I was committed to incorporating the Practice of Presence into my family’s life until the pandemic hit, which coincided with the release of my fourth book. Suddenly, everything seemed so uncertain, so out of control, that I reverted to my old ways of pushing myself until I broke down. The people pleasing, the feelings of inadequacy, the superficial measurements of success that I’d worked so hard to overcome were back in full force, threating my health and my wellbeing.
For the first time in my life, I reached out for professional help.
One of the very first things my therapist did was walk me through a mindfulness exercise. After a few minutes of breathing, she asked me to answer a question silently in my head.
“What are you needing right now?”
Tears started falling. The voice in my head screamed violently. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself pushing back demands, people, requests, and expectations. That’s when I realized the cost of letting my Practice of Presence fall by the wayside. I’d lost touch with my body, my limits, my needs, and my core values.
It was a lot like where I was when I started this journey ten years ago—but I was not back to square one. No, this time, I had a map.
Those ten-minute increments each day had taken me through vital territories: self-worth, self-forgiveness, letting go of perfection, boundary setting, and self-care. And always available as a place to stop and catch my breath was home base: The Practice of Presence.
We can always go back to start.
We can always go back to heart.
The Practice of Presence…
Healing begins with listening.
Throughout the past year of pandemic instability, isolation, and loss, I’ve practiced presence more faithfully and more creatively than ever before…
It’s a lawn chair I keep in the back of my car so I can sit in the sunshine before driving home.
It’s a game of “volleypaw” with my cat Banjo that’s played every night so I can hear myself laugh.
It’s morning stretches to ease my tight calves before taking my first steps.
It’s a basket of warm towels, fresh from the dyer, breathed in—folding optional.
And during these moments of presence, my heart and body have reminded me just how intuitive they were.
They told me my 14-year-old daughter was not ok.
They told me to stop all communications with a toxic person.
They told me to cease walking, my favorite activity in the whole world.
“You came just in time,” the podiatrist said fourteen days ago, her face lined with concern. “You are this close to a stress fracture.”
When she left the exam room to get the stabilizing boot, I cried with gratitude.
If not for the Practice of Presence, I would have not seen the warning signs – not in my foot, not in my child, not in my personal safety.
I would have just blown past the red flags, until the crash and burn, until the damage was done.
But now, thank God, there is healing happening.
I can’t usually see the healing, but there is one occasion when I see it clearly.
Since my daughter has been virtually learning, we often take a drive to get iced coffee on her lunch break.
When we pull up and see the long drive-thru line, I do not sigh with frustration.
“This gives us a chance to talk,” my Noticer of Life once said about the wait. And because I was fully present, I heard her. And I hear her now.
Sometimes we even leave our phones at home, certainly not a practice the world would approve of or recommend.
But the world with its tight, frantic, greedy fist, doesn’t know the peace of the open palm.
And that’s why I keep practicing presence – the simplest, yet hardest thing I’ve ever learned to do.
Will my practice ever be perfected?
But that’s not its purpose.
The practice of presence…
It’s our home base.
It’s our unburdening.
It’s our cleansing breath.
It’s our stabilizing force.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving—
Like a kiss on the hand that never rubs off.