Practice makes Presence

I thought that a connection with the Presence of life was something you had or you didn’t. I didn’t realise that having more connection and presence in my life required me to show up first. When I did, my experiences astonished me, teaching me that it is not hoping or wishing or wanting or trying or thinking, but Practice which actually makes Presence.

The vernacular of spirituality is so overloaded with ideology and dogma, that it is no wonder many of us have taken such a wide berth from any sort of spiritual practice. Perhaps religious prejudices, negative experiences with ‘spiritual people,’ or the simple fact that we can’t believe something just because other people tell us it’s true have prevented us from discovering the guiding voice within.

I know much of that was the case for me.

I do not believe this practice I have been led to of intentional morning quiet time is for everyone.

I don’t believe everyone needs it. Since starting this practice myself, I have realised that I very much need it in order to be connected to life in a loving way, rather than a fearful, separated way, but I can see people in my life who are like that without doing this. It’s just that I have lived in a disconnected way for long that I need a bit of extra help.

I’m also really grateful for that, because it has led me to some profound experiences.

I want to share some very simple suggestions and reflections with you in case you are willing to do a little experiment to cultivate more presence in your life, and I share it here because I have experienced profound changes in my life through this very simple practice of intentional quiet time every morning.

Before I tell you exactly what it is (for me), let me tell you what it is not.

This is not a religious practice. This has no basis in ideology, belief systems or other people’s concepts of God.

That is not to say that this practice can’t play a part in those things, because it absolutely can.

But if certain words or phrases other people use to describe the creative spirit of the universe sit in your stomach like a Big Mac, large fries and a sundae (mmm…maybe that’s a bad example), then don’t use them. Create your own. This is a positive practice which should feel good, like slinking into a warm bath after a day’s work.

When I began, I actually took a moment to write what Presence or the Divine meant to me. You can start anywhere and there are no wrong answers or wrong descriptions (in my humble opinion), as long as it feels right for you.

Part of my description of the divine presence was “the smell of a new born baby,” among other things. For me, I needed this to be a positive experience, not an exercise in fear of somehow getting it wrong.

I have since learned that faith is not knowing, and showing up anyway.

I encourage you to show up as you are with what you have.

Place and Space

There are a few conditions which have helped me carry out this practice and the first is a place to be alone. I’m not saying that you can’t do this with another person, because of course you can, but for me it is important to be alone.

After living in a one-room studio for over a year in Mexico, I was very grateful to find myself living a two-level, one bedroom apartment in Guatemala. I didn’t realise at the time that having personal space would be so conducive to this practice for me. Now we are in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and I have my own room to practice my quiet time every morning, which excites me far more than it probably should.

As many of you are traveling, this may require you to get creative. Perhaps the beach, a park or under a tree in the garden may become your sacred space to connect with the guiding voice within. Perhaps it will be the bathroom. Like I said, start where you are. Don’t wait for the perfect external circumstances, because trust me, they will never come.

Time

The circumstances of my life as a traveler have certainly made this part about ‘finding time’ easier. But I truly believe anyone can find that time in the morning, with a bit of effort.

If you are getting up for work, set your alarm for fifteen minutes earlier. I know that sucks and that sleep is King, but presence really does require practice and the rewards far outweigh the inconvenience.

If you are a parent of young kids I can only imagine how challenging it would be to set aside even five minutes of alone time in the morning. But maybe you could start your intentional time while feeding/nursing your child, after they have left for school or when they are down for a nap. I’m not a parent so I would bet this would require much more effort and flexibility than most people, but I can’t imagine anyone in more need of a few minutes of inner connection than run-down, sleep deprived parents.

Don’t do the dishes, they can wait. Give yourself the gift of… yourself.

Intention

Now this is a tricky word for me, as though it implies ‘wanting’ something but this is not the case. This practice is not about wanting something in particular to happen, nor is a means to a desired result.

It is a time to surrender our desires and demands; to connect and receive guidance from the loving, wise presence within.

This part was actually pretty easy for me as I had just experienced an emotional rock bottom inflicted by my own ego. I had proof that my way of doing things simply wasn’t working; it didn’t make me happy and I was willing to try something else.

I have learned throughout my journey that desperation can be a great gift. It allows us to set aside what we think we know to make room for what we don’t. All my growth has come from the things I didn’t know.

For those of you in a dark place of fear, anger and loneliness, all I can say is, yippeeee! You will probably be more willing to surrender to this practice in the hope of healing and renewal. And I promise you from the bottom of my heart that it is possible.

This practice may be a door through which you finally walk in freedom.

If things are trucking on pretty well for you and you are simply curious or would like to be more present in your life, well, yay for you too.

On a logical level, even if you are pretty happy, surely spending a few minutes every morning connecting with the most loving, wise and true part of yourself can only be a good thing.

Asking

This one is so simple it’s almost ridiculous. Ask a question. Anything at all. If something is troubling you, ask what to do about it. If you are at a crossroads and unsure of which path to take, just ask. Ask if the presence you seek even exists! I did.

It was suggested to me not to ask for specific things or make requests but to ask for guidance about how to handle the situations facing me in my life. I was so emotionally empty, I started by asking what it was that I was meant to do each day, one day at a time. I still am.

Listen and write

Now comes the fun part! Because you have shown up in your sacred space with intention, in order to experience the guidance of your inner voice, it’s important to write down that guidance. Write down every thought that comes. If nothing comes, imagine what your most loving, wise self would say.

Write it all down. Don’t edit what comes out. Sure, it may not all be divine wisdom, but it also might be. It’s not up to you to decide, yet.

Check

It was suggested to me to check my guidance against the qualities of love, selflessness, purity (i.e not anger) and honesty.

If what you have ‘heard’ and written down is in line with these qualities, as well as your values and responsibilities, then there is a pretty good chance it is divine advice.

Follow

Carry out your guidance. If it is in line with the qualities above, it won’t hurt anyone or you. It may be something as banal as cooking lunch for your family (it was for me). Or taking a bath. Or sending someone a message. In fact, it is mostly those sort of things for me. Rarely is it something that I cannot handle.

Before I started this practice I was trying to do a million things and not doing any very well. My relationship was strained, my energy and concentration at all time low. I was full of fear and frustration and felt like I was running on empty, because I was.

I wasn’t ‘fixed’ straight away of course, but as I carried out the simple tasks suggested to me by my inner voice, I felt a huge sense of relief flow into my life. The biggest surprise to me was how such a simple practice could be so profound.

I have not looked back and am so grateful to this practice of intentional quiet time involving connecting, asking, listening and writing which was suggested to me. It has ignited a light within me I feared didn’t exist and encourages me to share it with anyone I can with absolute love, in the hope that it may assist you to connect with the divine wisdom within you.

This does not come from me, but through me, with the pure intention of cultivating peace in the world, beginning with ourselves.

You are loved. You have a purpose, and when you live that purpose you will feel connected to the divinity within us all.

Namaste xxx

P.S I made an initial commitment to this practice for 30 days. Daunting, I know. But the discipline of this practice is almost as important as the practice itself, and this small discipline has allowed more discipline to flow into my life, which has never been my strong point, believe me!

If you are willing to try an experiment, commit to 30 days of intentional morning quiet time. Buy a simple notebook. Record the guidance of your inner voice every day. Follow it to the best of your ability. Forgive yourself when you don’t. And see what happens in your life. (And let me know how you go, if you like, because I will be doing it right along side you).

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Comments

Practice makes Presence — 21 Comments

  1. This is a fabulous experiment. I was doing The Artist’s Way years ago and setting my alarm for 5am every day was *awful*, but I did see the benefits of writing every morning almost immediately. Even when my writing consisted of, “This sucks. I want to go back to bed. Why am I doing this?” You’re taught to not edit, just go with it. I am the worst at getting up any earlier than I have to, but now that we’re settled for a month, it might be a good time to allow myself 10-15 minutes extra before leaving the comforts of our little bedroom for some intentional practice. For me, exercise has always been a sort of meditative time for me. I sometimes listen to music, but even when I do, I find my mind wandering and I just let it go about its business and usually find whatever I needed at the end of my workout.
    Carmel recently posted..FREE? WE LIKE FREEMy Profile

    • You know, I have just rented a house here in San Miguel de Allende filled with books and one of them is the Artist’s Way! The morning pages is something I have done before, and it is an awesome technique for clearing negativity. I did it a while back and had to burn the pages – haha!!!!

      This is a little different in that first you connect with your inner, loving, wise Presence, whatever it means for you, and ask for guidance. It feels weird at first, but I gotta say, it worked for me.

      It’s just one of many techniques to access more connection and presence; I just love the simplicity, the openness, the fact that it is available and free to us all, requires no belief or convincing but is something to try out and experience.

      Everyone’s experiences will be different and there is no wrong result, merely an exploration of the Inner Self which I think can only be a good thing.

      Travel well my dear friend! Let me know how you go with all your methods and if you have any to share with me (I have recently been thinking about running which is really quite weird for me!!!) xxx

    • Hi Sam! I hope you do as it is such a simple way to connect with your inner self where love, forgiveness, peace and truth resides.

      It’s so easy to get distracted and live from the mind (as I have for so many years). We are not taught to connect with our true selves, our Inner self, and so it feels weird to do so at first.

      But it really is a gift we give ourselves. It doesn’t have anything to do with anyone else, anyone’s beliefs or ideas. It is an inner exploration which will have all kinds of results, and hopefully bring us closer to who we are meant to be.

      Feel free to email me if you have any questions my friend! xoxo

  2. I have since learned that faith is not knowing, and showing up anyway.

    how VERY true, and something I’ve believed all along. While I have distanced myself from organized religion for years now, I do think my base foundation growing up in the church taught me that, if nothing else. I love that you have put so much into truly finding inner peace (or at least working towards it!). Whatever you want to call it, God, Buddha, the Universe, whatever, I get comfort in believing that SOMETHING or SOMEONE out there has more power than tiny little me.
    Rhonda recently posted..Think you Know Death Valley? Think again!My Profile

    • Yep, that’s it right there; I don’t ‘know’ what it is but I know it is, if that makes sense.

      What I never really experienced was that this guiding, loving presence resides in me (and you); in the deepest truest part, but that we are taught by society at large to seek without rather than within so we aren’t used to connecting with it.

      Throughout this practice I have had moments of clarity where I realised everyone has access to this truth within them, if only we show up and are willing to connect with it with our whole heart.

      It may mean letting go of previously held ideas and beliefs, but often the truth is so simple that our overly complex minds refuse to accept it!

      At least that is how it has been for me. I was like, “Whaaat??! You mean I’ve been looking everywhere for this and it’s been inside me all along??!” :-)

      • I think you’ve just found your calling!!! Time to move back to India and teach yoga and enlightenment :) But yes, to some extent it’s absolutely true. Having grown up in “traditional” religion, I fought that idea difficult to accept for a long time, but have come to embrace it more as I open my mind to other ways of doing things. Have you read Holy Cow? By another Sarah? If not I think you’d truly enjoy it, both for the hysterical Indian moments that happen nowhere else, as well as for her own search for something bigger.
        Rhonda recently posted..Think you Know Death Valley? Think again!My Profile

        • Haha! Okay, here’s the curriculum:

          Go within. Experience the love there. Take it out into the world and give it away.

          Done!

          Should I retire now?! Xxx

          P.S Yes, I enjoyed Holy Cow, and I think about India every single day. Life is alive there like no where else!

  3. Girl, you need to write a book about this stuff!

    And I love how you describe the divine as the smell of a newborn baby. That struck a chord for me, because whenever I’ve held a newborn (ie. less than 24 hours old) I’ve had this odd sense that I’m in the presence of something I can scarcely comprehend. The only way I can phrase it is so say that they still have the smell of God on them.
    Karyn @ Not Done Travelling recently posted..The Mysteries Of Prasat Suor PratMy Profile

  4. “I have since learned that faith is not knowing, and showing up anyway.”

    So true. I used to wake up at dawn for my morning prayer, a kind of spiritual ritual for me, but certainly not a forced act. What I loved about it was how it set me up for the day, it enlightened me, and it made me think, which most people don’t do enough of. I wish I could say that I still did that, but hopefully one day I’ll get back to it. I wish I was more of a morning person.
    Tim | UrbanDuniya recently posted..Flores and Kelimutu: adrift in the Indonesian archipelagoMy Profile

    • Hi Tim! That is lovely. Yes, since starting this practice and experiencing the benefits I can see why many cultures encourage morning devotion. For me the morning part is important as I basically wake up crazy and need to get connected and grounded and guided and loved asap!! :-)

  5. Sarah! This is beautiful and incredibly helpful. I do feel a deep need to do this, to see what comes up, more than I already do (silent time before bed). I have to admit it is hard for me because of the traveling situation, living in a tent, I don’t have my own space and I feel embarrassed sitting outside where others can see me. I don’t want to be seen! I want to be totally alone (not possible). Small question: Do you close your eyes during your silence? Do you write the entire time? How long do you sit there? XO
    Kim recently posted..Losing BearMy Profile

    • Yes I can only imagine Kim! Maybe you can explain it to Brian and why you are doing it, and just do it on your bed as soon as you open your eyes.
      I do connect with my eyes closed, usually cross legged, sitting upright with my hands in a prayer position at my heart.
      After years of yoga this just feels like a good position to me, but I suggest you do what is right for you, as long as your back is somewhat straight.
      Sometimes I say a prayer or read a spiritual reading, there are so many out there by amazing people, whatever speaks to you.
      When I ask something then I start writing straight away,and continue till the thoughts stop. Sometimes there is a lot, sometimes a little.
      If its honest, loving, selfless and pure then I try to do the things. I have actually had some very interesting experiences with it, and can laugh at myself and see the pickles I sometimes get into if I don’t do the things I am guided to do! But self-forgiveness is key, and as our experience of Presence continues so does our self-love.
      All the best to you my friend, I would love to hear how you go! Xxx

  6. Presence does take practice! I didn’t realize that until I read your post Sarah. I didn’t think of it in those terms, presence takes practice, so simple as most life changing things are.

    I know for myself, it’s so easy to drive through life looking so far forward you can forget to enjoy the moment right now. Life is short and all we have is right now. It is a gift to know and appreciate that.
    Tracey recently posted..Open Air Market BarranquillaMy Profile

    • Hey Tracey! Yes, far too simple for my complicating mind to understand! But I have found that simply showing up with intention for a few minutes every morning has made all the difference.
      Those who seek, shall find, the key is to keep seeking that loving presence you know exists within in you in order to bring it into your daily life. Much love! xxx

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    • Thank you for stopping by Tim! So lovely to meet and hang out with you guys today, enjoy your practice! San Miguel is a wonderful place for spiritual renewal and reflection :-)

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