Being There

Being There was Peter Seller’s last film.

Chance, the character he played, rose to fame in a day through a few carefully worded gardening analogies. While he admitted he couldn’t read or write and that he only likes to watch television, he wound up in a private audience with the president.

His best strength was his presence; he stood silent as others built him up.

Chance on water

Chance walks on water in the final scene suggesting his power to “be there” was spiritual in nature.

It is considered a cinematic sibling of Forest Gump.

Gump also rose to fame through a simplicity of being. He accomplishes amazing things just by being present. His simplicity allows him to see the bigger, more powerful aspects of life that others don’t. He saves soldiers, feels like running, and invests in the “fruit company” Apple Computers. Like Chance, he has divine authority, surviving a hurricane in a skiff.

“I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is.” Being present for Jenny made Gump irresistible.

“I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is.” Being present for Jenny made Gump irresistible.

 

The importance of presence is in many traditions.

If you read the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, you’d think it a western concept. The Taoist manual is filled with paradoxes that claim doing less is more.

 

Tao Te Ching Verse 43 (Jonathan Star translation)

The most yielding thing in the world

    will overcome the most rigid

The most empty thing in the world

    will overcome the most full

From this comes a lesson—

    stillness benefits more than action

    silence benefits more than words

There is great power in being non-judgemental. Great power in abandoning presumption, and pretense. It allows you to be there for someone. It gives weight to the cliché, “I’m here for you.”

This principle also occurs in the iconic American social manifesto How to Win Friends and Influence People. Dale Carnegie described that he remained quiet while listening to a botanist describe a long list of exotic plants, only to be thought of as “a most interesting conversationalist.”

Just listen to what someone has to say, and it’s likely they will find you fascinating. You become a reflection of what people want to see in themselves.

 

Full Disclosure.

Here’s why I’m writing this. I’m not good at listening to my wife. I’m probably not good at listening in general, but my wife is the one who lets me know it. Maybe it’s just in my nature as a writer. I’m constantly placing internal observations ahead of external reality.

But lately, my wife has intervened on my not being there enough for me to reflect.

It’s hard to recollect when you’re not paying attention because, after all, you’re not paying attention. So I asked her: “Babe could you give me a list of some things I’ve missed when you’re talking to me?”

“Why don’t you use that time you walked out in the middle of our conversation.”

I nod with confidence. “After your windshield broke.”

Her posture straightens. “No, Mark. It wasn’t my windshield. It was my passenger window. And it smashed while I was going 70.” I’m not helping my cause here. “No, not that. I’m referring to two weeks ago when I told you about my job.”

Two weeks earlier.

We were in the kitchen. and she was saying, “So Denise wants me to supervise these therapists on my first day in there. I’m not sure that 

The words fade as I go to the bathroom sink to spit. I come back in the room scrolling down on my phone, “I wonder why no one visited my blog today.”

“Are you serious?”

“What?”

“You walk out in the middle a conversation?”

“I was listening the whole time! I just went into the bathroom because I had to spit and didn’t want to do it in front of you.”

“If you were listening, then why barge back in the kitchen and start a new conversation?”

Shit.

 

Truly being there is hard.

It’s an exercise in mindfulness. Modern life is a maze of notification pings, pop-up ads and attention-diverting media. What matters more; the fact that a Facebook friend liked the nice-pic-comment I offered on someone’s photo, or being a willing participant as a husband?

The power of presence is palpable for anyone who’s needed a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on.

Truly being there is not just existing. It is the willingness to share your existence with others. Existing next to somebody is not the same as being willing to exist for somebody. It’s like the difference between listening and hearing.

I’m working on it.

 

Tao Te Ching Verse 47 (cont’d)

Rare indeed are those who are still

Rare indeed are those who are silent

And so I say,

      Rare indeed are those

     Who obtain the bounty of this world.

 

31 Responses to “Being There

  • Love this. Yes, be present, be still, be quiet….the lesser shall be greater among us. Let go to receive what we truly need and want. Our hearts desire. Awesome post Mark, beautiful….deeply resonated with me. (And I shared it with my hubs…lol)

    • Thanks Annette. Haha. Yeah, I’m working on it, like I said. It’s hard but really powerful if you can manage it.

  • Awesome, awesome, awesome. Like you, I’m always struggling to “be present.” (Oddly enough, with my wife, too—she tells me that she said things to me a day previous and I totally don’t remember what she said, because my mind was elsewhere!)

    I haven’t seen that movie in a long time, but I remember it was quite humorous to boot. I had never considered the greater depth of its message, but you certainly touched on something I think is true.

    The odd thing I’m thinking about (and I’d like your thoughts on it, if you get a chance), is that the more I TRY to be present, it seems like the less it happens for me. I’m wondering how the practice of mindfulness has to be something so deeply ingrained within a person, that it comes second nature.

    Not sure though. Your thoughts?

    • Hey Dan. I certainly never thought about it that way. Right now, I’m still in that mode of just being disciplined to try and be present. But I’m going to keep it in mind, and have more for you later. Anyway, thanks as always for the support.

  • Ginger Groundhog
    1 year ago

    Love this post, really resonated with me and seems to be following a pattern of the ‘universe’ giving me little reminders to stop, listen and just be. After reading a lot of Wayne Dyer I have always wanted to study the Tao/Dao but I always imagine doing it sober and present, not there yet! Today on my am walk with the dogs at 6.15 the birds were practicing morning song and I paused to listen for a few minutes and then recorded 2 mins on my phone. Today at work I listened to it twice just to remind me how still and calm I was in that moment. Love, love, loved this post. Also must read Dale Carnegie again, I enjoyed that 20 something years ago (for all the good it did me)

    • What a great practice. With the birds I mean. That’s exactly what I need to do more off. It’s like the old saying. “Stop and smell the roses.”

    • Ginger, I loved your comment. Recording the birds for 2 minutes and then listening to it during the day….what a great idea! Bless your heart. If this was FB I would have “loved” this comment. Lol

  • I spend a lot of time listening in my job so when I get home I don’t want to listen to anyone and want to zone out on my computer. My husband gets the worst part of me because of it. Thanks for the reminder to be present.

  • And for Daniel.

    There are some really great apps that send you reminders to your phone about Mindfulness. One called Mindfulness Daily gives you reminders for 15 second check ins. I have used them for about 3 years now and they work. I don’t even need the reminders anymore to check in. I check in several times a day on especially when I can feel myself getting tense or not being present in the moment.

    http://www.stopbreathethink.org/
    http://www.mindfulnessdailyapp.com/

  • Christine McLaughlin
    1 year ago

    I love this post (and your writing.) I grew up with Deaf parents and I knew when they were listening to me or not. They had to be looking at me to read my lips. (I didn’t sign as a kid because my parents were misguided by well-intended hearing folks who insisted that hearing children of Deaf adults should not be taught ASL [American Sign Language] because it would delay language development.) When either of my parents wanted to stop listening to me, they covered their eyes. It was infuriating, although I have to laugh now! Fast forward to my marriage 28 years later: I believed my husband was not listening to me when he walked around multi-tasking while I spoke with him. I’d stop talking and become angry. We connected the dots and came up with a compromise. If I needed his full attention, I’d mention I needed “eye-contact time” and we’d agree to a time. Otherwise, I would learn to accept he could still hear what I was saying even if he wasn’t watching my lips move! People tell me I’m a good listener and I think it boils down to making eye contact while listening – it’s hard not to be present while doing this. 🙂

    • Christine- what a fascinating perspective. You’ve had to understand the notion of being there in a way most people could never experience. I’m so glad you visited, read, and commented. I am stealing your ‘eye-contact time.’ Because I think something like that would help me A LOT.

      • Christine McLaughlin
        1 year ago

        Steal away! Glad to have visited your blog.

  • Stunning as usual. No words.

  • This is a common source of conflict and disappointment in our house, right up there with who empties the dishwasher most of all. Having children does not help in the feeling listened to department either. Sometimes I put my phone in quarantine when I come home, as this helps me listen better. I’m thinking of installing tethers and blinds on the rest of my family to ensure I get proper air time. Being There is an awesome movie, as is this post.

    • Thanks Kristen. I’m glad I’m not alone with this. I’m taking Christine’s idea for having designated ‘time’ to like really pay attention. I think it’s a good start. We did the phone thing too for a while, but that fizzled out…

  • Robert Crisp
    1 year ago

    Hmm…seems I need to see this movie. It came yesterday in a meeting, as well.

  • Hi Mark!
    Thank you for finding me!
    Being present for my hubs is a challenge for me at times, as I can be on my laptop or playing a phone game and kind of nod.
    He finally addressed it and said, “I’m not talking to you until you put the phone down.”
    So now, I am much better, but still need to work on that!
    xo
    Wendy

    • Hey Wendy, yeah, I think we need to start some sort of thing. I know I need to force myself to do it or won’t happen. I just have those hamster wheels and never stop running. Thanks for stopping by!

  • As I sit here reading this and giving the words all my attention I am aware that my daughter is talking to me. It happens a lot. I get lost in a book or lost in thoughts and aren’t truely being present for the person I am with. Eeek…..wake up call!

    • My wake up call was then, when she asked me what she was talking about, and I couldn’t tell her the first thing. I was totally unaware of it. It’s a practice I’m finding. But I really want to start practicing it. Thanks for visiting! There are so many things to distract us.

  • Mary LA aka louisey
    1 year ago

    Hi Mark, thanks for visiting Letting Go, pleased to find your blog!

    • Happy to have you. Good luck getting that house painted. I need to practice patience too. So hard to do.

  • Roger Lew
    1 year ago

    It seems as if you are eavesdropping in our kitchen. The words and sentences are the same. I am constantly being reminded that I don’t listen. It’s been a struggle for many years. Awareness is finally creeping in. Stories like yours help. I wonder if it’s a gender thing. Or are we all just a bunch of hapless bores.

    • I’m starting to develop some theories Roger. The main is that all our character flaws are put under a microscope by the people we share our lives with because they see us everyday.

      • Roger Lew
        1 year ago

        Ah! How I would love to adopt your theory as my truth. It would relieve me having to keep my side of the street clean all the time.

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