Are you present in your life?
I am in my kitchen, preparing dinner.
The reddish-orange of the tomato skin sheens against the worn wood of the cutting board, crouching on the counter.
The knife blade, serrated and glowing, flows from the black plastic handle my hand grips. Late afternoon sun nudges the window frame above the sink. The gas oven hisses as it preheats.
Cutting into the fruit’s flesh, the warm smell of the tomato tangs my nose. Diluted juice and seeds spill across the board.
Slice by slice, I complete the job. The consistent thickness of wedges in a row is satisfying.
All I am doing is cutting a tomato.
The miracle is that I am completely here and now. I am present.
It is a moment of quiet grace requiring no effort to wrangle my attention toward the task.
How long it had been since I was entirely present chopping a vegetable?
Usually, my mind is elsewhere. I’m thinking about whatever I’m annoyed with or when the endless backyard project will complete. Wondering what time my partner will be home. Thinking about what I have to do later in the evening.
So few moments am I present with what is in front of me.
Like some of you, I too wrote cringey goth poetry in high school. In a recent re-read, a line of wisdom from my 17-year-old self jumped out. “May I never cease to realize my alive.”
As enchanting as the tomato moment is, there is also terror.
Am I missing it? My life? The little time I have to be here, experiencing? Have I ceased to know my alive?
Coming into presence means admitting absence.
Why is being here, now so freaking hard?!
According to the gospel of me, a life well-lived rests on three foundations: presence, creativity, and connection.
Presence is most elusive.
Do you struggle to realize your aliveness, to know it while you have it?
I have a theory.
Presence requires feeling. All the everything. The joy. The horror. The suffering. The grief. The delight.
To feel is sometimes to feel too much.
So we turn it down.
Check out. Overwork. Worry. Ignore needs. Hold pee. Resist moving.
The little numbings, the slight turning-it-down-to-take-the-edge-off are justified.
I’m not giving myself shit for them, and neither should you.
But when I am away from myself, I start to feel shitty. I feel empty, lonely, grabby.
I bet you can relate.
The only medicine to absence is presence.
Directing your attention back to this moment, to this breath. To feelings and sensations happening right now.
The poet Byron said, “The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain.”
I’d rather feel it all.
When my attention is here, and now, it’s better, even when it hurts.
I don’t want to miss it, my life.
I don’t want to regret not living and loving fully. So being present is what I practice.
Chopping vegetables. In beauty and in sadness. In joy and in pain.
All of it, now.
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