Day: Presents or Presence?
by Diana Daffner
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It's that time of year, when romance reigns supreme.
Candlelit restaurant dinners, candy, cards, gifts,
flowers. Endless expressions of love.
I'm all in favor of celebrating love, shouting aloud
our passion and devotion to one another. I love romantic
dinners, cards, flowers, presents. (Pass on the candy,
please!) However, what I most treasure as a gift, not
just on Valentine's Day, but every day, is the gift of
my beloved's presence.
What does that word, presence, mean? At one
level it simply means physical nearness. Sitting
together watching TV or at a theater, walking along a
beach, feeling the closeness of my beloved's body and
knowing that we are a unit, that we belong together. The
tenderness of loving comfort that such nearness brings
is often envied by those who dance alone. Yet for those
who do have a partner, sometimes this endearing level of
comfort allows us to mask and ignore an underlying,
gnawing sense of separateness, of not really being known
or touched at all. We find ourselves sacrificing ecstasy
for contentment, relinquishing dreams of rapture for the
comfortable stability of familiarity.
There are other levels of presence that can provide
even greater joy, deeper intimacy and more nourishing
spiritual bonding. Consciously or unconsciously, all
humans crave this deeper level of presence. We yearn to
be truly seen and heard. A caring and compassionate
therapist or counselor often fulfills this need for many
of us. Someone who listens to our emotional
self-discovery, who focuses exclusively on us. When we
stand before others in an AA meeting, the undeviating
attention allows us to speak about ourselves honestly
and from the depth of our being.
This power of being in the present moment is
experienced in spiritual and wisdom circles. Drawing on
ancient custom, we each speak in turn, passing a
'talking stick' (maybe better called a 'listening
stick') that ensures that others in the circle are
indeed listening to our words, our personal expressions
of self. When we trust that we are being listened to, we
can learn to drop our public face and reveal our inner
Even alone, we can experience the power of revealing
ourselves by imagining or sensing our spiritual guide,
guardian angel or our own higher self. We can speak to
them, and their willing presence, attentive and
unwavering, will allow us to say what needs to be said.
As the old cliché reminds us, when we share our pain
with another, it lessens, and when we share our joy, it
And going deeper still, we can move beyond a presence
that permits emotional disclosure to a level of
exquisite presence that simply is. A level of presence
that invites us to share our essence with another, to
settle softly into our own beingness. The quiet
peacefulness of a meditation group, a yoga or tai chi
class, is due to this shared presence, as we each rest
in our own sense of Self. No longer separated by our
stories, we are joined by our mutual participation in
the Oneness of an all-pervasive, ever-present
What does all this have to do with Valentine's Day?
In a love relationship, we have at our side someone who
loves us. Not a therapist, not a casual classmate or
fellow workshop participant. A flesh and blood human
being who has chosen, and is willing, to the best of
their ability, to be close to us, to be intimate. While
as individuals, we may walk, talk and experience life
differently from one another, when we come into open
presence with each other, all those differences slide
away. Only the Oneness remains. It is here, in
relationship, that we must learn to walk this path, to
give presence instead of just presents.
How do we do that? When we approach our beloved with
reverence, we touch the divine that lives in each of us.
When we gaze upon our beloved with eyes that are open to
our own soul, we see the spiritual nature that lies
beneath our separateness. And when we breathe with our
beloved, letting the breath move in and out of our
bodies, mingling in the space between us, returning over
and over again to the source of sacred breath deep
within us, we stand naked in the mystery and joy of holy
union. This is the gift of presence that we can share
with our beloved!
Valentine's Day is a reminder to celebrate, but every
day is an opportunity to share presence with your
beloved. Begin by adding a few extra seconds to each
kiss, to each touch. Create pauses in your togetherness,
make time for when there is nothing to do, nothing to
say. Abide in the love that circulates between you. Ask
for, and give, the time necessary to make this a
purposeful, daily practice. Listen to one another,
listen with your heart. Look at each other in your
moments of passion. Recognize and appreciate that when
you share your vital life force with another, a cellular
transformation takes place that energizes you from the
inside out. And, because we are all connected, your
evolution contributes to the ongoing presence of love in
our whole world. The giving and receiving of presence is
truly a gift that keeps on giving.
© Copyright 2001
Diana Daffer. All Rights Reserved.
with her husband Richard are relationship coaches who
developed Tantra Tai Chi, a partnered movement practice
that helps create physical, emotional and spiritual
presence. Weekend retreats for couples, Lessons in
Intimacy, are held in Siesta Beach (Sarasota),
including an annual Valentine's Day Weekend.
or call 1-877-282-4244 for a
brochure and future dates.
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