The power of being fully present at all times
Three years ago, my son, now eight, and I went to a local family mindfulness gathering, where everyone goes around the circle adding a marble or more in a jar of water, naming an experienced feeling from the week with each added marble (and then joining our feelings together through stirring the marbles and letting them settle), has a moment of quiet after the children ring the singing bowl, does an activity, and plays.
Needless to say, my then-five-year-old was more interested in playing with me during all this sitting than anything else, and I recognized that if he wants to sit quietly like that, that needs to come from his own choice. He did enjoy stirring the marbles, ringing the bowl and playing
A few days later, I emailed with one of the attendees, who remarked how present I was during the gathering. For me, I was doing what just came naturally, having a great time with my son on a weekend morning after the many workday hours being away from him.
Of course, we have constant challenges daily and hourly to get and stay present. Our smartphones are marvels of technology, but can easily become distraction devices. Our unfinished work and home obligations can weigh on our minds. If we awake with a strange small growth on our neck, we are challenged to be able to think about anything else until we are assured that the growth is but a harmless lymph node.
Those earning all their income on sales through cold calling and handing out business cards can be challenged to put down the business cards for a day, or even half a day, and to just be, in the present.
Is being in the present overrated? Probably the opposite. The present moment is the only moment we have. It is a precious moment that will never return. The samurai who thinks about his or her next move rather than being present in the battle will have his or her head lopped off, which is not the right antidote against dwelling on the future.
Does being in the present merely and oversimplistically mean "don’t worry; be happy" and cast your future to the wind? No. Life is a balance of living in the present and providing for the future; the balance is crucial.
Mindfulness practice is essential for being in the present. My favorite mindfulness practice is taijiquan, for helping me be calm and mindful even when in the eye of the storm.
Recently, I dealt with a prosecutor whose mood is so often unpredictable, running from being all agitated to all jolly and everything in between. When I saw that he was assigned to my client’s courtroom that day, I immediately switched off expectations of unpredictability from him. Absent a court date postponement, he was going to be my case’s prosecutor for the day, and that was my reality. I had already prepared myself to be fully present that day by having practiced the taijiquan form and standing meditation at home early that morning. Sometimes I delay doing taijiquan until later in the day, but doing so just helps assure that I will find additional tasks delaying my doing taijiquan, until I see that it is bedtime.
On this particular morning, I had already been present with myself through taijiquan, to help assure my being better able to be present with everyone else, to then better assure that they would be present with me, so as to better assure giving more of the time and attention to me and my client’s cause to help assure a better outcome for my client.
My wife, who is one of my most important teachers, and I deeply bow to and hug her in thanks, emphasizes many times the power of energy in dealing with ourselves and others. While I still remain skeptical of the lengths to which plenty of new agers go with all this energy work, clearly positive energy is essential for our dealings with ourselves and others. I blogged recently here on the power of positive energy. Some of my most recent written thoughts on energy include:
– Imagine an unlimited powerful energy source always being at everyone’s disposal. This is a reality within the grasp of all, even if they falter and return to the energy source.
– Negative energy can be neutralized. Past mis-steps can be paved over by finding and returning to the right path. Multiple paths exist to reach the ultimate destination.
– Enter the wrestling ring absorbing all the good energy. When surprised by the opponent, acknowledge that s/he also has found and applied powerful energy. Rather than being debilitated by the opponent’s excellence, appreciate this opportunity to be required to reach new heights to overcome the opponent. Because we all are connected, a wrestling match at once is about neutralizing and besting the opponent, and bettering yourself.
Back to the challenging prosecutor with unpredictable moods, I focused on the non-duality of being powerfully in the present, content in the present for the sake of the present and my good fortune to have a present to savor, and on all the high energy of a recent spectacular, hard-fought trial win.
The prosecutor was in a good mood. Was my own good energy contagious, or at least a non-contributor to the prosecutor having any bad energy? The prosecutor was in the mood for chatting about my client’s case and some very tangential matters when in the past he would often be very matter of fact at best. This all happened when I was fully present with myself, him and beyond. Did he sense my full presence, and accept that as an invitation to chat? Or, once again, was my being in the present and not shuffling papers nor glancing at my smartphone at least not a barrier to his doing so? Hold your opponents at arms length, but close enough so you are in contact, so that you have the greatest sense of their next moves and of any threats from them so that you then are better able to neutralize any threats and to strengthen your position. Important in all this is to be genuine and not manipulative at all, and certainly not to kiss butt, not only because kissing butt is beneath everyone, but also because it weakens and places the butt kisser in the trajectory of any potential sharts.
Just as sumo wrestlers throw salt in the air to prepare the ring as a sacred place, ideally we should view and internalize as sacred every space, every molecule, every breath of air, every person, every living being, and every moment as sacred. That is not to say that we do not have too many people too often doing despicable things; they do. As one of my most influential life teacher Jun Yasuda says "All humans are beautiful. Somehow society is upside down.
One of my most favorite experiences in making the battlefield sacred was in circling the courthouse battlefield three times while chanting the Odaimoku. That of course is time consuming, so at my best I at least visualize circling the courthouse battlefield and at least give myself an extra minute or more to walk around at least part of the courthouse battlefield while chanting my manta to myself, and when time does not permit that, I can at least do that during my walk to the courthouse and during my first steps in the courthouse hallways, imagining my helping to disinfect the courthouse of all the negative energy, all the misery inflicted there in the past, and all the fear that so many bring into the courthouse; and to imagine that I have opened every portal of the courthouse to my allies, teachers and good energy.
All this preparation is really about being ready for the taijiquan battle. My preparation and presence did not assure anything good from this prosecutor, but helped increase the chances of his acting to my client’s benefit, and at the very least helped assure that I would be at my most persuasively and powerfully best for my client at every moment and at every turn.
No storm came that day with this prosecutor. Our wavelengths met. I left with a favorable disposition of my client’s misdemeanor case without a conviction.
Never underestimate the power of being fully present. I always am inspired by the story of the late Beopjeong Seunim who one day helped a woman in deep grief over her son’s recent death, by simply being fully present with her, mostly wordlessly, starting from the moment he was with her, and proceeding to when he poured her tea.