The following ideas are not new. They’re rooted in all the ancient wisdom traditions. It’s all been said a trillion times and in a trillion different ways—this is simply my recent understanding and experience.
I consider myself to be a yoga teacher, first and foremost. However, I’m currently completing my master’s degree in mental health counseling so that I can more effectively utilize yoga and meditation as therapeutic modalities. Through this process I’ve realized that the most important part of a counseling relationship lies in the therapeutic alliance–the capacity to show up in the here-and-now and let the process unfold while really tracking the client in the present moment. In this way, it’s less about doing or saying anything specific and more about being a witness to someone’s story; their current experiences and their basic fragile humanness. (If the therapy session had a mantra as its subtext, it would be “I see you. I see you. I see you…”)
The same is true as a yoga teacher, of course. I’ve noticed that as I continue to evolve in this role I’m less concerned about the creative sequencing and what I’m bringing to the experience and more concerned with you, my yoga student, and how the practice I’m offering envelops you. I’m making a conscious decision to touch more, to observe more– to talk less (Yes, I certainly still have a lot of potential for growth in that last area.)
Lately, I marvel over the trusting willingness of both my yoga students and my counseling clients. It’s really a very brave thing to share of yourself, isn’t it? Consequently if someone is fearlessly putting it out there, we can accidentally and unknowingly shut him or her down if not mindful. Sure, we practitioners of yoga say Namaste all the time, but how often are we really recognizing that shared radiance?
Of course presence is the objective as a practitioner of yoga and meditation as well. In meditation though, it’s only you interacting with yourself and you are the object of your witnessing. (“I see me. I see me. I see me…”)
And so it’s said that presence is the underpinning of everything meaningful that unfolds in a lifetime, regardless of one’s occupation or practices. When people speak of the pivotal moments that inspired them, delighted them, scared them, shook them or moved them in some way, it’s undeniable that part of what made the experience meaningful was that they were whole-heartedly present.
This holiday season wouldn’t it be interesting to see if you can really see the person you’re interacting with? Don’t let your mind wander. When it does, bring it back. Look bravely into their eyes and shine your presence onto them as though you are a spotlight and they are on a stage. Observe how this shifts the way you communicate and the way in which the interaction unfolds. Observe how this stops time. Notice how when two people are really present to one another in the here-and-now there is a sort of alchemy that occurs. The result is an additional entity—a witness that is indefinable but palpably real. This silent witness is presence, in and of itself, and it’s magic.
Here’s the deal—we are all magicians wielding this amazing trick up our sleeves. We either forget to use it or we never even knew we had it in the first place. And although the holidays are a magical time for many, they can be quite painful for others. There is a deep loneliness in many who have lost. Some have lost loved ones. Some have lost their way. Some never had the opportunity to fully claim either of those. Your presence can be the gift, equally invaluable to the joyful and the suffering alike.
Your presence is magic. Your presence can heal. Incidentally, the incantational word associated with magic is Abracadabra and historically it was believed to have healing powers and the capacity to ward off great illness. Healing is magic and magic often results in healing.
I’m always moved by the 1947 Christmas film, Miracle On 34th Street. “I Believe” becomes the thematic mantra of the story. They believe in Santa Claus. They believe in miracles. They believe in magic. It is my intention to believe in my capacity for the transmutable magic of presence right now. And I believe I can hold fast to that presence into the New Year.
I know that you already know all of this already. You have always known it and sometimes you remember it too. I’m not introducing anything you haven’t heard from the whisper in your own heart that pours forth from our collective unconscious. My objective is not to preach nor proselytize. I simply wanted to remind you that I see you. Yep-I recognize that light in you that’s part of me and all of that—any variation of the definition you prefer.
Let’s make magic.