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Practising presence

Presence. It’s such a buzzword these days, isn’t it? But I think if we do it right, it’s really, really powerful.

Not easy, though. Not easy at all. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately (mostly thanks to this amazing meditation – Our Call to Presence). All of us thrive in presence. You know how it feels when you’re spending time with someone and they are all there for you – properly listening, not thinking about anything else, not checking their phone, not wishing it was bedtime. I find it’s even more exaggerated with kids. (Isn’t everything in life even more exaggerated with kids?)

When I properly unplug from work and life and I’m just there: on the carpet, playing with toys, or running around outside, or making a snack and listening to Arty’s endless (adorable) stories or deciphering Ella’s enthusiastic words and commands, they thrive. They open up like flowers. It’s exhausting, of course. Getting out of our minds and into our bodies and the present moment is like trying to hold a yoga pose for a long time… You know it’s good for you but that doesn’t make it any easier. But I’m finding that it’s less exhausting than dealing with meltdowns as a result of divided, fractured attention.

And it’s better for me, too. My mind feels calmer and more rested when I’m right here, in this moment: not thinking of anything else or trying to figure out or plan or pre-empt anything. Just here.

I had the morning off on Sunday, and instead of going to a movie (my usual go-to because I love movies – food for the soul), I went for a walk. A really, really long walk. We are so blessed that I can literally walk out of my front door and be on the beach in 2 minutes. And after walking along the beach for a few minutes I can walk along Chapman’s Peak Drive, which is probably one of the most beautiful roads in South Africa (possibly the world but, you know, I’m biased).

We fairly often go for a hike on the mountain next to Chapman’s Peak, but on Sunday I walked along the road – far and fast and unencumbered by anyone else. And it was glorious! I realised that I had been staring enviously at people walking solo any time I drove past them… Walking as a family is wonderful, but slow, and busy. Walking solo takes me back to our Camino de Santiago days, where we walked all day and my mind was still. I walked into stillness.

And that’s a practice in presence, too. Just walking. Just looking. Not thinking about anything in particular, not trying to get anywhere, just walking. Just being in my body. My strong, imperfectly perfect body. Right here, right now. What a gift.

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