Being Present in the Human Condition
The biggest blessing that I receive in working as a counsellor is my own personal development. It goes like this:
I understand that part of our sojourn in life is having experiences and learning from them. Since our relationships constitute a major part of this process, I feel privileged in observing more than the average share. What I give to my clients is the benefit of my education, training and life experience. What I receive from listening to the various dramas is insight into the human condition. When I take a step back from the panorama of experiences, I am able to assess what works for me and what doesn’t. It is like fast tracking the insight process. My clients ultimately show up as my mentors.
When I ponder some of the recurring themes out of engaging people in my professional as well as my personal life, I notice that many individuals are so mired in their past, in their stories, that they miss out on their lives in the present. I realize that this time-space reality that we perceive ourselves to exist in, sets up a propensity to perceiving everything as situated in a past, present and future context.
Couple that with the idea that our personalities, beliefs and behavior patterns are shaped in our first five years or so, within our first families, and you get a predisposition to dwell on the past. Most of our experiences (ironically, they are always occurring in the present) are recreations of past issues from our needs not being met as small children. We end up bunged up with past fears, anger and grief that we project onto everyone and everything that comes into our present experience.
On the other hand, dwelling on future-oriented questions like, “What should I do with my life?” and “What is my purpose in life?” keeps us from focusing on the only time that we actually live in – the present. This type of query has our narcissistic egos holding the reins to boot. We seem to ponder these issues when we have a sense that we have only a limited amount of time to live or we are approaching a crossroads in life. They are typical of a mid-life mindset where we have experienced some of what the world has to offer and are wondering what we are yet capable of. The problem is that the present tends to be once again squeezed out of the picture. Yet reflection and planning are integral parts of living consciously. Navigating that edge between “being out-of-time” and “being present” takes experience, wisdom and diligence in order to avoid the slippery slope of the illusions of the ego.
I know many people who escort regret, remorse and/or resentment as their constant companion. The issues all stem from unresolved past experiences. I know other people who long for things and people that they dream will complete their lives. These dear ones look to the future for their wellbeing and happiness. Getting there, i.e. here and now, embraces forgiveness and surrender as cornerstones of awareness. Being present means finding your inner child and integrating her/him with your adult self. Inner child work inevitably involves forgiveness. Surrender embraces what is and accepts the good with the bad. The peace that stems from surrender keeps us from looking to the future for answers. We all do these things to varying degrees. We are all works in progress.
The question becomes, “How much of your day to day and moment to moment existence finds you focused and present?” I have personally found that maintaining constant present-moment awareness is a huge challenge and requires a life-long commitment to develop it. Yet I believe that the quest is well worth it. It seems that everything healthy and whole flows from that state of being.
I find the biblical directive to become as a child in order to discover the kingdom of heaven inspiring as a message about the bliss that awaits us when we experience our existence in the playful and ever-present awareness of a child. Eckhart Tolle posits that there are three states of “being” to attain the bliss of connection to Source and being quintessentially human, that is all that we can be. They are enthusiasm (love for what you are doing), surrender (yielding to what is), and joy (pure and simple). Is it any wonder that all these states reflect the present tense?
So I treasure the litany of stories that I receive in my counselling services. They engender patience and compassion in me. They give me perspective. They reflect the arbitrary nature of our transient experiences and nature. In contrast, they also point to the only reality found in what does not change; our eternal spirit. They demonstrate that we are all positioned in various steps of the same dance. My self awareness and spirituality are ever deepening as a result of my counselling service. I feel blessed in my understanding that we are united in our earthly quest for self actualization. And the better that I become present-minded, the more my life is imbued with clarity, balance and joy.
Helena Green is a Counsellor, Health Management Instructor, Caregiver and Writer.