Archive for November, 2010

A new presence question

November 28, 2010

How will I bring my presence to life today?

I’ve been asking myself this question every day for two years.

Most days, I completely forget to even BE present, much less be my presence. In the evenings, I flip open my laptop and see those words staring back at me.

I ask myself: How did I bring my presence to life today?

Generally, the answer is something along the lines of “badly,” “sorta,” and “what presence?”

I’ve experimented with methods to remind myself to be more present, to be my presence. Some of them actually worked. Now, when I am with another person, I am reminded to be as completely present with that person as possible. When I am alone, I can be perfectly present with the task at hand.

So I can be more PRESENT in my life, but still do not feel I am bringing my true PRESENCE to life. Who am I underneath these 50-odd years of human history and conditioning? Who is this presence who came to learn the lessons of this lifetime?

I took my question to a shamanic workshop given by Robin Rice . In one day I travelled through “Five Layers and Levels Of Shamanic Dreaming.” I never knew sitting down and closing my eyes could be so much work.

I took my question into journeys. Interrogating my normal process for dealing with this question made me dizzy. I asked Mother Earth if I had her blessing to work on this question (there might have been an earthquake she was laughing so hard). When I visited the Star People high in the universe to get a broader perspective of my question, I clearly saw my lack of focus and heard the message that focus is my task. I visited my ancestors who told me I had chosen this life to deal with my presence and everything I need is within me – that I already am my true presence and I just have to get out of my own way.

This might sound useful, but it only brought up more questions: How am I in my own way? Is there any part that is not in my way? How can I get out of my own way?

I travelled to the mythic realms and learned to lay down my sword at the feet of a dragon in hot pursuit of my mortal life. Believe it or not, that clear metaphor escaped me.

More journeys resulted in fingers pointing directly back at me. Near the end of the workshop, I feel I am still no closer to the answer of my question of how to bring my presence to life.

Our group formed partnerships where we each had to find another person with the same question. My partner was this amazing young woman whose open honesty and revealing vulnerability was a safe haven for my own perplexed being. Her question was: How could she joyfully embrace who she is now?

We had the same question. Her question is my answer. Her question is my “how.”

As my ancestors instructed me, I already am my true presence. It is who I am now. I just need to quit struggling with myself (lay down my sword) in being my true presence. How can I do that and get out of my own way? By joyfully embracing and nurturing my presence each day.

To joyfully embrace my presence means to know that I am eternal, trust my wisdom, and accept that I am okay no matter what is going on around me. To nurture my presence is to engage in life in a way that feeds my soul, my spirit, whatever name I might give to the living presence inside this body.

Viktor Frankl is a teacher of mine. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, he found a way to embrace and nurture himself while enduring the atrocities of Auschwitz and other Nazi prison camps. His survival depended upon it. One of the lessons that I learned is that I need to embrace and nurture my presence in each moment regardless of my circumstances or the circumstances of others.

I get it.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

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The presence of transformation

November 22, 2010

Lately, most everything I have been reading sounds like I have read it before . . . much of it numerous times. The subjects are the same. The writers are rehashing old materials, adding a new twisty phrase or a personal glimpse. That might make the piece more interesting, but it is still the same story. I know that many of us need to hear the same message over and over and over in their endless variations before we finally hear the message and then hear it some more before we finally apply the message to our lives. What I want to know is: where are the new messages?

I’ve heard it said that every thought that could possibly be had has already been thought of before and now all we are doing is thinking the same thoughts over and over again but just saying them in different ways. I am not quite sure I believe this because I doubt that anyone would have thought to “Google” something or perform a face transplant before the year 2000.

Except . . . they would have used their own time’s equivalent of search and repair or transformation.

We are telling the same stories over and over, with the same themes and having the same results. What we need are transformational stories . . . the kind with messages that make us think of a different way of being in the world. These stories have to come from our eternal presence, the one who is practiced in the ways of transformation – the one who transformed from pure energy into the spirit within us.

I am seeking to write about ideas, concepts, realities, and fantasies that no one ever has before. I want to take my concepts of existence beyond what I know and realize in this moment and spill their guts out onto my computer screen. Some days my writing comes fast and easy and knobby startling little phrases drop out of my head and into my fingers effortlessly.

Other days, I have a head of concrete with all sorts of disorganized ideas stuck in slow motion. How do I jackhammer this cement to free those ideas so they can co-mingle and become one coherent bolus of information and inspiration? Do I have to wait for the weather of time to wear it down slowly with its scorching suns, freezer-burn cold, and hurricane winds?

There must be a kinder, gentler way to free these thoughts stuck in the concrete of my brain’s neurons and synapses. Waiting for transformation is like waiting for inspiration – an exercise of the desperately lazy.

Transformation is not looking for a place to happen, but the story is waiting to be written. It is in the writing of the story that transformation occurs.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

the perfection of presence

November 17, 2010

I witness the capacity of some people (really very few) who can be fully present with another person. Most people I encounter, including myself, are busy thinking about what their response is going to be (in other words, thinking about themselves) rather than being present for the other person. In order to fully hear another person, we need to remain silently present, absorbing all of the information that person is offering with their speech, their bodies, and their emotions.

I read my mantra – How will I bring my presence to life today? – every time I flip open my laptop. It is my screen background. But it does not matter. Many days, it gets mentally filed behind a dozen or so seemingly more pressing issues. Being the habitual human that I am, I forget to be present for others to my fullest capacity. I wander through my days so full of my past and securing my future that I live in limbo between this past moment and the next.

Limbo, by the way, comes from the Latin word “limbus” meaning boundary, border, or edge. In ancient Roman Catholic theology, it is also the place where souls who are not considered worthy of living in either heaven or hell spend their eternity.

It is an eternity of waiting to go nowhere. If I live in limbo, I am never going to be fully present, which means I will never accurately hear what another person is saying. I will miss a lot of their message because my mind will be preoccupied with me.

Our bodies are always in the present moment even though our minds might take our thoughts and energies elsewhere. To be fully present, my thoughts must remain with my body, with the presence of who I am being in this immediate now. I must bring my energies close to me and use their gifts.

Perfecting my presence is a challenge when my mind is squawking like a goose at anything that wanders within my attention. Our minds are egocentric – they were created to help us survive. They are constantly scanning our environment and, when someone comes to interact, the mind’s job is to scrutinize all possible responses and select the one that it thinks takes the best care of us. I believe, though, that there is a way to be fully present for myself and the other person.

Over the next seven days, I am going to conduct a self-experiment. At each encounter I have with another person, I am going to respectfully ask my mind to remain present with that person and trust that I will still be able to take care of me appropriately.

It should be interesting.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

long shadows and southern suns

November 9, 2010

It’s that funny little tilt of the earth that brings the shadows when our orbit takes us further away from the sun’s radiance. The sun no longer appears in the direct east or west in the morning or the evening. Instead, we gaze at a southern sun whose light casts long shadows all day long. This southern sun twinkles, casting everything with a raw, glittering light.

We watch dry leaves dance and scratch at pavement and sidewalks. Leafless trees shiver in the breeze, their branches rattling like bones. How brave they are to stand so naked in the eyes of the world. We wrap our cloaks around our bodies, twisting scarves about our necks and heads unwilling to expose even an inch of skin.

With the long shadows comes a quick and early darkness. It is our season of outdoor cold and inner warmth. Not much grows during these fast and limited days.

But inside, we are incubating.

There are shadowless days when pregnant grey clouds hover low on our horizons, promising snow and white blankets to dress the soil and further seal the hidden seeds and roots that wait for spring. We want to tuck ourselves inside layers of wool and dress our hands with fancy gloves. Indoors, safe from the icy drifts, we slide our bodies between flannel sheets and listen as the northern wind whispers through attic rafters.

These days are made for slowing down and sowing seeds. The dark was meant to chase us home. Human eyes don’t see well in the night. It is better to close them, to dream, to imagine what the world is growing hidden from our sight.

We seed ourselves with possibilities.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

A witness presence

November 2, 2010

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending a shamanic workshop about dreams and discovered all sorts of ways to remember dreams, interpret dreams, find resolution, and use dreams to heal ourselves and others. One of these methods involved helping someone complete or finish with a nightmare or a bad dream.

One woman volunteered a nightmare where she was being chased by two men in a house. In the dream, they never find her but she is also unable to find her way out. And she is tremendously frightened and scared. The group reenacted this dream for her with two of the men serving as the chasers and the rest of us forming the walls and rooms of the house.

We completed the exercise with an emotional climax, not just for the woman and the two people chasing her but for those of us who stood as witness to her frantic scurry as she dodged through imaginary doors and hid behind the walls we represented. We heard her breath coming in quiet, rasping gasps. Each and every one of us who was the house admitted afterwards that none of us wanted those men to find her. We resisted the urge to adjust our walls or form doors where there were none. After all, the house did not do that in the dream. Yet, our human spirit could not stand idly by without responding to her predicament and our helplessness.

That is both the blessing and the curse of being a witness: watching without intervening. We witness joyous events, soaking in the pleasure. We also witness events of great sadness and destruction. We are helpless in both circumstances to control the outcomes

Some say that just the act of watching changes the circumstances . . . that if we were not there to act as witness, the outcome would have been different. Our standing as witness walls while the woman completed her nightmare helped her resolve the fear and end the dream.

There is witness presence all around us. It permeates the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the clothes we make, the homes we live in. I believe this presence is not benignly neutral. This presence supports us, provides us sustenance and safety. It wants us to live and live well.

As you go through your days, know that you are being watched, and think about what you want your witnesses to see.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass