By David Benner
Recently I met a colleague who, discovering that I had closed my clinical psychology practice, asked me what I was doing. I told her I was practicing presence.
This was a bit of a cheeky reply because obviously practicing presence is not the only thing I do. I continue to do most of the things I have done all my life. My days continue to be filled with thinking, reading, writing and talking. The difference is that slowly but increasingly I do these and other things in a mindful way – that is, with presence.
Practicing presence brings me many extremely valuable gifts. It has helped me learn deep contentment, produced an ever-flowing fountain of gratitude, make progress in my release of judgementalism, and allowed me to experience an inner well of love that had eluded me in spite of decades of trying to be more loving. It has helped me live more out of the centre of my being, aligned with the Transcendent Presence that flows through me and within which I swim. It has helped me become more at one within myself, with others, with the world, and with God.
But, don’t get me wrong. I am still far from living with anything like continuous presence.
That is why I am so committed to continuing to practice it. I am convinced that presence is essential to everything I most deeply value – intimacy, encounter, soulful living, transformation, and much more. I long to live with more presence – to myself, to others, to the world, and to the One who is Presence. That is why I keep practicing.
Presence makes me more aware of the things in my life that draw me away from it. One of those is online activity. While it is definitely possible to experience virtual presence in online communication, this appears to me to be a poor substitute for the real thing. I also notice how easily this virtual presence interferes with presence to the people around us, to our bodies and the world, to our moment-by-moment unfolding lives.
Perhaps you have noticed that I have been reducing the frequency of my social media posts. Now you know the most important reason for this. I expect to continue to retain some presence in popular media but I am also committed to finding ways to make this part of my life fit within my aspiration of living with increasing presence.
I encourage you to also keep an eye on the things that reduce your moment-by-moment presence to your life and those who share it. And then take any steps that are necessary to minimize those things. Presence really is too precious to squander.