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The Power of Presence

What makes Eckhart Tolle different?

I’ve wondered about that since I participated in the live meditation with Eckhart Tolle that I mentioned last week. 

He’s not amongst the most handsome of men and at times I found his voice a tad difficult to follow. 

But his intensity … His conviction … his presence … 

Yes, presence … 

What is it? How does it work? Why would we want to practice presence as a habit that improves the quality of daily life?

Here’s my take for today. 

Presence is a human quality but it’s not exclusively human: think of a big cat stalking its prey; of elephants playing in a water hole; of humming birds sucking nectar from a plant. Unlike ourselves, animals and birds don’t seem to have the same ability to ruminate over the past and agonise over futures yet to come. Mark Twain is famous for remarking that he had had numerous major worries in his life and most of them never eventuated! Whereas animals live ‘in the now’, we often seem to live predominantly in our vanished pasts or yet to be futures: only with conscious effort do we return to the now moment that is in fact the only moment. 

Presence means being present and language leads us to ask, ‘Present to what?’. We can be present to ourselves - which was what Tolle’s meditation was all about - or present to the outer world or to other people. We know from our experience that being present to the world around us - a sunrise or sunset, the aurora lights, a breathtaking view, the tranquillity of the bush, waves breaking on the rocks - can be healing. We may feel a sense of awe, of peace, of power, of being transported to a state beyond the everyday where we are part of a much larger whole. 

Being present to others is somewhat trickier. For a start, our interactions are often so rushed that there is no time to be present. Also, being present means allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and that can be an intensely uncomfortable experience. But presence opens the door to intimacy - on all levels - and the sense that the other person ‘gets you’ and that in turn you ‘get’ the other person. 

I’ll finish with some thoughts on the benefits of practicing the power of presence.

  • The now moment is actually the only moment. It’s only too easy to be in a trance, re-experiencing an unpleasant past moment or worrying about a potentially critical meeting ahead, and miss what is actually going on now. The present moment is the only moment we have some choice over, the only moment we can change. When we practice being present in the now moment, we give ourselves a greater chance of control of our own lives.
  • Practicing being in the present can counteract the experience of overwhelm that mars our enjoyment of life. Focusing on the present moment allows us to rise above the sense of helplessness that can overtake us when we start to think about all the things that are currently in our face. 
  • When we are able take time out and be present to ourselves, we usually start to get more clarity about our true needs and wants. We are in a better position to make more informed choices about the next steps that are right for us. 
  • When we practice the power of presence in our own lives, we have a beneficial effect on those around us. As human beings, we are hard-wired to interact with others and be interdependent. Our nervous system responds to the nervous systems of those with whom we are in contact - for good or bad. 

In short, practicing the power of presence is good for us and good for those around us. In the longer run, the ripples spread and the power of presence can transform the world creating ‘a world in which it is easier to love’.

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