- Nancy Ogilvie
Gifts of Presence
Updated: Oct 21, 2021
Principle: Being present in this moment opens up new possibilities that wouldn't otherwise be available.
Practice: Focusing on the physical sensations in your body temple and the breath will help you to be present.
Written Monday, 10/18/21
I was blessed to participate in a silent meditation retreat this past week-end, and what a gift it was! Then in my journaling this morning, I had occasion to apply what I experienced/ learned immediately in making a decision about whether to go back up to Beaver Island Hallowe’en week-end for the next Order event.
I had been stewing over this decision, and didn’t understand what was in the way. The first thing I noticed this morning was how agitated I was. That’s frequently the result of some inner conflict, and I recognized that there was a shouting match going on in my head over whether I “should” go. Emphasis on the should!
One side was saying “You should go! It’s a beautiful setting, and you love the women who have participated before. You’ve had such a powerful experience in the past. Why would you NOT go (in a judgmental tone of, “Why would you not go, you dimwit!?) The other side, of course, was rebelling vociferously: “I don’t want to! You’ve stretched me outside my comfort zone for weeks now, and I’m sick of it. You can’t make me! I’ll make sure we have a miserable time if you make me go!”
In that moment, one of the tools the retreat teacher had included over the week-end came to mind. She demonstrated making a triangle with her thumbs and forefingers, with “good” sitting at one bottom corner and “bad” at the other bottom corner (or substitute positive-negative, right-wrong, etc.). She explained that the mind gets locked in that duality of good-bad and fights with itself.
This morning, I saw that I had made going on the trip “good” and not going “bad.” All of my attention was on trying to resolve this dichotomy in my mind, and I was getting more and more agitated and miserable. I had made up a big story in my head about my experiences in the past and my projections about the future. There was no way to resolve this situation in this way – I needed a different perspective.
The turning point for finding that “different perspective” was refocusing my awareness to the physical sensations I was experiencing in my body. What did agitation feel like, physically, in this moment? My heart felt hard, and there was tension in my solar plexus. And that physical experience allowed me to get out of the shouting match in my head and move into presence in the moment. That’s the third point on the triangle, at the top: Presence.
What a relief! I immediately saw that there is no good or bad about whether I go or not. That was all a story my mind was making up! My friends would miss me, but they would continue to love me, as I would them. I felt the relief physically, as my shoulders relaxed (I once had a massage therapist who would say “Stop wearing your shoulders as earrings!”) and I let out a deep sigh. My heart softened.
The next step in my day was a conversation with a spiritual directee about fear. As we explored hers, I began to recognize that fear was the underlying obstacle to my own clarity about the trip. When I completed with her, I sat at my altar, grounded and allowed the breath to center me. The next thing I knew, I was in tears – tears of fear, bordering on terror. I stayed present to the sensations, and screamed a few silent screams with the tears.
What came clear in my presence with these intense emotions was my fear of the intimacy and vulnerability I experienced with my friends on Beaver Island last summer. I went to levels I hadn’t experienced before, and that opening meant acknowledging my need for and dependence on that connection. As I stayed with the sensations, feelings and my breath, the fear dissipated – all feelings are always impermanent and will pass when we honor them with our presence.
And in the presence, replacing the fear was a clear “yes” to going to Beaver Island.
But the Goddess was not finished with me yet. As I felt complete with this process, I shifted gears and checked my email. There was a message from our Beaver Island host saying they weren’t going to be able to have us Hallowe’en week-end after all.
Haha, Divine Mother! You do have a sense of humor! Clearly, it was my process that was important, not whether I go.