yourself and the living web of relationship all around you. Use words or sounds or movement or gestures and keep coming back to your body and heart.
Let’s close with a nurturing and greeting ritual:
Place your hands in prayer position in front of your heart with me.
As we bow our heads to our hearts….
We are bowing to ourselves for practicing.
We are bowing to each other for practicing together.
We are bowing to the earth as the ground of our practice.
* After writing this, I realized how influenced I was by the recent work I have been practicing. You can find a similar practice in Soulcraft by Bill Plotkin.
I also want to credit the phrase “nurturing and greeting rituals” as originally from Erik Erickson as “daily rituals of nurturance and greeting,” which I found in Dolores LaChapelle’s book Sacred Land, Sacred Sex, Rapture of the Deep. She uses it not only in the realm of humans, but to include all of the natural world. (p. 170+)