The Greatest Gift

“Amidst the chaos of life, your unwavering presence is the sanctuary others seek.”  – Deepak Chopra

At the start of a recent Saturday morning class I attended, fellow yoga teacher Heather Seton shared these words of wisdom regarding the profound gift of our unwavering presence. We’re all familiar with the sentiment, “Your presence is gift enough,” on the birthday party invitation. But what does it mean to be truly present and how do we practice unwavering presence amidst the chaos of everyday life? 

woman sitting on sand

The first obstacle in achieving this, of course, is discerning what to be present TO in any given moment. There are too many things– too many emails in the inbox, too many deals and discounts to take advantage of, too many holiday events to fit on the calendar, too much happening in the local and global news to keep track of, and too many to-dos, loads of laundry, mouths to feed, and people in need. 

How often do we truly give our full attention and intention to just one deserving recipient? And yet we know that, while our culture places high value on the ability to multitask, the human brain is not capable of setting its attention on more than one thing at a time. Instead it is toggling rapidly and constantly between them all.

Being fully present in all of these things, let alone the people and moments that matter most, can feel impossible…because it is.

Perhaps we change our mindset around what it means to be present. Sometimes the best way to practice presence is to pause and listen, really listen. Although it may sound counterintuitive, I find that when I listen to my own needs, dedicating more time and attention to filling my own cup, I naturally begin paying closer attention to others. There is more of myself to offer, and so it flows freely. There have also been seasons of my life where giving of myself felt unattainable. Times that I have leaned heavily into the unwavering presence of others.

As an extension of Chopra’s wisdom, Heather reminded us that the gift of this sanctuary we offer others must begin with an unwavering presence to self. Being able to listen fully to another begins with the practice of deep listening and attention to one’s own vital needs– rest, nourishment, physical activity, fresh air, and loving connection. There will be times when this gift to self is all we can give. And that is enough. 

As you consider the greatest gifts to offer friends, family, and self this holiday season, know that the most profound gift (and often the most difficult to give) is your presence. Before you find yourself clicking on the next “perfect gift” pop-up, take a pause, take a breath. Take a little advice from Mariah Carey’s holiday classic, “All I want for Christmas is YOU.” Ask yourself what YOU need to restore that peaceful inner sanctuary amidst the chaos and joy of the holiday season. When you feel ready, share it freely with those you love. And if you are blessed by the unwavering presence of another, give yourself permission to receive this as the generous gift that it is. For these moments of connection are truly the greatest gift of all.

Wishing you and yours a holiday full of joy and peace in the new year.

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Alli Crowell, RYT-200, is the owner of RISE Yoga, Gettysburg. She has 15 years of experience in K-12 education and currently works part-time as an instructional coach supporting teachers and school leaders throughout the United States. In addition to her 200 hour Yoga Alliance Certification, she is certified in Children’s Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Accessible Yoga and is trained as a facilitator through the Love Your Brain Foundation, a leader in research centered around the benefits of yoga and mindfulness for the brain injury community. Alli is a recent graduate of the Accessible Yoga School, a program centered in equity and accessibility in yoga instruction.

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3 months ago

Excellent, excellent article; which spoke to every thought I have had in my own mind and heart as the holidays circle around, again! If only we were able to listen, listen, listen, to what circles around our own heart, perhaps we could be fully, completely “present” to the connections we hold dear… blessings to all.

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