What is this thing called Presence?
What comes to mind when you think of Presence?
How do you know if you are experiencing Presence?
It is a word heard often from many wellness professionals.
We are often informed that “being present” is a desired state in this world of overstimulation.
Mark Nepo in The Book of Soul writes about Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic’ sitting at MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York for 632 hours in a chair with another chair facing her, inviting complete strangers to sit across from her as long as they desired, to look her in the eye. No conversation. Eight hours a day from March 14 through May 31st, 2010 she sat. The crowds grew daily. People were moved to tears by this interaction and the experience broke attendance records at MOMA.
The experience was entitled The Artist is Present. People came from all over the world to sit and engage with someone willing to be present. Those documenting this experience stated that they could feel that her heart had taken over her body, see an expansion to her already open eyes, and expression of her face that allowed and made space for the joy/pain/love/grief of complete strangers. This allowance of a recognizing of all the ways we are alive and feel that aliveness.
My son and his wife, with two boys, 5 and 4, recently welcomed two foster children into their home this week, a baby boy and an 18 month old girl. The little girl, my daughter in law told me, initially doesn’t make much eye contact and is slow to respond to interaction. I sat this precious little one on my knees, laying on my back, supporting her head on my thighs, her little feet on my belly. Softly, I starting singing, her name, syllables, simple repetitive melodies. Gradually, after about 10 minutes or so, her head turned more towards mine, her eyes met mine and a spark emerged from her eyes. She grinned a bit with drool on her chin and waved her tiny hand at me.
Presence/The awareness of aliveness.
The witness of the aliveness of another.
The exchange of awareness of aliveness.
Mark Nepo tells us that this awakening of mutual presence is the seed of our human kinship that can germinate anywhere.
So to me, presence is paying attention to aliveness and feeling that through all my tissues, into my bones and seeing that reflected all around me. Taking the time to feel the aliveness in the wind moving through the trees, newly abundant with GREEN, this sound of wind meeting leaves and branches that feels like a shoulder shimmy and looks like a wave on leaves rather than water.
Recognizing this felt sense in our exchange where we witness the aliveness of another and truly allow our aliveness to be seen through the fragility and fortitude that is part of life.
Presence to me, is a paying attention that feels both spacious and grounding in my body, my body this fluid container that has the capacity to hold as Abramovic’ held for many, and as this little Being, in her new home, found in herself and recognized in me, the fullness of our humanity.