One of the single most difficult things I have had to practice in life is the art of being present. Simply being shouldn’t be so hard, yet I have found it is. It is something I have to practice, something, I have come to understand, that is much like breathing, I will never be “done with it”. Doing nothing is surprisingly difficult. Doing nothing in the face of horror is even harder. When I have a great many feelings, sitting still and being present is all the more difficult. The last thing I want to do is sit and actually feel. Why would I want to do that? Now’s the time for action (!) and yet, it is during these times that it is vitally important for me to practice being still. Every fiber of my being is screaming at me to move, to make sense of, to understand, to find the thing, the motive, something or someone I can blame, something that allows me to say, oh yes, of course it was that, that’s why this has happened.
Yet, it is an illusion. The feelings remain no matter what is said. No matter what has been written, the feelings remain. Feelings – grief, fear, horror, sadness, confusion, pain, suffering, outrage and anger. Feelings. Lean into them. Do nothing. Breathe.
Emma, unlike me, does not need to practice the art of being. She does this without trying. It seems to me, as I watch her, that she comes to this idea of “being present” naturally. It is not an “idea” for her, it is simply life. Emma just “is”. Emma is one of the happiest, most joyful beings I have ever come into contact with. Her median state is one of happiness. She is without judgement or blame. She does not hold onto resentments or grudges. Emma does not talk about people behind their backs, she does not condemn or bully. Emma is not dishonest or cruel. And yes, Emma is Autistic, which must not to be confused with “mental illness”. In fact, Emma is the opposite of “mentally ill”. Perhaps because of her neurology she is able to be present in a way that I do not come to as easily. I must work hard at something she does not think about.
People say all kinds of things in anger, in grief that have little to do with anything. People say things while trying to make sense of something that is senseless. They latch on to an idea, they offer a reason, a cause, it’s because of this, or that they say. Oh, that person did that because of __________. We talk and reason and blame. People say and do things we find offensive, things that will hurt us and our children. When people are scared they say and do things they would not, upon deeper reflection, say and do. So don’t do anything, I keep telling myself. Sit and be still. But it hurts to do so.
Don’t say anything, just sit and be present. And it feels unbearable.
Don’t move, just be present. Look around. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell. What are you feeling? I don’t want to feel.
Close your eyes.
Be present. I can’t!
Breathe. More fear.
Breathe and just be.
Emma performing for us, Saturday evening