The Gift of Presence is Now

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor got me thinking. She is a professional in the field of brain research and she says the part of our brain that is dedicated to storing information – memory – is about the size of a peanut. This is such a small part of our body and yet it can wreak havoc in our lives. Let me explain.

Dr. Bolte Taylor had an experience where her memory was wiped out. I have been reflecting on how much of my own daily activity is routine based on old beliefs and ideas: my memories. For example, my father was an alcoholic and as a girl growing up in that environment, I became sensitive to the signs and symptoms associated with what I experienced as crazy-making behaviour. Now, when I meet a person with the signs and symptoms, I can’t seem to help but judge them by my past, and I have little or no desire to spend time with them.

What if each moment was fresh? I wouldn’t have any expectations and each new encounter would be original. An old negative dance pattern I played out in a past relationship would dissolve because I had forgotten the routine. I wouldn’t have triggers and buttons to push. Life for me would be like the innocence of a child discovering each day for the first time. This is what it was like for Dr. Bolte Taylor.

In 1996 Dr. Bolte Taylor was faced with the results of a blood clot in her left brain hemisphere. Out of this experience her perception of life totally altered. She temporarily lost all reference to the past (it took eight years for her to recover) and from this encounter, she discovered the beauty of the present moment. Imagine being totally overjoyed with this very moment, and life as it is now: the joy of being able to read, the comfort of the surroundings, the dexterity of the human body and its movement through space.

The need to chase a better tomorrow would be gone, along with the stories of the past. Expectations placed on others would be forgotten. Concepts like ‘shattered dreams’ wouldn’t make any sense. All that would remain is the awe of this moment.

I was drawn to the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh in The Present Moment; A Retreat on the Practice of Mindfulness. He says, "Walking on the Earth is a miracle! We do not have to walk in space or on water to experience a miracle. The real miracle is to be awake in the present moment. Walking on the green Earth, we can realize the wonder of being alive. If we make steps like this, the sun of the Infinite Presence within will shine.”

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote Gathas (ancient Indo-Iranian religious poetry) in modern verse to assist western culture in the practice of present moment awareness. I invite you to take the time right now to experience mindfulness. Read the verse and then spend some time walking and reciting the words. This is one of my favourites:

Walking on the Earth

is a miracle!

Each mindful step

reveals the wondrous Infinite Presence

I have decided to pay more attention to my movements through life and decipher how much of my past paralyzes me from really experiencing life right now. Or perhaps for today, I will drop the contemplation and really live.