Being 'present,' what does that mean? On the surface, it obviously means that you are here, physically here. Students are either present or absent when roll is taken at school. After roll is taken and lunch orders turned in, the teacher then has the task of getting the students really present. This kind of presence can be referred to as being mindful. This is a deeper level of presence which involves not only the body, but the mind and the brain. The mind is our subjective experiences and our consciousness. The mind regulates the flow of information. The brain is the mechanism through which information flows.
Academically, the focus is usually on the cognitive. This is the learning of facts. However, the brain also consists of the emotional and is many times left out of the equation. So to be fully present, i.e. mindful, the mind and both sides of the brain need to be engaged.
Relationship is how information is shared. This is the energy of information and emotions (Reference Dan Siegel @ http://bit.ly/skvVSt.) This is an important concept to understand. It is the interpersonal neuro-biology (Siegel) that occurs when we are able to emotionally regulate and connect in relationships with others.
As human beings we live our lives largely in memory and imagination. We are either remembering the past or imagining the future. Physically, our bodies are present, but our minds are elsewhere. Take a few deep breathes and focus. Try to be fully present in the moment. Try to be fully mindful. This can be very difficult to do. It has to take place a microsecond at a time. That is why the skill of emotional regulation and clearing your mind is so important to develop.
I briefly explained the medical science of what happens in relationship. It is important to now understand the spiritual aspect of the process of connecting in relationship. When two or more are gathered, a spirit is created. This is found in Matthew 18:20. “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am with them.” This is a mysterious thing that we probably don’t fully understand. However, the phenomenon of a spirit created by people who are present is a powerful thing. I don’t fully understand it, but I believe it because it is a Biblical truth. I believe it because I have personally experienced it.
“One of the greatest gifts you can give to others is to be truly present to them. The practice of being present to others is an aspect of love. It is important that we intentionally and purposefully be present. This itself is an act of worship.” Brian Zahnd, Word of Life Church, November 4, 2011 podcast @ http://wolc.com/podcast/.
Jesus is our example of being present. God sent Jesus to be with us in the flesh. The power of His being present was demonstrated when the woman touched the hem of His cloak and she was healed. Read this account in Mark 5:25-34. When Jesus met the woman at the well, He “knew’ her. This is found in John 4:7-18. Jesus is always present now through the Holy Spirit.
We are limited by our humanity. If someone touched the sleeve of my coat, I doubt that I would experience energy leaving my body. Likewise, I can’t “know” people the way Jesus did without them telling me about themselves. However, the “presence” of Jesus facilitated healing and forgiveness. Wherever Jesus went, He focused on being present and in relationship with others.
We are designed to be in relationship. It is our obligation to others to be fully present in relationship with them. We all have had experiences when someone was only physically present. Other than the exchange of a few bits of information or a few pleasantries, the experience was empty.
Children need our regulatory abilities to help them be present. They need help in developing their own regulatory skills. Being present for your children helps facilitate the full integration of their brain. It is through this co-regulation that you help increase your child’s window of tolerance. Your child then becomes more flexible and can navigate successfully through challenges.
Being present is bonding with your child. Being present completes the attachment/bonding cycle. Your child’s oxytocin response is strengthened. You and your child are in a loving relationship.
Mindfulness helps facilitate healing in traumatized children. Being present with them will allow them to begin the process of putting words to their trauma feelings. The left brain is able to make sense out of the emotional trauma while being in a safe relationship. This information becomes less threatening. It is integrated with the child’s other life experiences.
A loving presence is necessary for healing. This is exactly what Jesus does. As parents we can be part of this process and it is more powerful with Jesus involved
I challenge you to be fully present, body, mind, and spirit in your relationships. When we combine what we know through medical science with the spiritual, our experience is even more powerful and healing; this is true not because of us but because of who we believe in. My belief is in Jesus. I pray you have that same belief. If you need coaching to learn to relax, go to my website for resources @ http://bit.ly/pBDTqY. Try giving the gift of love through being fully present in all your relationships.
About the Author: Ken Thom, MS, LPC,* specializes in assisting individuals, families, and children in trauma or distress. A nationally recognized Christian counselor and published author, Ken uses Scripture and Biblical truths along with the Post Institute Stress Model to put love into action to heal relationships.
Ken has over 25 years of experience working with people with alcohol and drug addiction; sexual, physical, and emotional abuse; mood disorders; ADHD and other behavioral disorders; and relationship and marital problems.
A parent and grandparent, in his free time, Ken supports faith-based community efforts, youth and men's ministries at his church, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Academy for Christian Education.
As a recovering alcoholic and drug addict himself, Ken's personal experience allows him to better assist his clients in "Healing Relationships through Love in Action."
*Master of Science, Licensed Professional Counselor