Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Skill of Being Present

What if you are about to enter a historically accurate building, a well maintained, exquisitely decorated and furnished manor style home that has been around for hundreds of years?  And what if you are a history, interior design and architecture freak?  How would you enter this timeless edifice?  What would you do when you get inside?  You would probably walk in slowly, savoring every minute detail.  You would reverently finger the detailed etchings on the door’s old brass knocker.  You would gasp at the sheer enormity, overwhelmed by the volume and detail opulently displayed everywhere you look.  Not knowing where to begin, you look at the first thing and allow time to stand still.   You become totally Present.  You have all the time in the world.

Unpacking the Present

We have the habit of paying attention to multiple things at the same time, or at least, quickly switching our attention from one thing to another in a matter of seconds.  The skill of Being Present with someone is the complete opposite of that habit.  We practice controlling our focus and attention so it is concentrated on one thing, the person we are with.  We practice really being with them: tuning in to them, focusing your attention on them, not for any other purpose but to just be with them.  We practice focusing our thoughts, emotions and intentions on this moment in time, the present moment, leaving the past, and not looking to the future.

Jaedon is my best and most effective teacher for this particular skill.   He can have long blocks of time during which he is quite happy to engage in his own internal processes.  He may be vocalizing to his own mysterious rhythm, flicking his fingers at warp speed, or any number of seemingly random things.  The common factor is his desire for another person’s presence during those times.  It may be tending towards zero.  He often wants me to be close by, but will pay no attention to me at all as he fully engaged with himself inside himself.
Over the years, I have settled into a pattern of curiosity where Jaedon is concerned.  I no longer try to pull his attention away from the various fascinations and obsessions.  I partner with him in them!  I find that I cannot become an authentic partner until I do two things:

1.        Stop

o   I clear my mind of my thoughts about anything else but the present moment and what Jaedon is currently captivated by.  I actually don’t even think about Jay much, as that can lead to thinking about autism, his intervention, goal setting and many other things that have nothing to do with a deep, intimate, human connection. 

o   I clear away any heavy, disturbed emotions that may be lurking.  I can always bring them back later if I want. 

2.       Focus

o   I focus my emotions so that I feel joy, gratitude and peace.  I create inside of me loving, joyful, clear feelings about Jaedon, his life, me and our life together. 

o   I focus my attention on his physical form.  I observe his body, his actions, his affect. 

o   I focus on thoughts about Jaedon, myself and our time together that encourage me to deeply engage, to love our time together

Try it

This is easy to try.  No-one need know what you are doing.  It’s all internal.  Choose someone with whom you already have a friendship, but your interactions may have become routine and… boring.  Decide to spend 10 minutes with them being present.  Stop your thoughts and emotions, pull them from the past and the future, and focus them on the person for the next 10 minutes.  If you find keeping your thoughts in the moment to be easy, wonderful!  If your mind feels unruly and chaotic, don’t worry.  Take it a minute at a time.  Try for 3 minutes and practice.  Try it with a friendship that’s flourishing so that it will be easier to practice this skill.

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