I recently had an opportunity to speak at a very meaningful ceremony, my mother’s funeral. For the past several years I participated in her care and observed the steady, disrupting erosion of her awareness transform her from a kind, loving, intelligent mother, teacher, and friend to a person who was frail, confused, and unable to meet any of her needs. The process was tragic and sad and created oppressive suffering. While at first I felt constricted, over time I was able to review all aspects of the memories of my life and heal. By the time of her death I felt remarkably free.
In the days prior to her funeral, I was invited to speak. Her funeral was to be held in the Lutheran church we attended when I was young. Although the building had been remodeled, I became aware of the energy of many memories of ceremony and childhood, of religion and growing up. The pastor was warm and caring and I felt supported by her. I understood that my segment would be about ten minutes. I spent the days leading up to the funeral preparing how I would speak from my heart about the meaning I realized by experiencing life with my mom. I planned on speaking about a beautiful early memory I had that was about cleaning and caring. I would follow that with a meaningful poem in Portuguese called Ausencia, by Carlos Drummond de Andrade. Then I would tie it all together with the expression of my deep and profound gratitude, compassion, and love.
Within minutes of the service beginning, I was called to the podium. Before me was my family, a few friends, and a large number of my mother’s friends—people who had been my teachers, principals, babysitters, neighbors, and role models. They were all people I respected. They were all people who helped raise me. They were all people I looked up to. However, as children, we tend to experience the discipline and “course corrections” we receive from adults as a series of judgments. Those old memories of feeling judged emerged as I began to speak.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the presence to feel the energy of the room and ground myself and the audience. My intellect was naturally engaged in remembering what I was planning on saying. My ego was activated and engaged in defending myself against perceived threat. Would these people who I care so much for approve of what I was about to say? Would they think it was relevant? Would they understand the love I felt? My mind was engaged in imagining what would happen if I forgot what I wanted to say or how I looked standing up there with no notes, just speaking. Would the Portuguese be received well? Could I do it in the way I imagined? This turbulence created a constricting distance between my heart and my mind.
I felt my heart beat faster, I knew I was breathing a little faster, and worst of all, I felt my mouth become instantly bone dry. This interfered greatly with my ability to speak well. I had the irresistible desire to lick my lips. If only I had remembered to drink a little water. Just a small sip would have done it. I was deeply into a fight-or-flight stress reaction, and of course neither fight nor flight was helping me meet my needs. I really wanted to do a great job. Midway through the poem I looked at my niece Caroline, who smiled at me. In an instant I felt the deep loving connection we have. In that moment I shifted from my head to my heart. In that moment I was able to speak consciously.
As I shifted internally I felt myself settle into the rhythm of connection. My heart rate and respiratory rate slowed. My mouth recovered. The rest of what I had to say flowed smoothly and nicely. I felt grounded, connected, and freely able to express the love, compassion, and gratitude I felt in the final public farewell to my mom.
Choosing Present Moment AwarenessIn every moment we have the opportunity to exercise our fundamental choice to either be engaged in the awareness of the present or to be ignorant of it. The mental turbulence we normally experience results from being unconscious of that choice. When we choose to be engaged in the present moment, our natural tendency is to make choices that are in alignment with our true nature. Harmonizing with love, connection, compassion, and empathy results in actions that are spontaneously right. We may experience a natural, calming fluidity within our internal and external environments and cultivate the ability to celebrate our true melody and rhythm.
The practice of grounding can help us stay conscious of the present moment. Whether we are about to have a conversation with our partner, take action on a project, or do any other activity, if we pause and ground ourselves, we will be able to move forward with present moment awareness and engaged intent. This will enable us to respond creatively and intuitively, rather than reacting in habitual, unskillful ways.
Exercise: Practicing the PresenceTo begin the practice, simply allow yourself to remember the importance of being in the present moment and then make the choice to be wholly present by releasing any attachment to the past or future.
Gently close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath. Fully inhaling and exhaling two or three times allows relative relaxation of the body and mind.
Bring your awareness to your heart—the energetic seat of peace, harmony, laughter, and love deep within us at the level of the soul. With each breath, allow that energy to expand and fill your bodymind.
Become aware of the emotions you are feeling in that moment and then pause for a few seconds to allow the energy of realization and presence to reverberate within you. From the perspective of the silent witness within, ask yourself one of the following soul questions:
Who am I?What do I really want?What is my dharma?What am I really grateful for in this moment?
Pause again for a few seconds before taking a deep breath in and releasing the entire exercise.
Opening your eyes will reveal a fresh, consciousness-based view of the world from which intuition and creativity will spontaneously flow.
Congratulations! You are now grounded. Be prepared to live a fully satisfying, connecting, lovely life. Feel free to either practice the exercise silently or share it with friends, family, and co-workers. It is an especially effective group exercises.
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