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Monk Notes 22 - The Power of Presence

We often feel guilt in relationships because we feel that we don’t do enough.

There always seems to be more need; more that we could do to help the people in our lives and our communities. And beyond our social circles, there are endless national and global issues that we could contribute to. There will always be people and causes with needs that we could meet if only we had a little more time, resources, and energy to offer. But many of us feel like we can’t even keep up with the needs of our closest friends and family, let alone the world.

And yet, the greatest need many of us have is simply to be seen.

There is a healing effect to being with someone who is truly present. There’s this deep sense of feeling seen, understood, known. If you’ve ever experienced someone fully present to you, you know this to be true. There may be someone that comes to mind in your life who has a habit of being fully present to each person they interact with. The effect a person like this has on the world is profound and unquantifiable.

It’s not necessarily about spending more time, as much as it is the quality of time we spend with the people we love. Ten minutes of deeply engaged attention can do more for a relationship than three hours of distracted attention. This is the simplest way to give to the people in our lives, and yet strangely one of the most difficult. Even if we fully recognize the impact of presence it can be a serious challenge to practice it, especially in our endlessly distracted and chronically hurried culture.

The same healing phenomenon happens to ourselves when we become fully present. Learning to be present has an internal effect as we come to engage with the present moment and allow ourselves to be seen and known by ourselves. All it takes is slowing our minds down and becoming attuned to what is in this moment.

Presence is one of the most powerful gifts we can offer to another person, and we can offer it ourselves as well at any given moment.

All the best,

Steven Lawson

“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”

- William Faulkner


Marcus Aurelius on Embracing Mortality and the Key to Living with Presence - The Marginalian

One of the most common concerns displayed by most cultures for much of modern history has been dealing with the reality of our impermanence. We know this to be true because we still have accounts of Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius nearly 2000 years ago discussing this very issue. If you're interested in his thoughts on the matter, along with others throughout history then this is where to look.  LINK

How We Make Sense of Time - Scientific American

If you were raised in the English speaking western world, you likely have a very linear view of time, with "time units" that have already passed being conceived as "before," the time units that will come down the line as the "future," and the time unit we're experiencing now as the present.

While this may just seem instinctual and the natural way we all perceive time, this is absolutely not the case. Even more interestingly, we've found that when we study cultures that have different perceptions of time, this can also lead to entirely different interpretations of how they perceive and interact with the world, as Kensy Cooperrider, Rafael Núñez explain in this article for Scientific America.  LINK

The Moment is Perfect - Lion's Roar

Mindfulness is like a muscle, you use it or you lose it. And just like other muscles, if you've never tried to exercise it before it can be intimidating to start. If you feel this way but still have that desire to be more present, read through this reflection from Thich Nhat Hanh and see just how simple taking in the present moment truly can be.  LINK

Featured Art: Gentians, John Henry Hill (1870)