How to Maintain Presence in the Face of Adversity

We thought we would share our individual writings this time instead of merging them.

MAUDE: This week it has felt like we are in the middle of hell! Fires are raging all around us (We are in Southern California.) Friends and family are losing homes, being displaced and living in danger. It has been a tense anxious time. The country is in dire straits, with people no longer feeling like they can talk to each other. The world is teetering on the brink of disaster in so many ways, and the very planet we inhabit is in a crisis situation which is getting worse.

So when we sat down to write our blog this morning, we could hardly concentrate our thoughts and were both scattered and distressed on so many levels. Worry and distress, two utterly useless and very common emotions. When Phil said “Worry paralyzes you,” it pulled us right into the present, and there was our blog topic for this week.

The key is being present with what is actually happening; not worrying about the future or what could happen, but handling and working with what is actually happening in the moment you inhabit. In relationship, you have a partner who can pull you back to ground when you start to fly off into the never-land of the mind. That is one thing that we do for each other all the time, and it is such a big help. Be there for your partner and share lovingly when you notice that they are spending time somewhere other than in the present.

In life’s adversities (and we all deal with some of that on a daily basis), it is so easy to go into a “what if” frame of mind, what could happen or what should happen, and then be off and running in your mind with that situation you just created mentally.

Staying with the present is actually very comforting. The worst situations are the ones we make up which never come. Yes, we do have to plan to pay bills in advance, make doctor’s appointments or set up the electrician to come make a repair. But we do not have to inhabit those places in our mind. They are actually simple when we handle them in the present by taking care of them.

In all of this there is a great opportunity. We can develop the practices that help us stay present and aware (meditation is very helpful) and we can support each other to remind us to stay in presence. The wonderful thing is that each and every time we handle adversity from the practice of presence, our assuredness and ability grows to handle whatever life brings us. When we learn to come from the present, we slowly divest ourselves of the fears and anxieties that accompany living in worry, and the paralyzing effects they have on us.

The key to handling adversity is being present with what is, not worrying about what could happen Click To TweetPHIL: We live a little west of the fires in Southern California. The world has a smokey opalescent hue. The sun is so red and dim it can be looked at directly. The hill half a mile away is invisible. Ash covers the streets like monochrome confetti.

We’re lucky. Friends and relatives have watched the fire only six blocks away or been evacuated or lost the internet and only have text for news. Strangers have lost their homes. Freeways all over are closed.

All this comes on top of the political and environmental turmoil in the world. It can feel like everything is shifting and there is nothing to hold on to. A paralysis can set in. And yet there is opportunity in all this – a chance to practice being present. In times like these, our brains can fill up with so many what ifs and should haves and ought tos and need tos that it becomes impossible to attend to anything because there is no attention left; it’s all being used up on the past and the future.

I was about 25 when I read “Be Here Now.” It blew my mind. I sat up reading it until 4 a.m. It was like a whole other world had revealed itself to me, even though I was not skilled enough to stay for more than a brief visit. The mantra can be taken to preach a hedonistic avoidance, so these days I like to add the coda “Except when there are things to take care of.” Sometimes you need to arrange what will happen in the future. When your sink won’t drain, call the plumber and make an appointment. But when that is done, set it aside. This takes practice, and meditation helps.

Stop. Look at your next three breaths, watching them go in and out of your body, feeling your diaphragm move up and down, sensing the air flowing through your nose. Then take all your thoughts, put them in a bag, close it up tight, and do what needs to be done next.

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One comment on “How to Maintain Presence in the Face of Adversity
  1. Bruce Kirkpatrick says:

    Great post for times like now!

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