One way to understand Presence is as a sense of being in the moment, an alertness, an experience of immense quiet openness, and an embracement of ‘what is’ including myself as I am and the environment as it is. Presence brings with itself a sense of wholeness and fulfillment independent of what is happening. But when there is no Presence, what we find in ourselves is a sense of emptiness. And this emptiness tries desperately to be fulfilled. There are hundreds and thousands of ways of fulfillment, like eating, and talking, and smoking, and now looking at ones phone and, as we develop technology, more and more appear.
It is true, there are moments when you feel fulfilled even without Presence; those moments when you get something that you want. For example, if you fall in love, as long as you remain in love, you feel fulfilled. If you have a good job that you like, as long as you have it you feel fulfilled. If you finally buy the bigger car, you experience fulfillment. Even if you eat an ice cream (if you happen to be like me), while you are eating it you feel fulfilled.
But then, a little thing happens and the fulfillment is gone. The job is not as perfect as it used to be; the person you are in love with starts to show some unpleasant sides of herself or himself which were not there before; a new, better model of the car comes into the market; or the ice cream is finished… and that’s it, the fulfillment is gone. And then again you find yourself into that desperate search for fulfillment.
I was thinking about this today as the Christmas and New Year celebrations approach. The season’s parties are moments that people very often get completely lost on. As often Presence is absent, most people feel the emptiness inside, on one side, and the party, the food (the almost insane amount of food), the alcohol, the sugar, the good time, on the other, and they try to cover the former with the latter.
It is quite a sad situation to feel empty inside, but we cannot find fulfillment in things outside of ourselves. True fulfillment is Presence. Fulfillment should not depend on what happens. What happens, whatever that is, may be pleasant, like during a nice party, or unpleasant, like during an accident, but whatever comes is going to go and we cannot look for true fulfillment in what comes and goes.
A friend of mine was telling me today about her pregnancy. Being pregnant is a wonderful way to feel fulfilled… at least for a while. It is a good example of fulfillment that does not last. It does not mean that a person should not have a family – if it happens to you it means that it is your role, it is what you are supposed to do. But you cannot expect ‘things’, not even kids, to actually fulfill you. And the more you expect fulfillment from them, the harder you are going to crash down when things change (as they certainly will) and the fulfillment disappears. The higher the expectations, the bigger the fall. And nothing can fulfill you for a long time.
I have a son that is eight. I start to see how, little by little, he becomes more independent and I already miss that immense need that he used to have for me. He has been completely dependent on me, and although sometimes it felt too much – in the sense that I wanted to have some freedom from that dependency – it was a wonderful thing to have this little amazingly beautiful creature be so dependent on me. Now he stills needs me, obviously, but I can see the traits of what is going to be his total independence. Of course this is nature itself and as such I completely welcome it, but, even so, there is a pain in my heart about losing that attachment he has for me. Very soon that need for me is going to completely disappear and then I will be telling him (just like my parents often tell me): ‘Why don’t you call me?! You haven’t called me for two days!!’ 🙂
Of course, that my son will grow to be independent of me is inevitable, but the sense of fulfillment does not have to go with it if I learn to find my own source of fulfillment. And that source of fulfillment is what I call Presence.
This Presence has many aspects. One of its aspects, especially as the holiday season is approaching, is sometimes saying NO to something you don’t really need. Not out of morality, not because you SHOULD not do it, but because you know that what you are going to do – let’s say have another drink when you already had a couple – is nothing more than a way to try to fill the emptiness inside you. And when you say NO based on this understanding and instead return to yourself, you say yes to Presence, you give value to Presence. And every time you choose Presence, you make Presence stronger and weaken your dependence on things.
But it is important to understand that this choice is not made out of morality, out of the sense that this is good and that is bad, but it is based on valuing Presence. It is a return to yourself. Having another drink, for example, or another plate of food, or another smoke is going outside, it is affirming your dependence on something outside of yourself to fulfill you. When you choose Presence, you reaffirm your own independence. Presence is like coming inside, to what you are, to yourself.
You need to keep returning to that sense of Presence, of ‘I Am’. There is something so immensely powerful in ourselves, but we trade that power for excessive food or drinks or talking or the search for attention or a thousand other distractions.
So, have your drink, have your food, have your fun, but have the strength to say NO when you know that it is even slightly too much and that what you do is not anymore out of joy, but out of the desperate need to fulfill yourself.
It takes a lot of strength to say no, but when you do it based on this understanding, you are saying yes to Presence, you are trusting in something that you know is more true and more real.
And actually, this is what true faith really is. Faith is often understood as a belief in something that you don’t know and can’t know. But true faith is different. True faith is the act of trusting in something that you know is true, even if in the moment it does not seem to be so, even if in the moment something else seems to be more tempting, more attractive.
Say yes to Presence. Say yes to Freedom. Say yes to your Self.