I had the coolest math teachers in high school.
Mrs. Nordengren gave us a project to find examples of mathematical patterns in the real world. I photographed fractals in flowers, a head of cabbage, and a bowl of soap bubbles.
Mr. Pasquale wore tailored vests and wrote thoughtful comments like “Quite elegant!” on my calculus exam responses.
Mr. Matthews had dozens of posters around the algebra classroom that professed classic expressions such as, “When you point the finger of blame, three fingers point back at yourself.”
He also had a poster that stated, “80% of Life is Showing Up.”
As a high school student, I didn’t grasp that statement about showing up as I do now.
The more I practice moment-to-moment awareness, the more I understand what showing up means. Twenty years ago, I assumed it meant just arriving bodily in the classroom or in the building.
Now I understand that it is much more of a constant state of arriving.
It’s so easy to be on autopilot. We arrive via car at our destination and have no clue what the drive was like. Or a phone call ends, and we realize we can’t quite recall what was going on with our friend because our own thoughts preoccupied us during the conversation.
Our attention often slips as we attempt to fulfill our cultural imperative of taking on too much at all times.
In a mindfulness course I took two springs ago, my meditation teacher said to us, “If you’re not living in the present moment, then you’re not really living.”
This statement arrested me, and the words “oh, crap” floated through my head.
How many moments had I been living in some other place of invented story? How many worries had I invested in that prevented me from experiencing each moment just as it was? How much had the ramblings of my mind kept me disconnected from truly experiencing my life? How much had I really lived?
Showing up is a practice. It is about arriving to each moment with a willingness to experience whatever each moment has to offer. This can mean showing up for uncomfortable situations when we would rather check out. This may mean opening ourselves to experiencing painful feelings we’ve been avoiding.
Showing up also means creating a supportive space—for ourselves and others. Show up for yourself. Show up to the moment. Show up in a way that says, “I am here for whatever I have to learn. I am here to support myself and whoever else I can as we traipse along the ledge of life.”
Show up such that kindness emanates from the core of your being, such that you can’t help but improve another’s day just by your very presence.
Show up by taking care of yourself. By listening to what you need and slowing down when your body, heart, or mind tell you that they need something from you. The body needs time to replenish. The heart needs space to heal. The mind needs white space, time spent uncluttered by noise, conversation, worries, or rumination.
Sit with your breath. Show up with every in-breath, with every out-breath. As your attention trails off, show up by bringing it back.
The more we practice showing up in this simple way, the more we will be able to arrive with presence in any moment in our lives.
Maintaining presence is actually about absence—the absence of story, judgment, avoidance, or filters of any kind that keep us from the truth of the moment. It is always of service to yourself and others to ask, “How can I simplify my perception of this moment?”
For simplicity is where truth lives. In a world full of story and a culture full of anger, show up having allowed these layers to fall from your experience. Show up with an open heart, and a clarity that in each moment, you are doing your best.
Author: Rebecca Polan
Image: With permission from Sarah Shoen; How to Marry a Millionaire
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Taia Butler