Practicing Presence

by Laura McCorry

Lately I’ve found myself more drawn to silence, more drawn to sitting still and taking in the world as it presents itself. Life asking to be noticed in a small, quiet voice. It hasn’t paraded into my consciousness with fanfare and demanded attention. (There’s enough of that already, and we all know the strategy works, at least immediately.)

As Franz Kafka wrote, “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

These are some of the moments that stopped me in my tracks, when my only response has been to sit very still observing, listening:

  • My daughter already in pajamas stacking blocks as high as she can into a tower just before her bedtime. 
  • The sound of my friend’s voice who tells me that in the middle of the night, she will ask her husband who recently died to go comfort their baby. 
  • The late afternoon sunlight illuminating a hand-brocaded Indian elephant on a square tapestry, how I see for the first time the sparkling gold threads.
  • The stark black and white text from a friend asking for prayers while she sits beside her husband in the ICU. 

There is much pain and suffering in the world. There is so much beauty and kindness. Very often, we only have words to offer each other. (Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is now the right time?) But words can only travel so far – it’s difficult for them to penetrate deep into another’s heart.

You don’t need to meditate on a mountaintop for years to learn that very often, the silence that already exists cannot be improved with words. What can we offer each other when there are no words? Only presence. Only prayer, which in my understanding, is presence offered at a distance.

There is a deep, listening kind of presence that passes directly into understanding and empathy. We’re not very practiced, as a society, at offering this type of comfort. But you can practice feeling it for yourself. Listen to the whisper of the world, asking to be noticed. Sit in silence. Breathe. You are here and you matter.

Laura McCorry

Laura McCorry
Contributing Writer

Yoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.

Contact: laura(AT)yogaonesandiego(DOT)com

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