One point I have worked with a lot since being on parental leave is being present with my child. For me it has taken a lot of discipline to accomplish that presence. Children are simplistic and they do not enjoy the same mind entertainment that we adults have gotten used to. I tend to feel that I need sophistication and complexity in my day – I want to be mentally stimulated and challenged. That does not happen with my daughter. She is simple and requires me to be present in her simple exploration of the world – and because that does not stimulate me – I have to push myself to become a part of her world.
A perfect example would be playing. My daughter has toy that is a model of a stable. She loves to play with it. She moves her small toy horses back and forth, in and out from the stable – and she loves having me around. Usually she wants me to take the horse and go out on the track and do some jumps over the miniature barriers. On a mental level – I am not at all intrigued. I know that it is not real horses and I do not have a imagination that can facilitate and make the play entertaining. Hence – I have to be there for my daughter, present in the game, playing, even though I do not experience any desire towards it on a mental level.
It is interesting this word – present – because by pushing myself to be present – I am giving myself to my daughter – a gift. I remember myself from my years as a child that one of the things I desired most was to have my parents be happy, satisfied, present and here with me. There was such moments with my parents, however they were few and far in-between. Usually my parents were caught up in emotions; stress, anxiety, worry, desire, anger, etc. Happy days were unusual. And that is not satisfying. Adults, we tend to put so much emphasis and effort on surviving and creating a living for ourselves, that we forget actually living. We forget that living cannot not based on the prerequisite that everything must be working out in our lives when it comes to survival – because then there will be very little time over for living.
Thus – if there is one thing I want to gift to my daughter, it is myself, being present in her life. And that is also a gift that I give to myself – being present in my own life. I am certain that there is no greater gift than that.
Practically speaking – being HERE is something that I apply in moments of resistance and avoidance towards participating in simple things – such as playing with my daughter. Another example is when I resist exercising, giving or receiving massage. A red flag that I have learned to recognize is when I suddenly desire to do something that entails passive stimulation. I can be sitting with my daughter, drawing, and then this urge comes up within me to check if there are any updates on my smartphone. That is a certain sign for me that I am now at a threshold, the activity is not stimulating me sufficiently, and I feel a need for something more. It feels like I cannot only be here, and only do this, I must do something more. The solution for me in such moments is to embrace the simplicity of drawing – and commit myself to the activity fully – to not accept and allow myself to be partly in my mind and partly in the activity of drawing – but rather – FULLY in the process of drawing.
This is a skill that requires practice to develop. Being engaged and present in the moment is difficult, because there is always so many other things going on – especially in our minds. That is the place that most frequently removes our attention from what really matters. Somehow we believe that what is going on inside our minds is so, so important. And especially if we have a emotion or feeling coupled with the thought. Then we readily give up what we do in the moment and place our attention inside our heads. That is why we have to practice and discipline ourselves. We have to discipline ourselves to be here, present and giving – it cannot happen by itself. My suggestion is to use each day as a opportunity to practice. In the moments of simplicity when you want to escape – push yourself to remain HERE and see what happens. In my experience, those moments tend to hold something to be explored and discovered.
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