"The word dis-traction is particular useful here. It suggests losing traction, losing our ground — which is precisely what happens when we slip and fall away from being present. It is only in the stillness and simplicity of presence — when we are aware of what we are experiencing, when we are here with it as it unfolds — that we can really appreciate our life and reconnect with the ordinary magic of being alive on this earth.

Wakeful Presence

"Our society would have us believe that inner satisfaction depends on outer success and achievement. Yet struggling to 'get somewhere' keeps us perpetually busy, stressed-out, and disconnected from that essential inner resource — our ability to be fully present — which could provide a real sense of joy and fulfillment. Our life is unsatisfactory only because we are not living it fully, because instead we are pursuing a happiness that is always somewhere else, other than where we are right now.

"Nonetheless, many of us do manage to carve out some niche in our life where we can be fully present; and this is usually where we wind up feeling most fulfilled. Indeed, the things in life we most enjoy — lovemaking, beauty, creativity, sports or strenuous exercise, new and challenging situations — are those that brings us here most fully. Artists often feel most alive when their work demands their total attention. Great athletes become still and centered in themselves when playing because they are totally on the spot, having to keep their attention on the game at every moment. All real enjoyment, success, and excellence depend on this ability to be present.

"Presence is like the air we breath; it is essential for our life, yet so transparent and intangible that we rarely give it particular attention or importance. For instance, as a writer I can easily become distracted by the results and rewards of writing — the finished product — and fail to see that what I value most about it is that it helps me focus and connect with myself more fully in the present moment. Yet when I give more attention to the product than to the here-and-now experience of writing, I lose my enjoyment and much of my effectiveness. Similarly, if athletes become distracted by hopes and fears about winning or losing, they will lose their stillness, their presence, and most likely the game as well. Or if lovers focus on the performance and outcome of sex, they will enjoy it less and may not even be able to 'perform' at all.

"Cultivating the capacity to be fully present — awake, attentive, and responsive — in all the different circumstances of life is the essence of spiritual practice and realization. Those with the greatest spiritual realization are those who are 'all here,' who relate to life with an expansive awareness that is not limited by any fixation on themselves or their own point of view. They don't shrink from any aspect of themselves or life as a whole."