the perfection of presence

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

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13 Responses to “the perfection of presence”

  1. jeffstroud Says:


    A very wise and thoughtful post, and even a more wise and thought action to take. Learning to be consciously present at all times is a practice, a practice I think Buddhist have been perfecting for years. The word here is practice, it will always be a process in which we are, as humans with ego seeking to keep in check.
    Even while reading this I was thinking how do I respond to this? What stories do I have to tell? One that came about was an exersice we did in community of learning to listen, being fully present. We each got a partner, another member of the community, we told our stories about how or why we were now living at Easton Mt. Once your partner was done, we were to repeat, to the best of our remembering what the person said, asking if that was correct, and if not allowing the partner to fill in the blanks or to correct misunderstanding. and than we would repeat the story again, each taking turns without interruption.
    We than were ask to take news print paper and re-create the story, like Illuminated books, using words and images!

    It was a cool and exciting event, did it help for some yes, it is still a practice, one one has to be conscious of at all time when in the presents of other, or maybe even ourselves…

    I am Love, Jeff

  2. Barbara Kass Says:

    Thank you for the story, Jeff. When I am a practicing therapist and tending to group therapy, I think that would be an excellent exercise for the group members. You are right — it seems that all of life is a practice. Any perfection we might create will only be in the moment (hence, the title of this piece). Like all moments, it will pass instantly. Why it is this way, I don’t know, but I feel it is a method to teach us the lessons we came here to learn. I am also learning a lot about my ego and how fiercely protective it is of me so I am learning very slowly to let it go just to prove to both of us that nothing terrible will happen if I am not perfect all the time. 😀

  3. jeffstroud Says:

    Yes, Barbara, we do the human/spirit dance all of our lives here on earth. Learning as we go. or as Neale Donald Walsch suggest re-membering who we truly are!

  4. dadcraige Says:

    Thank you.
    Wonderful .
    So real.
    Authentic happiness
    ReSounds with goodness and beauty.
    Such clarity and resonance.
    With gratitude,


    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, David – thank you for your presence here. If I only achieve a margin of what I aspire to accomplish, then I will have succeeded.

      And, then I get to start all over again the next day! 🙂

  5. ButterfliesGalore-Kimberly Grady Says:

    Sounds like a great experiment….

    I do try as well, but sometimes it bites me back!

    Good luck…

  6. sandiwhite Says:

    Hi, Barbara, this sure rings a bell with me. While I tend not to revisit the past, well, I discovered that when I did, it was mostly to rewrite history MY WAY and that’s a sorry way to spend your time, I am so guilty of planning my future and agenda even as I stare into someone’s eyes. I can be talking to some person and shamelessly planning supper, deciding to return phone calls, mentally checking the time, all at the same time. This is such an inconsiderate way to treat people and I suppose I’m not the only one who does it. Still, if some one should choose you to turn their attention to, it is simply good manners to listen and listen carefully. While I don’t callously and intentionally blow people off, I’m certain they can tell I’m not quite with them. Thanks for reminding me, focus, focus, focus….

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Sandi — there is a line between voluntarily being present and having your attention hijacked. I doubt that you truly blow people off when you know they need your attention. At the same time, just because someone gets in your face does not mean you have to stop your life to listen to them. I really think this is a matter of choice and taking care of you, too. If I am with someone who by agreement I have chosen to pay attention to, then they deserve my presence.

  7. holessence Says:

    Barbara – At the end of 7 days I SURE HOPE you will blog about the who, what, when, where, why and how of the experiment. Inquiring minds want to know!

  8. ButterfliesGalore-Kimberly Grady Says:

    Yes we do….
    Especially when my hubby has not taked to me in a week and a half since I am helping mom!

    It is not only rude for him not to call, it is absurd!

    How can he be so cruel at one of the hardest “in the moment” times of my life!

    Yes we will work at this. 🙂

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