The art of being present requires intentional practice and awareness. This is especially true when we're often multitasking, and surrounded by various distractions and temptations that pull us further from living harmoniously and in balance with nature. In a time when we're chronically rushed and driven by itinerary and goals, it's challenging to be centered and connected. This affects how we can be in touch with ourselves and bodies, with one another, and with the rest of nature.
Being present with another is a gift and in my opinion, a rare currency. I believe presence is not only providing undivided attention, but also offering an openness to understand the unique differences in others. Many express not feeling seen and heard by others, let alone safe to be themselves without fear of judgement or dismissal.
On the one hand, it saddens me that being present with one another is not common practice. On the other, the scarcity of having someone offer presence and understanding makes this gift even more precious.
"Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity." (Simone Weil)
I have a three year old niece named Nabi. She lives in Canada while I live in California. Nabi and I primarily communicate through video calls. We used to talk frequently before she recently proclaimed her aversion to the phone. I'm feeling tender and relieved about it. Though I don't speak with her as much as I used to, I can certainly appreciate her no longer wanting to be on the phone. I have been curious about how this form of communication may be affecting her. I don't know yet whether she's grasped an understanding of why it is, that we aren't physically together more. When she was younger, she'd even kiss and hug the phone. It was (still is) heartbreaking for me.
Nabi and I have what I describe as a 'cosmic bond' - one that feels as though it was written in the stars (perhaps even before she emerged into this world). When she was merely months old, she would smile or giggle when my sister would mention my name. Nabi calls me "Momo" which is a blending of the words 'mom' and 'ee-mo' (the Korean word for aunt) since I joke that my sister is the surrogate while I'm Nabi's actual mom. It's as though I waved a magical wand and my dream child came to life.
From before the age of one year, she communicated to her surrogate mom when she'd want to call me. Before she could use words, she used to make a kissy sound as her signal. My sister and I believe she associated the kissing gesture with me because of my inclination (understatement alert ) to smother those I adore with kisses. Nabi could not escape this fate.
Her signal to call me has morphed over the years - from just the kissy gesture, to the kissy gesture and pointing to the phone, to using words.
Nabi and I would talk nearly every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I would try to work my availability around her daycare or nap schedule. With Nabi being three hours ahead of me in Toronto, I'd find myself waking up between 4am and 5am at times - A very small compromise to be able to share fleeting moments together.
She'd enjoy most, calling while she eats and having me as her live audience (possibly making her the youngest mmukbang creator). She also enjoyed me singing for her (Do-Re-Mi was a popular request for a while), and arranging 'Seek & Find' games where I would hide a small trinket inside a 'scene' in my apartment. Then holding up the phone to said scene, Nabi would seek and find the trinket.
Impossible to deny, I was her dancing monkey.
Nabi continues to be a source of pure and incredible joy in my life. It's not difficult to want to give her my attention, and yet there have been moments where my attention was divided. It usually involved me looking at something on my computer at the same time as being on a video call with her. Nabi picked up on this immediately and would call me out by shouting "Be here! Be here!".
What simple and profound words: Be Here.
So simple, that a then two-year old (and now three-year old) could communicate her need to have true presence and undivided attention.
What a gift. Nabi is. A potent reminder of being intentional with my attention and time.
“There’s only one thing more precious than our time and that’s who we spend it on.” (Leo Christopher)
Nabi, thank you for being here. Thank you for reminding me to Be Here. You are indeed my present.
No matter the distance between us, we have time. Precious it will always be.
Precious you are to me.