While talking to her, I had one of those “aha!” moments and saw that in our very busy lives, which is pretty much the case with everybody, we tend to get all our identity from what happens. We are so very busy with things—in her case (in that moment) with positive things, although we might also be busy with problems, worries and difficulties… with the ups and downs of life—, that we miss something that is so simple, so basic, so essential: our own beautiful, unpretentious, silent presence.
What I saw in that “aha!” moment was that this presence, in the middle of our busyness, really makes no sense at all. Who cares for it? Presence is silent, spacious, quiet, content, satisfied, all embracing. When we are moving, and doing, and acting, and worrying, and enjoying… we don’t want to stop. We can’t stop! It is no different than when we are driving somewhere and suddenly we encounter traffic; we feel very uncomfortable, our whole body starts to itch, we feel restless, impatient, upset.
Of course it is wonderful to experience the fullness of our life… the discoveries, the emotions, the thrills, the surprises, the new, the old… but we get so lost in that life that we miss this very simple, essential, inconspicuous “part”. It is clear to me that when we are in the middle of this amazingly fascinating life, we really don’t care for presence. And so it made me think: why would anybody be interested in presence?
I could find two different reasons.
● One is suffering. In general, suffering can go in two different directions. One of them is to make life miserable, and that is what it often does: for one reason or another, suffering appears, but because nobody wants it, resistance also appears, which in turns creates more suffering, which creates more resistance, which creates even more suffering which then creates even more resistance and so on. But in rare occasions, suffering may have the effect of waking us up, of opening our eyes, of clearing our minds and making us wonder: is there something else?
● The other reason to look for presence is simply because one wants to know (often based on some kind of previous experience of it). One just has this curiosity, this interest, this deep longing to know: what is life about? What am I doing here? Is there something else? Who am I? Of course life keeps going as for everybody else, and things just happen like to everybody else. There will be enjoyment and new discoveries and ups and downs and all the rest… but that will not be enough, satisfactory. The question will remain: what is all this about?
The interesting thing is that the second reason, the desire to know, may or may not appear. But suffering is something we will all experience. Sooner or later it will create a stop and make us wonder: what did I do with my life? We will all come to a moment where we will experience death. Probably trough somebody else, or, for sure, our own death… at least this has been the norm up to know 🙂 (There is a “funny” quote I heard recently: “We are all infected with a deadly virus that will bring us to our death. It is called life.”) And when death comes, the question also comes: what have I done with my life? Where is my life? Is this it? What was all this about? The questions will come, but it will often just be too late to have the time to find an answer.
I see more and more how difficult it is to come close to this presence. I remember a phrase used in the middle ages by an author known as the “anonymous English monk” where he talks about “the naked being”. It is a beautiful expression, like “naked presence”: presence with nothing else, with nothing added. Our presence, which is nothing other than our own sense of “I am”, is full of clothes. I am… a yoga teacher, or I am… an IT specialist, or I am… a nice person or a bad person, or I am… a beautiful woman or a troubled man, or I am… a doctor or a lawyer, or I am… healthy or sick etc. Our presence, our “I am”, is always dressed. The English monk talks about the naked being, a being without psychological clothes; and it is so difficult to even approach that sense of nakedness. We are so full of wishes, desires, fears, plans, worries. Of course all this is happening, it is inevitable, it is what makes our life, but once in a while, it’s great to have the possibility, to be able to find the way back to that nakedness, to that openness, to that essential nature that we are.
We need clothes. That is a large part of what living our life is all about; but we are not those clothes. I honestly believe that we should give some importance, spend some time in the realization—the recognition—of this truth: that we are not the clothes; and so, once we do that, we may be more able to see and to reconnect with our own nakedness, with what we actually are, with our own essential nature.
We need to be able to find the way back to ourselves, to our naked “I am”.