I’m working from home, as you all know – and one of the best things about it is I get to spend a lot of time with my partner, my garden, and my cat and dog.
Rosie is a whippet, and she is my role model in so many ways – but the thing I admire most, perhaps with a little tinge of jealousy, is her absolute presence. Unconcerned with past or future, her existence is entirely in the moment. If something is happening, she’s involved. If nothing is happening, she’s asleep in the sun. She is not burdened by past trauma or future expectation.
You probably know a few people who come close to that dog-like state, but for most of us, presence is hard.
We replay, worry about, or regret events in the past, dwelling on what might, could, or should have been. We plan, anticipate, and expect the future, despite the clear and obvious fact that our control over it is tenuous at best. The present is, for most of us, the safest place to be – certainly in terms of our mental health – yet we are surrounded by a society which seems geared toward distracting us from this moment: a screen to watch, a plan to make, something to buy or yearn for, someone to aspire to, imitate, or despise.
My partner does regular yoga and the mantra he uses comes from the Vedas, the ancient Hindu scriptures. It translates as,
You have the right to your actions, but not to their results. Never let the outcome be the motive, but do not be attached to inaction. Be steady in oneness and do the things that you must do. Be indifferent to failure or success – this equanimity is yoga.
It’s a bold set of instructions, perhaps much easier to follow 3000 years ago when they were written, in simpler times. But in principle, this is the essence of a human being, as opposed to a human doing. If we were able to go about our duties without fixating on the outcome, the expectation, and the fear of failure or the desire for success, those duties might be a whole lot more bearable.
If you need help with presence, the best teacher is nature. Watch clouds, plants, and animals. Feel the sun on your back. Notice the breeze in the trees. We’re so fortunate here in the mountains to have unlimited access to both wild and domestic flora and fauna.
Rosie’s sleeping beside me as I write this, blissed out in the warmth. She has no idea I’m planning to take her walking soon, but I know she will be enthused and excited to join me – and there’s something I can learn from that. I am so thankful for her companionship and her wise teachings.