An Act of Presence

My heart is pounding in my throat but I am here. At least so far.

I am a kid taking part in my first ever Tae Kwon Do tournament. I am walking to the center of the square where I will compete in Forms side by side with another student in front of the judges. They will rank us based on our performance of a memorized dance-like series of air-kicks and air-punches.

I force myself to walk to my place on the mat. There is no spotlight. All around me similar competitions are taking place on similar squares. It is loud. My thoughts are a jumble. This is the first time I am going to be openly judged and possibly given a medal for my newly acquired martial arts skills.

I am terrified. Sweaty. This is not fun anymore. I feel the pressure to win so much I can barely breathe, and I'm the only one who put the pressure there.  I am not sure what to cling to, and so I let go of the one thing I need. Presence in my body. Sitting on the sidelines, my grasp on presence was tenuous and fleeting. And now as I take my place standing on the mat before the judges, it's gone. I feel my presence leave, and my body goes numb as my mind floats up to mingle with the bright lights of the gymnasium. 

What an unusual numb, tingly feeling, I think. I'm vaguely aware that my body is doing something -- moving in the shapes I had practiced. But it doesn't feel the same. It barely feels at all.

I had practiced so much for my first tournament that I still did the Form but I wasn't really there. I can only imagine that my Form looked limp and unpleasantly robotic. When it was finished I thought: I did something. I'm not sure what I did. Maybe I was amazing. Maybe that's what performing feels like. Your body just takes over while your mind flees in terror.

Nope. The judges did not agree. I did not win any medals with that performance.

When you are in your body, you know. You feel present. I am here. You are here.

Presence is life. Presence is love. Presence is now.

Presence is real. Presence is knowing and accepting this moment (even if there is fear) and staying in the moment. Later I learned to stay present in my body in Tae Kwon Do in spite of my fear. One year at the Junior Olympics I stayed present during 99% percent of my Form. in the final turn, my mind wandered off into a moment of relief three seconds into the future. I wobbled in the now and lost my gold medal for that wobble. The next year at the Junior Olympics I was present for 100% of my Form. I stuck the ending. I won a gold medal.  

Presence is a lesson I am still learning. And presence is what we are trying to get when we simplify our lives.  Presence makes it possible to live a life true to who you are -- a meaningful life filled with what's important to YOU.

And guess what? Lack of presence is why we procrastinate on decluttering. It's almost guaranteed that when we start deciding what to get rid of, our mind will take a trip elsewhere, whether it's a trip down memory lane or a trip down guilt alley.

We lose presence. Instead of keeping what we actually use, love, enjoy now, we end up surrounding ourselves with what other people want. Even if those other people are other past or future versions of ourselves, they aren't really us.

Simplifying your home and life is a way to be true to yourself. It's a way to accept who you are. Who you really are. Not who you wish you were or who someone else wished you were.

Decluttering is an exercise in presence. Actually it's not an exercise. It's an act. An act of true love -- presence with yourself for long enough to actually shape your environment and life to reflect who you really are.