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The art of being present

Posted by Simon Parke, 14 November 2017, 7.25pm

People say it is good to live in the present, and this makes sense.

The past is stale bread, the future is no bread, the present is fresh bread.

However, it’s difficult to be present… despite it seeming the most obvious and easy thing in the world.

And perhaps particularly difficult at Christmas with so much stuff going on?

In truth, most of us are hardly ever present.

It’s not unusual for me.

One of the reasons for this is that we can only be present without judgement.

And I do judge.

But if we are judging our situation in any way, wishing it were different, we cannot be present.

And our mind is always judging.

Always, always.

‘I wish the sky was blue today, and not this wretched rain.’

And suddenly, I am not present to my walk, which is sad.

So I abort the present with my judgements.

Perhaps we live our lives thinking it used to be better when…

Or looking at someone else’s life on social media and thinking that must be really good…

Or imagining that just around the next corner is the answer. I’ll be happy then!

But certainly a judgement about the now.

The present is not quite what I want, but with this or that - well, it could be great!

We live in situations that we are constantly judging, with people we are constantly judging.

It’s what the mind does.

‘Can the bus go any slower?!?’

And so we are not present to our journey.

When I don’t accept the present, when I don’t embrace it exactly as it is, when I resist it in some manner, I am somewhere other than here now.

Please note: This doesn’t mean we have to declare everything to be marvellous.

This is not some desperate positivity.

But it does mean we accept whatever is presented…without judgement.

‘I am finding this difficult and that’s OK.’

I’m not judging it; I am just speaking my experience in this moment. I’m present to my experience rather than wishing it were other.

We might be present to difficulty or joy, sadness or rage, maybe anxiety.

The mark of a contemplative is one who beholds...which is pondering/seeing without judgement.

We’ve dared to try this on retreat this week.

And people who never imagined they could do have been pleasantly surprised.

We’ve taken a difficult situation, an area of damage in our lives…and merely looked at it, without judgement, without trying to impose a solution on it.

We just behold it, it’s what is, it’s OK…and allow room for grace.

Strangely, change occurs when we accept a situation rather than resist it.

The present is fresh bread, yes.

Even at Christmas.

And one way to a present Christmas is to notice our judging mind, give it the day off - or the whole twelve days - and allow this moment to be exactly as it is.

Now that’s what I call festive….

 
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