Presence (February 20)


“Take care and say this with presence of mind” (Terence).

PRESENCE OF MIND IS A HARD THING FOR BUSY PEOPLE TO ACHIEVE. The more we try to do, the less we think about our doings. Most days find us rushing through a crowded agenda, and we have little opportunity to concentrate. Our minds are pulled forward so urgently by the next thing that has to be done, they don’t get a chance to dwell fully on the words and deeds of the current moment.

Consider Terence’s statement quoted above: “Take care and say this with presence of mind.” How much of what any of us have said in the last twenty-four hours has been said “with presence of mind”? Probably not more than a small fraction. Frankly, most of our words are said while our minds are on “automatic,” and most of our deeds fall into the category of “going with the flow.” If you don’t have that problem, then you’re living on a level that most of us haven’t reached.

But what is “presence of mind”? Might it not mean that we not only think consciously about what we say and do, but also savor these things as they are happening? Assuming that what we’re doing is what we ought to be doing, we miss a great opportunity if, as we act, we don’t consider and enjoy our actions, gratefully aware of (1) ourselves, (2) our deeds, and (3) those with whom we may be interacting. Life is made up of moments, and if we’re not “present” in these as they pass by, then there is simply no other happiness we can enjoy.

When we fail in the matter of presence one of the more tragic aspects of the problem is that others fail to receive from us the acknowledgment they deserve. In these days of multi-channel communications, it’s rare to communicate with anyone, even face to face, and feel that you have that person’s undivided attention. We’re torn and divided. We’re simply not present for one another anymore.

But try it, even once or twice a day, and see what a great difference it makes. As you interact with someone, honor that person by being fully and completely present for them. Say by the attention you devote to them, “I am aware of you. I am conscious of you. I am taking thought for you, and in this moment, I am at your service.”

“The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention” (Richard Moss).

Gary Henry –