Think to those moments when you’ve felt fully alive. Moments when you were unaware of the time, buzzing with possibilities, aware of what you see and smell, what you taste; how you feel. Moments when each breath feels deep and your heart feels full of gratitude.
That is the experience of being with life. That, is presence.
It’s easy to be with life when things are going well. When we’re on vacation. When we’re at the beach or in the mountains. When we’re with the people we love. When we witness a beautiful sunset. It’s unintentional presence, right? We don’t have to try, it’s just there for us. A moment of grace, peace, integration.
I experienced unintentional full presence this morning, sipping my cup of delicious green tea in the early morning light. It was just cool enough for a sweater, and warm enough for shorts. The sky was pale blue with a whispy set of clouds over the horizon. I observed the shape of the clouds, imagining what each looked like.
And then I shifted into more intentional presence. Breathing more deeply, feeling pieces of my hair tickle my cheeks and forehead as the wind blew gently. Sensing that my body felt open, at peace. Noticing that the air smelled of coffee, and of the Sharpie pen, open and waiting for me on the face of my journal. When I was more still yet, I could feel the soft thud of my heart in my chest. The pulsing rhythm it created in my fingertips and feet. Ahhhh. Joie de vivre.
It is that kind of intentional presence I aspire to invite into more moments in my life.
Here’s the challenge: what if, instead of wishing them away, we might learn and practice being with moments of difficulty. What if we attempt to be with life even when it’s not going our way. Even when circumstances are less than our ideal. Not only when we’re on vacation. Not only when nature’s beauty beckons us. But in the midst of a sleepless night, a difficult conversation at work, a project that feels like a failure. What if we could be with that? What might we learn?
A few years ago, I experienced a particularly challenging season of my life (“Challenging season,” doesn’t that sound lovely? The truth is, it wasn’t just challenging; it was miserable. I felt like I was on my own personal version of the TV show Survivor where I was the only one on the island. And I was physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted.). I fought it, I wished for it to be over. I cried. I prayed. I complained. And then I got curious. I wondered, what can I learn from this?
And learn I did. I learned that it was time to transition out of a job I had loved with a company I had loved. I learned that I needed a serious Pause in my life. I learned that I needed to reconnect with my deepest values. I learned that I was stronger than I ever knew, even at my weakest. I learned that I could depend on the people around me who I had always prided myself in supporting. I learned that in being with I had access to a whole universe of data about myself that my logical mind never allowed me to access.
So I ask you: what do you wish was over? What feels heavy? Can you try to be with it? Can you – without judging it or trying to reason with it – create a space of love for yourself and intentionally face it? Feel it with your heart. Feel it with your body. Feel it wherever it shows up. And be open to the learning. And look forward to the next beautiful, grace-filled moment of unintentional presence, because it will come.