Posts Tagged ‘present’

The presence of betrayal

April 10, 2012

Let’s go into the darkness for a bit.

There are moments of eternal night in my childhood that I carry with me to the present day. I find myself responding to life as if I were still that particular child – still three, four, five, six, seven years of age. I may not always remember the events of any particular dark moment, but I remember the feelings, and my present responses are immediate and involuntary. Experiencing life before I could distinguish my unconscious process from my conscious abilities resulted in a form of programming – a way of responding to life that might have been appropriate in its moment of origination, but does not fit the life I am living now. It is counterproductive to my desires. To fully experience my life as the adult I am now, there is only one thing to do: give it up.

Giving up the programming I received as a child feels like betrayal – betrayal of my family of origin, betrayal of the adults I was dependent upon for survival, betrayal of the child I once was. The child within squirms at the thought that the love and attention she received was not loving at all but programming. She wrestles with the fact that she was raised by people who were not at all connected with themselves, much less with her, and wonders: who betrayed who? Weren’t they supposed to love her and wasn’t everything they did for her own good? At least, that’s what she was told. Loyal to her family, giving up that programming feels like abandonment, but didn’t they go there first? Who will she be once she leaves that story behind? If they truly loved her, why didn’t they love her in a way that supported her, guided her, and nurtured her?

Parents, of course, are the prime targets on this trajectory. They programmed me to believe that their actions and attitudes proved they loved me. As a grownup, I kept wondering why I looked for and found people who treated me much like my parents did and I didn’t enjoy it any more than I had as a child. My introspective work to uncloak that secret finds the child in me realizing that her parents lied to her . . . she was not really loved but rather only used as a tool for them to vent their frustrations and act out their own programming. She was there – wanting, needing, craving to be loved, and for her, any attention was better than no attention. That child in me knew something was wrong but in order to survive, she had to make that something wrong right. My parents in her eyes HAD to be perfect, it HAD to be okay, or else she was lost.

Year after year, I’ve worked very hard to recognize and learn the difference between real love and the love I was programmed to expect. I took my lessons in parenting into my motherhood and programmed my daughters to believe I loved them based on my actions, words, and attitudes. To hold my parents accountable means to hold myself accountable. In my efforts to resolve and let go of what no longer works, I fight the resistance I feel to the betrayal of myself as a parent. Fighting resistance . . . my dichotomous life continues.

Here in the darkness, I am seeking a way to come to resolution with these irrefutable facts. I cannot undo what has been done.

Let’s go into the light.

Because we are ever-evolving beings – becoming more of who we truly are in each moment of experience – there are hundreds of thousands of babies, children, adolescents, young adults, and adults who collectively make up the person known as me in the present. Even if I only count the days of my existence, that number still approaches twenty thousand.

I am a blur of struggles and triumphs. That all of who I have been brought me to this present moment relatively intact is evidence of their strength, their perseverance, their wisdom, their insight, their judgment, and their love of self.

My present is a long luxurious moment of self-exploration, self-investigation, and self-discovery. Within my struggles, conflicts and lonely minutes, I am with an army of selves whose exponential experience births creative and sometimes adventurous comfort and solutions. The totality of me walks into the light to find the thoughts, the activities, and the people who give me love, acceptance, and companionship. I grant myself permission to let go of my condemnation and look upon my past as a troubled road with hidden gifts: resilience, character, wisdom, knowledge, and a spirit who cannot be stopped.

In the light, I find forgiveness.

©2012 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

The presence of memory

September 1, 2010

It has only been two weeks since the Magic cat left and her absence still looms large in my days and nights. That little cat taught me a very significant lesson about being present: I need to pay attention to now because I am creating tomorrow’s memories.

At first, I thought it was an odd way to be present because it presumes there will be a tomorrow when all we really know is that we have the eternal present. There are these past presents, though, that come around to haunt me either with their sorrow or with their joy. With my 20/20 hindsight, I can clearly see and know how I could have been more present, how I could have responded differently.

If I get caught up in the woes of yesterday or the endless search to recreate my pleasures, I will miss the present opportunities. Given the cyclical nature of most people’s behaviors, there will likely be other events for me to practice a new and different response. Each time I practice a different response, I create a new memory that can support me in all my tomorrows. I can capture the essence of joy and imprint its feeling in my cells. The memory of joy helps balance the sorrows and losses that often fill me in the last moments of those I love.

Each present moment is a lesson. The studying and learning of life comes with the reflection of the memory. While we may not always have a choice over the events in our lives, we always have a choice on how we are going to apply the lesson we interpret from those events.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass


August 8, 2010

For the past two weeks, I have been a little distracted and neglected my writing of Eternal Presence. My excuse is that I have been living large in a place where not many people get to play.

I belong to this women’s tennis team and we are currently undefeated. Our record is 14-0. We are a very unlikely collection of winning players. None of us are Wimbledon material. Individually, our records of wins and losses are the same as any other player. Many of us get on the court with various braces and wraps to support our aching joints. We swallow Advil by the dozens and ice packs are a staple in our freezers.

But somehow, we managed to put together winning combinations of players that have simply outplayed the other teams. I am learning so much about bringing my best to every point in the game no matter how much better the other team might be in terms of talent and consistency. Even when it is clear that the other team can and is in the process of beating us, I am learning to be in the experience point by point. Several times, we have come from behind to capture the match.

To keep up my momentum and capitalize upon this experience, I have been playing tennis every chance I get in the evenings and weekends. It is said that to maintain a skill, you need to perform it at least twice a week. To improve a skill, you need to perform it at least three times a week. I am seeking to imprint the feel of winning strokes and volleys into my physical rhythm. At the same time, I want to integrate this incredible sense of solidity and confidence in bringing the best tennis player I can be to each point that I play. The mental and emotional game of tennis can compensate for any lack there might be in physical ability and defeat opponents with twice the skill level.

Translating this lesson into the everyday moments of my life might be more of a challenge because there are more distractions off the court than on the court. Being totally present on the tennis court for each stroke of the ball is a requisite of playing well. I cannot be thinking of anything else in that moment except where that tennis ball is, where the other players are, and how I am going to hit this shot right now. I can only move on to the next moment after I see that tennis ball leave the strings of my racquet. If I start thinking about the next point or what’s for dinner, I lose contact with the moment and am likely to lose contact with the ball as well.

“Be here now” is possibly the best advice I have ever heard. This is the only moment that counts. This moment sets up the next moment.

It is the only way to stay in the game.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

Presence in the present

April 4, 2010

Joseph Campbell wrote: “Eternity is now. It doesn’t begin when you die. You’re in it NOW.”

These words helped me to crystallize the internal knowledge that I am an eternal presence. Still, my mind insists on wandering away from the “now” and I remind myself to “be present.” Just the words imply the assumption that there is a time other than the present moment and that is an illusion. There is no other time. (Actually, there is no “time” at all – but that is an argument for another day.) The present is eternal. We just have this little thing called a brain with a memory that can remember a past (that may or may not be accurate) and can invent a future (that may or may not occur). This knowledge is what helps me deepen into the present moment: be here now. be HERE now. BE here now. be here NOW. Where else could I be?

Being fully present is a little bit like being dropped into suspended animation – not that I know for sure (having never really been in suspended animation) but this is what I imagine it would feel like. I have had moments when life as usual felt like it was in suspended animation. Vacations, yoga retreats, writing workshops – all of these take me away from my normal life. My brain imagines that this normal life will be waiting for me after my time away. I envision this normal life as being a separate entity from me and it is just in suspended animation until I return to animate it again. Somehow, I will be different  . . . changed when I return. Without the normal noise of my busy life-as-usual, it is easier to connect with my eternal presence. I discover that I am not the life I am leading day to day. I am energy conducting a symphony of thoughts, emotions, and actions. I am not who I think, what I feel, or what I do. These thoughts, feelings, and actions are reflections of who I am and I when I really get that, my only desire is to remain present, eternally in the now, even as my mind and body deal with the past and prepare for the future.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass