On Presence

Every time we hit a wall in training it is because we stopped being present. One can be performing an activity better than 99.9% of the world population and still be completely asleep while doing so. As long as presence is maintained there is no limit to how far we can extend ourselves in any endeavor.

It is also perfectly possible for someone to be fully present in one activity, say on the ski slope, and at the same time be completely lost in another, say a business meeting. And vice versa. So it becomes tempting to pursue presence by constantly engaging in new thrills, new activities. While helpful, this is not necessary, and it holds the same danger as any singular pursuit. Sooner rather than later you start picking up new activities in your sleep and once again have lost your presence. The path to presence is constantly looking inward while doing whatever it is you are doing in every moment of every second of every day. And that is the hardest thing of all and it pays absolutely nothing and leads absolutely nowhere.

How to look inwards? The standard recommended actions are the silent repetition of a prayer or mantra if you have one, or putting your attention on your breath if you don’t. Put your attention on your breath as a passive observer. Do not try to change your breath. And if you do, do not try to stop yourself. Simply observe yourself changing your breath. Continuously disengage from whatever action you find yourself drawn into and observe. Like a loving mother who watches over her baby crying in her lap without engagement or affect.

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