The Cave of Your Innermost Fears
It’s my first hour in Rome and I am standing next to my guide that I just met, pretending to feel much more awake and happy than I really do after all the travelling.
Our bus is circling around the wall of the Vatican gardens and Stephan is telling me all about the history of the structure and giving me a very kind, very easy for a foreigner to understand, introduction to the Pope’s home and all that surrounds it.
I ask about a particular architectural structure, remarking that I saw it before when I lived in Greece.
Before answering my inquiry, Stephan held tighter to the bus pole as we hit a bump in the cobblestones. He turned his head sideways to me, paused, and said with a soft smile, “You live in the past, don’t you?”
Maybe that was not the first time since meeting him that I had mentioned places I’ve been before….
Either way, this stranger resonated the truth as if a gong had been struck.
Months later, during a recent therapeutic exercise for a yoga teacher training, I had to repeat the phrase “I am fully present” to each of my fellow teachers in the circle we were seated in until they nodded in agreement or confirmed my mantra. I volunteered first and quickly discovered a few things:
It wasn’t about making my recipient believe that I was fully present.
And it wasn’t about receiving my recipient’s affirmations of “yes, you are” or “I believe you”, or about believing them.
It was really about my own journey toward being fully present.
I knew I could fake it by varying tone and expressions but it was beautiful to have a mirror where I could see my own state of being reflected back to me. I could tell when I was or was not present by my recipient’s searching eyes, long exhale, or tense or relaxed fingers in my hand. It was almost like we were sharing my affirmation together. I wasn’t alone.
This experience made me aware of the way I live –not as present as I thought!– and I hope to practice being present more often by paying attention to others’ faces and the way I am holding tensions in my own.
How do you practice being present?