I’m wondering about this whole “being present” thing. (Side note: I accidentally just typed “peeing presents.” Just thought you’d like to know.) It’s almost like the whole concept is playing some sort of grand trick on us, standing above us like a puppeteer, and because it’s holding on to us by a series of strings, we have no choice but to continue to smile and dance along with its silly game.
It seems like a game because it is impossible to try and be present; you just have to be it. You really just have to let the world around you run its course; you need to let the strings move you about, controlling only what you can along the way. But in order to do this, it is necessary to release all fear and really most forward-thought, in a manner that is neither planned nor committal, for planning or committing to a sense of presence really isn’t presence at all.
But fear is something natural and necessary, as is forward thinking. So how does one help themselves when they need to be more present? This idea of practicing more gratitude was presented to me, and I see why, but I still am not sure if consciously practicing gratitude each day is going to help me achieve this presence and I am desiring. In fact, it seems like presence can’t really be achieved, because in order to achieve something, don’t we need to know that we’ve achieved it?
That’s what makes this present mindset such a pain in the ass for us Type-A people. We’ve told ourselves for so long that if we are prepared and think things through and keep organized and all these other asinine things, that we will be successful and happy. But really, this Type-A nature only leads to stringent calculation, meticulous planning, and in turn, absence of mind.
But being Type-A isn’t all bad. My type-A tendencies help to make me organized and goal-oriented. It has, in a sense, made me successful.
What’s a boy to do?
This boy needs to find balance, but balance, like presence, is a goal set in vain. Balance seems to only be able to exist in moments of blissful ignorance–when you have no idea that it’s happening–just like presence. I think back to times when I didn’t realize I was present until after the fact–times when I was laughing, talking about something intellectually stimulating, in the midst of a good discussion with my kids–those are the times when I feel balanced, in control of myself, content with a lack of control of the external, and, as a result, present, but the insanely ironic thing is that I feel like I cannot fully appreciate it until after it’s over. So how can I set a goal to achieve something that I’m not even going to know I achieved until after the fact?
I’m in the midst of reading a book about reading comprehension, and the book uses a metaphor for teaching this complex and subjective skill. Reading comprehension is similar to presence and balance, in the sense that it is hard to fully capture the idea of what it means to “comprehend” a text, even though publishing companies and educational “experts” will tell you otherwise. Comprehension to one person may be completely different to another, even though both readers might share similarities. For instance, perhaps the literal aspect to comprehension might be similar, but the abstract component to comprehension could be wildly different depending on the readers’ experiences and background knowledge, which is what makes the concept so hard to teach. Instead of teaching it explicitly, it needs to be trained, and eventually, as teachers, we need to take the training wheels away.
Jen Saravello’s metaphor entails drawing. She mentioned how, when she was learning to draw human figures, she first learned the oval technique–one in which the artist uses ovals to represent various parts and appendages on the human body, connecting them together to make the structure of the human body. For quite sometime, she said, she used this method to help her draw human figures, and it worked quite well for her. In a way, it provided the necessary scaffolds for her to meet this goal of learning how to draw the human body, but eventually, this scaffold was removed, not necessarily by choice, but by a lack of need, and she was suddenly able to draw human figures without the use of the oval technique.
Perhaps I can compare this goal of being more present with the oval technique, and with reading comprehension, as well. Right now, I am going through the motions of practicing gratitude. For all intents and purposes, and I am making a concerted effort to be more present, even if the process itself isn’t a present one. On the other hand, I think it is important to balance this by finding activities, situations, and people that help me to remain present. This week’s endeavor–yoga. Eee!
I’m grateful for coffee. I’m not sure why, but I have done some of my best writing, reading, and thinking while sitting at a coffee shop, plugging away at my computer. I find that it’s warmth comforts me and its caffeine stimulates my brain in the best ways possible. In a sense, the trifecta of coffee, my mind, and the act of writing combine to help create a very present mindset and situation–one in which I achieve a “flow” and pass time well and rather quickly.
I’m grateful for now. As a teacher, I know first-hand that we learn best when we fall and get back up. I feel like I’ve fallen recently–whether out of fear or anger or confusion or whatever-the-hell reason. Truly, it’s not even important as to what the reason is. The point is, I’ve lost my footing a bit, in a variety of areas, but it’s helped me to reevaluate my attitude and my expectations. It’s helping me to learn what it means to be present, and that controlling everything is not going to make me happy.
I’m grateful for those who understand me at my core. When we fall, we have a tendency to shame ourselves. “I should have seen that one coming,” we feel, or “I can’t believe I said/did that,” we’ll tell ourselves, even though, all along, there was something we needed resolved. We needed to fall in order to achieve that resolution. Perhaps we needed to say the wrong thing or do the selfish thing, only to show ourselves later that it was, in fact, the wrong thing to do. Although, I don’t think anyone does this sort of thing consciously; In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the subconscious managed to usurp all power in these types of situations. Maybe our brain and our body know that we need these moments–these moments that create integral plot events in the rising action of each of our own stories. They help us get to a point of climax, and eventually to some sort of resolution.
But what’s most important, in my mind, are the people that see you, even when you don’t see yourself clearly. They see each of these events for what they are, another event in your story, regardless of selfishness, stupidity, ignorance, or failure. They’re the people that allow you to work through you, without judgment or reservation.
I am so grateful for the ones in my life that see me.