The Exchange of Presents Demands your Presence
Tis the season for presents / presence and there is no better time of year to practice both the giving of your heart as well as the giving of your attention.
Have you ever noticed, I mean really truly noticed that when you give a gift to someone you feel as excited and / or nervous to give as the person feels to receive?
There is anxiety: will he / she really like what I chose to give, there is anticipation: Oh I can't wait for him / her to open my gift, there is heart: I really paid attention this year to what he / she said they needed. If you are prone to just hand a gift to someone and allow distraction to take you away from the actual opening of the gift then you are missing out on all the magic of that moment. Being in the present with the person receiving a gift is a gift itself.
Where in your body do you feel this anxiety, anticipation and / or generosity?
In what ways is your energy transferring to those around you?
It's an amazing connection, a coming together moment for the giver and receiver, where synchronicity is so aligned only the uninterrupted presence of awareness in the opening of the gift, the present, could break the bond. It is the height of mindfulness or intentional attention. How many times during the year do we use intentional attention in our daily lives?
"To allow ourselves to be truly in touch with where we already are, no matter where that is, we have got to pause in our experience long enough to let the present moment sink in; long enough to actually feel the present moment, to see it in its fullness, to hold it in awareness and thus come to know and understand it better. "
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are
The question is how can we give ourselves the present of presence all the time? It's a magical feeling to be so engrossed in the moment of giving that we don't pay attention to time or space or what comes next. This deep concentration, this deep immersion of presence is called flow and scientists believe that the pathway toward inner peace and happier human beings is through these flow moments where we are so absorbed in the moment we occupy that there is no room for past or future. Author and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Ph.D., considered by some to the be the father of the concept of flow, says,
"Flow experiences occur in different ways for each person. Some might experience flow while doing a sport such as running or playing tennis and some might experience flow while playing an instrument. Some people might experience flow in the simple act of giving a gift whether it be an actual gift to unwrap or the act of volunteering and giving of their time and energy. "
If you are ever in a situation where you want to get a handle on what is happening in this exact moment, breathe. Practicing presence is as simple as deep breathing. Your breath is always with you and you can stop in the middle of everything you are busy with to take purposeful breaths and calm your brain and your heart and your spirit and create focus and intentional attention.
There are more ways to give yourself the present of presence. Here are a few to take with you in your bag of goodies this holiday season:
"… the concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and provides immediate feedback.”
Turn off your thinking mind and tune into your now mind. The health benefits of mastering being in the here and now are significant. According to an article published on an eco institute site "these health benefits include a reduction in stress which we all know reduces the risk for heart disease, lowering blood pressure, reducing recurring pain, and is a boost for our immune system. This boost is accomplished by increasing our antibodies and brain function by our body's response to our thoughts both positive and negative. "
You won't be leaving anything important behind if: You let go of old thoughts or let go of what if thoughts. You will however be gaining awareness and color and vibrancy in the moment you occupy by accepting what is happening right this moment and all this moment is giving to you.
Let go of the Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda mindset: Each new moment that presents its gift to you has the ability to be a gift for your heart and soul. Give in to what is being offered by enveloping yourself in the passion, authenticity and energy of now. By letting go of your expectation of what the moment could or should or would bring, allow the moment to unfold in all its organic splendor and guide you.
No Restrictions. In helping my clients set goals and create their own avenues of accountability we create if / then statements. For example: A client wants to lose 10 pounds by the end of the month. The if / then statement might say, "If I feel like having a sugary snack after dinner then I will drink a hot apple cider or munch on an apple instead." In the present or gift of presence this would be the one time when your prepared mind could hinder complete flow of enjoyment. Let go of the if / then thinking and align your mind with the here / now thinking. Notice how much more rich and emotional the here / now mind perceives life in its raw and real time. If / then changes your course and forces you to control the gift of the present which then has the potential to control the outcome. Here / now allows you to just enjoy flow in the moment for what it is without the stress of barriers or diversion.
Sense your way to presence. Play a mind game with yourself by paying attention to each of your senses, one at a time. This activity is great practice for presence and being mindful of the here and now. Pay attention to your breath, carefully watch how your hands touch things, observe what is going on right in front of you, concentrate on the smells all around you and see if you can name them, really dissect the flavors of your next meal, listen carefully when someone is speaking to you and try to detect the many levels of emotion being used in the conversation.
Purposefully create daily moments of presence. Go a different route home from work, eat lunch in a different location or pack a lunch that is different than what you normally eat, skip lunch completely and pamper yourself instead, take your hobby with you wherever you go and work on it at least once During the day away from home, learn something new today and bring it up in conversation. The opportunity for an awe moment is created in being present with intentional attention.
In the winter time I enjoy washing the dishes, even with dish gloves on because I am so comforted by the warm water cuddling my cold hands. It is a daily, year round chore but at this time of year the cold is a stark reminder of the blessing of heat. My appreciation level for warm water and keeping my family healthy soars. I find myself actually looking forward to this chore and instead of washing dishes 3 or 4 times a day to keep up with the mess I let it pile up so that I can spend real time appreciating the warmth. Bizarre, I know, but the presence it creates is magical.
"Wherever you are, be there. If you can be fully present now, you'll know what it means to live."
Call to Action
In what ways can you create presence during present giving?
Whatever level you are involved in while preparing for this holiday season, how can you be more mindful of each preparation step along the way?
Even if you are alone, how can you be present rather than wishing the time away?