Twelve years ago I skipped the family Christmas and did a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat instead. I joked that it was my present to everyone in my life. It was part self deprecating humor (I wouldn’t be around for Christmas), and part acknowledgement that practicing deep presence is indeed a gift to everyone I touch.
Christmas can represent the best and the worst –
Celebration and frustration. Hopes and disappointments. Memories both sweet and bitter. The ridiculous stress of trying hard to relax.
Through it all, you are either present to the people you love, or you are not.
It’s tempting to sacrifice our presence in the moment in order to pursue our ideas about perfection – the perfect meal, the perfect tree, the perfect holiday, the perfect photos, the perfect gift. The result is usually disappointing. In retrospect, I’ve found myself wishing I had done it the other way around; sacrificed my perfectionist ideals and been more present to the moment, to the people in the moment.
I thought I’d offer a few simple ideas here about what presence is…
- Presence is giving your full attention without distractions. It’s eye contact (and may be physical contact too). It’s no phone or TV or work.
- Presence is allowing the other to have the experience they are having, even as you notice your own experience.
- Presence is your curiosity about this other person in this moment.
- Presence is patience, allowing the other to express their self in their way in their time.
- Presence is dropping your agenda and holding space for whatever wants to happen.
- Presence is having an experience and noticing it at the same time.
Presence is also at the root of my new relationship book, The Re-connection Handbook for Couples. You’ll hear more about it in the new year, but you can have a peek now if you like. Read a sample or purchase your digital copy by clicking here. Let me know what you think.
May your holidays be bright, and if they are not bright, may they be dark in the richest possible ways.
All My Best,
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