Being Fully Present

By Charlotte Selver

This article is an edited excerpt from a CD of Charlotte Selver’s August 16, 2001 class on Monhegan Island, Maine.
The full sensing experiment is available on CD at: Books and CDs

In every moment of our living we can notice something new. We can be present. Being present is not thinking about something, it is just being there for what is happening.

It seems that we are usually sound asleep. And it happens at times that we wake up from this sleep – for example during a Sensory Awareness class on Monhegan – and we feel so fabulously awake, we are just delighted. Why are we so surprised? Being awake may be just natural! Being there for what one is doing is rather unknown to people, usually, but coming to life and coming to presence is a wonderful possibility which everybody has in himself or herself – from moment to moment to moment.

We are often very habit-bound and the question is: Do we change or do we always fall back into the old? This is very, very important! Do I want to be this old, habitual person all my life? Or do I want to be fresh out of the oven so that when someone will eat me, his teeth will crack under the freshness? We need to distinguish the newness of something from the stale so that everything you do can be entered freshly and not be habit-bound. It could be very interesting for you to find out what the difference is. Giving up habits and becoming fresh bread – fresh anything, you can replace the bread with anything you do. Every moment can be fresh and every moment can be degraded into habitual ways of living. It means business, of course. It is not in your head. It is in every nerve of our nervous system. When you would allow life to be a fresh roll, it could become very interesting. I predict that.

Have you ever watched a dog running after a stick? You throw a stick and the dog runs and brings it back to you. Your throw it again, the dog runs after it and brings it back again. Dogs never seem to get tired of it. No matter how often you do it, the dog is always there to get the stick. How about us? We are not even half a dog! This wonderful freshness of perception, of reaction, would be a very great gift to take home with you from Monhegan. But then you have to cultivate it, not forget it and say, “Oh, next year in Monhegan.” It has nothing to do with Monhegan!

Charlotte with Johanna Pfeiffer in Prien, Germany

One of my students gave me a beautiful book about a Rabbi. There was a young man who wanted to visit this Rabbi and the Rabbi said he could visit him but he would have to not eat or drink anything on the way. It was a long way this young man was supposed to go in order to meet the Rabbi. He had to go through a desert. It was very hot. He finally came upon a place where there was water coming out of the rock and he ran to the water. But then he remembered the Rabbi had said he should not drink anything and so he went on. And he came to another place where the water was running and he was so very thirsty but he could not drink. At last he came to the house of the Rabbi. When the Rabbi saw him, he shouted: “Go away! Do not enter my house! You have not done what I asked you to do. You wanted to drink when I told you not to!” So the poor man had to go the entire way back and start out again.

This story has followed me a great deal in my working. To what extent does a person take seriously what she does or is asked to do? To what extent is she looking right and left to get away from what is asked of her? Or does she go her way in spite of all the temptations? This has been very helpful to me in my life. The possibility to go my way in spite of all temptations, right and left, and always following the trail – this is something for all of us to become aware of. When you see all the temptations and you feel them, do you want to follow your temptations or will you, in spite of all the temptations, go your way to the place where you are supposed to go? Can you honor the temptations but not become a target for them?

Featured image by Robert Smith

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