How often have you received an invitation in the mail, where it has indicated No Gifts Please – Your Presence Is Your Present? There could be many reasons why hosts choose to include that instruction.
Maybe they end up with a lot of stuff they don’t need every time they throw a party; they don’t want their child to be greedy and would rather encourage them to be focused on the experience rather than the gifts; they don’t want their guest to feel pressured to bring something or to feel like they cannot attend because they cannot afford a gift.
These are all plausible reasons, but my most idealistic interpretation of that directive is that the hosts simply are interested in me being a part of their celebration. They want me there – body, mind and spirit.
It occurred to me recently that maybe that is the way I could approach the holiday season this year, with the perspective that my presence is my present, to myself and to others. That is not to say that I won’t buy gifts or lend a hand, but rather, that my primary purpose is to be truly present to the entire experience of the holidays. What a lovely thought! The question is how to do that without getting caught up in the stress of the additional holiday To Do’s.
So I have compiled a set of reminders for myself that I trust will bring me reliably into presence. Actually, I just mentioned the first step of the plan – remember to trust. Trust that everything that really needs to get done will get done; that enough will get done; that it will get done in enough time and at a high enough quality; that what I do and how I show up will be enough.
The next thing to remember is that presence does not just mean physical presence. For instance, I am sure the hosts that indicated, “your presence is your present’” do not expect you to show up, then hide in a corner on your cell phone handling the logistics of your personal or professional life. I am pretty sure they intend you to show up and be present to them and whatever they want to celebrate with you. They want you with all of your uniqueness to contribute to the breadth of their experience.
Similarly, presence calls you to be aware in the moment, to be fully there and experiencing what is happening now in your body, mind and spirit and aware of what is happening around you.
With this in mind, it seems logical to start with me first, by regularly checking in with myself and asking a few questions.
- What does my body feel right now and what does it need?
- What is going on in my mind right now and what does it need?
- What emotion(s) am I feeling right now and what are they telling me I need?
My body may want more rest, like a nap or a hot bath; or, it may want more movement, like a leisurely walk or an intense workout. My mind might feel the need to organize all the to do’s swirling around in my head; or it may want the intellectual stimulation of researching an interesting topic, or lively conversation.
Maybe my mind wants to relax by watching a show or listening to music. My soul/spirit may want deep connection with someone I love, which can be found in a phone call to my Mom or a meal alone with my husband. Maybe my soul wants connection with itself and/or God (Source) through meditation or journaling.
There are endless answers to those questions and no answer is right or wrong. Actually, the answer might be the same for all three. A leisurely walk with a dear friend could provide the movement my body needs, the stimulation my mind craves and the connection my soul wants.
What is most important is answering those questions honestly and then going ahead and doing what best serves you. In this way, you orient from a place of awareness of your own experience. When you are present to your own needs and fill yourself up, you are then available to offer your full presence to others. Then the real fun begins.
When you make yourself present and available to others, you have the opportunity to continue being aware of your own experience, while also being aware of what is happening around you in your environment and what is being said, expressed and done by others in your environment. The REAL challenge is to be aware of what occurs in you in response to what is occurring outside of you, while STAYING with the experience and the people around you.
This can be particularly challenging during stressful times of the year. It is easy to let worry about all that needs to be done get in the way of being fully present in the moment. To be frank, even if you come into a situation totally full and ready to be present, you cannot actually stop the worry from arising. A person can mention an incident that occurred during their Christmas shopping trip, and BAM! You are instantly thinking about YOUR holiday shopping and how you have only just started; and money is running out; and the really popular gift your niece wants is no where to be found; and how you still have to wrap everything; and “Oh shoot, I forgot about the office grab bag exchange for tomorrow.” – on and on and on. Then suddenly you are aware of someone calling your name and saying “Hellooooo…. Are you even listening to me?”
The trick is to take that moment when someone or something calls you back to presence and choose to refocus your attention on the here and now. Sometimes that can be hard because your energy has followed the worry thoughts. It even happened to me just now as I was writing. I got caught up in the swirling thoughts about holiday gift giving and stopped writing while I worried, – until a misspelling alert popped up on my computer and reminded me that I am only writing about this scenario, not actually experiencing it. Once I was aware of my drift, I wanted to come back into presence; but I could feel my heart pounding really fast and I realized I was triggered. I actually had to take a few breaths to calm my system down. I also reminded myself that my mind was in the future rather than the present. The combination of breathing and noticing where my mind is – past, present or future – is a reliable shift move I use in the moment to bring me back into full presence.
The third reminder is that presence is neither perfect nor perpetual. Your attention will drift; and, if you are committed to being in presence, you will shift and refocus. I have given myself permission to acknowledge when I cannot bring myself consistently into presence due to the distractions of my To Do’s. I have gotten more comfortable with announcing that I am distracted and am instead just going to do a couple of the items on my list, while making an agreement to continue the conversation or activity at set time in the future. Knowing when you are irretrievably distracted is actually being present to your own state of mind.
Finally, I plan to remember that being present does not mean being infinitely available. Choosing to be more present during the holiday season does not require you to always be willing and available to give someone or something your attention at the drop of a hat. It means knowing WHEN you are truly available and then CHOOSING to focus your attention when you are ready. Conversely, it also means NOT agreeing to do something for or with someone unless you can give it your full attention. This, of course, requires you to remember the self check-in questions that help you determine what you want and need in any given moment.
- Remember to trust that what you offer is enough.
- Remember presence means showing up with your whole body, mind and soul.
- Remember that your presence will drift and you can recommit time after time.
- Remember that being present means choosing to whom or what you are making yourself available.
These are the reminders I plan to use to shift myself out of Holiday stress and into the present moment experience of peace, love and joy that is always abundantly available.