3 Steps to Choosing Presence

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“Being Present” is a bit of a buzz term in our world right now. With the introduction of entertainment in the palm of our hand 24/7, more and more people are wondering how to simply BE nowhere but where they are at that moment. While we may be physically present with someone, we can be mentally, emotionally, and psychologically miles away. It is easy to allow worry, stress, fear, and shame to pull us away so we focus on our To-Do List, unresolved conflict, or frustrations. Our loved ones can feel lonely in our presence and see by our actions that they are not as important as whatever else has our attention.

Not being present can be subtle for me. As a parent, watching my children fall in love makes me very happy and very scared in equal measure. I long for them to be happy and pursue their dreams and desires. Yet, I fear they may settle or get distracted by “love.” This week, I noticed some odd behavior from myself as my daughter shared her excitement about her boyfriend coming home for Christmas. As she expressed her joy, I found myself saying nothing and leaving the room without asking my typical questions to learn more about her excitement. My lack of presence with her was evident to both of us.

After about the second or third day of this behavior, I woke up and my daughter was heavy on my heart. I decided to dig deeper into why I was ignoring her comments and resisting her excitement. As I began exposing what was under the surface, it became clear I was afraid. I feared that these two beautifully talented eighteen-year-olds were falling in love and making significant plans for their future too soon for my comfort. But, rather than sharing my fears with her, I had been rude by not being present with her heart. My deeper fear was that I was losing her and, yet, the way I was being with her was actually pushing her away. I was creating the very thing I didn’t want by my actions.

In that quick check-in with my heart, I recognized the what under my behaviors, the longing of my heart, and the request I wanted to make. As I shared this with her, she was so receptive and said she had already been thinking similar things. It was such a beautiful moment of connection, and I was thankful that I could now share her excitement.

Now, if you are tempted to think my experience is beyond your capability, I totally understand. You can ask our oldest daughter, who is now happily married, about her experiences with my fears throughout her and her husband’s dating, engagement, and marriage at twenty years old. I was pretty ugly and created a lot of pain for all of us that, thankfully, is being healed.

Learning to be present is an ongoing process for me, and my current growth has not come without a lot of work. Resisting reality feels so much easier than doing the heart work. However, I have found that resisting reality creates shallow, surface relationships, whereas being present with my heart and doing the work creates intimate, connected relationships. Those are the relationships my heart longs for, which makes doing the work more than worth it.

It might sound crazy to think about adding heart-work to your extremely long To-Do List this time of year; however, there is no better time than the present to get present! During the holidays, our desire to connect and deepen our family relationships can be easily derailed by undealt-with fears and anxieties under the surface, which can cause us to act in ways that are not our norm. Emotional outbursts or cold shoulders can sneak up on us leaving us with regret and in conflict.

While learning to be present with yourself is a much broader topic than three simple keys, here is a quick reference that can help you navigate those messy moments when you find yourself in internal conflict with someone or something. With these three steps, you can get clarity and turn your resistance into being present this holiday season.

  1. Get clear about WHAT is under the surface. With my daughter, I was afraid. (Ask yourself “What am I afraid of, sad about, angry about, or anxious about?” Once you pinpoint the main emotion you are experiencing, ask yourself what that emotion is saying. So, if your fear could speak, what would it be saying is true about your situation?)

  2. Get honest about your LONGING. With my daughter, I long for her to live into her greatest potential. (If what your emotions are telling you might happen were not true, what outcome do you long to see happen?)

  3. Turn that longing into a REQUEST. My daughter’s heart belongs to her, and I can’t control what she does with it. But, I can request that she hold this relationship loosely and not decide the outcome of the relationship at eighteen years old. (How can you take what you long for and turn it into a request? What is it that you believe would be helpful in producing your heart's desire? The other person gets to decide if your request works for them, but your willingness to offer the request might open new possibilities for them.)

Once you have gotten present with yourself and gotten clarity on what you want, long for, and want to request, create the time to get present with whoever is connected to the issue and share your heart. If the way you were resisting them affected them, starting with ownership of your behavior might be a huge resource in opening their heart and ears to hear more of what you want to say.

Is there anything you recognize you have been resisting? While I shared that my passive-aggressive expression of resistance looked like ignoring my daughter, would you humor me by sharing in the comments below what resistance looks like for you? The more we can laugh at ourselves and our silly ways of self-protection, the easier it is to get to what is under the surface.