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Cultivating Presence: The Inner Space of Ritual

Cultivating Presence: The Inner Space of Ritual

Are you here right now, in your body? Or is your body in the chair and your mind somewhere else? 

Are you actually seeing the world around you as it is now, or are you seeing it through the accumulated lens of old stories or unassimilated wounds?

Presence, being here now, is a way to improve our relationships and experience of being alive.

"Presence, then, can be understood as intimacy with the real. Being present is literally not being anywhere else. Not being in the past or the future, not being in your thoughts or imagination or story, not being numb, or vacating your body and floating above your head. It means being right here, right now, feeling your feet on the ground, feeling your limbs, noticing your thoughts and emotions—as they are appearing right this moment. It means noticing and feeling others, and to the extent possible not filtering them through a biased lens, your traumas and transference of past narratives. Presence means just seeing the tender, real being right in front of you.

The stoic term Amor Fati comes to mind. Amor Fati means loving what is. Presence requires us to love, or at least accept, what is, because it is true and real and authentic and it is the real life we have. Presence, then, can be understood as intimacy with the real. Before we move into ritual, we intentionally come into full presence. If you’re not accustomed to dropping in in this way, it might take some practice.

The simplest practices are noticing the breath, or stopping completely and noticing the body, and the sounds, sights, smells and textures in the immediate environment. Even habit-changing tricks can help. Here’s one we like: the stoplight game, where you practice scanning your whole body every time you catch a red light. What do I feel? What do I desire? Where is the energy moving in my body? What areas can I not feel, where is there numbness or darkness? In this practice there’s no fixing, only noticing. Another practice is to sit with another person and just look at each other. Simply be with each other.

Then take five or ten minutes each, speak in turns while the other practices deeply listening, without the compulsion to fix or judge or interrupt. Simply be present and attentive, attempting to feel yourself and each other.  Presence is a form of reverence."

The above is an excerpt from our new book "Reverence: Creating Ritual in Modern Life".

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