Presence - 2022

Nine quotes about presence that made me think this year 

I haven’t written as much about presence this year as I had hoped, but I have been focussing on presence and living it, which has meant putting certain projects aside and pausing to look around more than once in a blue moon. Spending time with the people I love and being completely present there too. Unfortunately, that also meant less writing for a little while. 

I’ll be pulling together a wrap up article for the year’s happenings shortly, but before I do that, I wanted to share a few of the quotes I came across in my reading this year that directly related to being present or made me think more deeply about relationships and the life that I am crafting for myself, and a couple of thoughts.

The best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment.  — Thich Nhat Hanh 

Everything we do builds on itself day by day to create the life you want to live. You cannot create anything of value by worrying about it, ignoring it or leaving it to fate and our autopilot routines. We must make a decision and look at what we are doing right now. 

“Isn’t it wonderful to be alive? You know, you can forget all about it. Then suddenly you remember, and think of all the things you can do. Here I am. I can walk around. I can talk. I can see things and remember things. I am alive. How wonderful.” – Sophia Loren 

Life has been rough for everyone in the last few years, and yet there are still things that we can do and see and experience. I am not a positivity junkie by any stretch of the imagination, but I do believe in the power of being grateful for the things we do have. Regardless of the circumstances we are in and the hand we’ve been dealt, we are still breathing and in a beautiful world. Sad that I needed reminding isn’t it? 

“Part of the difficulty of our times is that we have reduced the magnificent adventure of being a human being to endless, wearisome projects of self-improvement and self-analysis according to the flattest and most boring maps that could be made. It’d be lovely to hear someone talk about themselves as if they’re standing on a threshold to a new world, and to engage and embrace themselves with the sense of adventure, urgency, danger, and excitement that you would as if you were exploring a completely new kind of territory.” – John O’Donohue 

Being alive is just such an adventure, isn’t it? You never quite know what is going to happen to change your careful plans or to make a mockery of the things you feel you need to work on in your life. And sometimes all the cool stuff just flies past us when we are too busy trying to fix ourselves that we miss out on the tiny mundane moments that are the pointers to real joys in life.  

Most humans are never fully present in the now because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now. — Eckhart Tolle 

Do you keep your eye on say, retirement for example, and everything you do is laser focussed on the benefits and peace and happiness you think will arrive at that point? Is your gaze so narrow that you find you really don’t like your life right now because you want to be retired already? Retirement has to be better, doesn’t it? Or perhaps it’s that new car or house or when you get married, or whatever. Life will be better when…. But what if it’s not? What if your focus changes then to the next thing that will be better? Or maybe that thing will never happen. How many years will you have wasted just treading water? Sure, plan for your future, but don’t live there. Yet.

It was purposeful choosing to be there, in the wilderness. It is, for many reasons, the best environment in which to find oneself; a sense of calm, presence and belonging come much easier. – Jason Fox 

Somehow, I have always known that being out in nature or walking in a forest or sitting on a rock on a hill supplies a way to magically escape and disconnect from day-to-day stuff. I head for the local arboretum the minute I am feeling overwhelmed and wander among the trees until I can breathe deeply again. But it was interesting to see it in print in Jason Fox’s book about how he used it to deal with PTSD after serving with the British Special Forces. I have made it a point to get out more this year, especially after being a hermit for the past couple of years! 

We return to the past and continue to suffer. The past is a prison. But now you have the key to unlock the door and arrive in the present moment. You breathe in, you bring your mind home to your body, you make a step, and you arrive in the here and the now. There is the sunshine, the beautiful trees, and the songs of the birds. – Thich Nhat Hanh 

Along the same lines as the previous quote, this one from the Buddhist monk gives practical guidance for just how to get back to the present moment. When we dwell on the past or the future, we are time travelling in our minds to times that have ceased to exist or have not yet come into being. So, to return to here and now, you need to sense what is going on around you right now. Pick them out and catalogue them in your mind. Can you smell your partner’s signature scent? Can you feel the weight of your body on your chair? Can you hear the birds calling outside? How many different ones can you pick out? Can you slow down and let that piece of chocolate melt on your tongue and register the sweetness and the textures and appreciate the complex steps that went in to creating that delight you are experiencing? Being present is simple, but it is not easy when there is so much stimulation coming at us all the time. It helps if you leave your phone in your pocket, and this return to the present takes seconds. 

“Stop measuring days by degree of productivity, and start experiencing them by degree of presence.” — Alan Watts 

I used this quote at the beginning of the year when I kicked off my year of focus on being present, and it is still a fabulous and straight to the point reminder. Stop hustling! Don’t measure your worthiness by how many things you got done today or the money you made. Take time to be with the people you love. Neither of you are going to be around long, and you cannot take that fancy car or flash house with you. You didn’t have a great day because you got all your errands done and ticked off your to do list. You had a great day because you sat completely still and watched the cat roll around in the sun and appreciated how carefree she looked. Or that you had a great phone call with your best friend. It’s about what we pay attention to. 

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” – Joseph Campbell 

The thing about seeking your purpose in life is that it seems to have us focussing our attention on the future. Viktor Frankl in his impactful work, Man’s Search for Meaning, noted that our purpose in life changes as we go through the seasons and circumstances of life. Which resonates with this quote, I think, in that, to see what our purpose is, we need to be experiencing what is going on around us and noticing the needs of the people around us moment by moment. Then acting according to our values. We only find happiness and fulfilment when we are helping others, not when we spend our time navel gazing and chasing some elusive future state. 

… non-attachment comes from a place of conscious presence. And the power and depth coming from that place is vastly stronger and deeper than anything that can possibly spring from the ego. – David Gerken 

Holding onto to someone or something too tightly is what causes us so much more pain when we lose whatever it was that we were clutching than if we allow them to rest in our open hand. Holding on too tight and trying to control will also stifle and degrade that person or thing. Taking a step back to appreciate where we sit in the big picture and understanding what we have control over and what we don’t allows us to pour ourselves into loving and nurturing with no expectation that we have forever to do it. Being in the present and practising non-attachment allows us to see the needs of those around us, to share our time and resources, and to hold space for others to grow into themselves. In turn it strengthens the bonds between us. Win-Win! 

I hope you have enjoyed these few quotes too. The reminders to pay attention and remember that we are nothing more than a speck of microscopic dust on the timeline of the cosmos have kept me on my path this year. Attention and perspective. Our little lives will whizz past in a flash. I for one don’t want to get to the other end only to find out that I blinked too long and missed it. 

What does seventy million years mean to beings who live only one millionth as long? We are butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever – Carl Sagan 

Photo by Graham Pengelly on Unsplash

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