Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Three Meanings of Present

Many Eastern spiritual traditions teach the wisdom of being present in every moment of now. This principle was brought to the attention of Westerners in the 1960s through Ram Dass’s classic Be Here Now, and more recently with Eckhart Tolle’s bestseller The Power of Now.
Recently I was contemplating the meaning of "present," and I realized it has three meanings: "here" (when the teacher calls your name you reply, "present!"), "now" (an event occurs in the present), and "gift" (“here’s your birthday present!”).
What I like about this trinity of meanings is that being present means more than “being here now”; being present also means embracing what is as a gift.
When I was in high school I used to make a calendar in the last few months of school and took delight in crossing off every day until the last day of school. One day I realized how crazy this attitude was—I’m celebrating getting a day over with? As if a day is something to endure? What is life except the collection of innumerable days just like this one, filled with a mixture of positives and negatives?
A beloved cat, Fluffles, helped me learn this lesson. At one point in my life she and I would wake up every morning in bed together. Every day the first thing I would become aware of was the sound of her purring, and it communicated to me, “I’m happy that we have another day to live and to love each other.” Yes I finally realized, that’s the way to live. Not seeing life as an endurance test but as a gift!
The gift of presence has another meaning also. Werner Erhard (founder of est) once said, "The greatest gift you can give another is just to be with them."
As I have learned to be more present, I have seen how true Mr. Erhard’s insight is: when you are present with another, they often open up like a flower. Presence is like a calming wave flowing through you, and other people can relax in its wake.

1 comment:

  1. No wonder I love kitties - they're way ahead!

    A wise look at how we can choose to cherish life in each moment... I hope more children have this door opened to them now, rather than waiting for decades to discover being present.

    In an early job I hated I'd cross HOURS (!) off the calendar (a meager "Ka-ching" each time) but at least it led me to look for work that suited me better. It took much longer to uncover the damaging belief that I needed to endure things until "real life" began somehow, some day when things were "perfect".

    Being in the present to me has been like discovering I am on a magic carpet. It is terrifying to realize that this moment is really all that I have - the carpet is a flimsy perch over the abyss of time ... but an exhilarating ride if I can relax into it.