THE BLOG
02/14/2012 02:35 pm ET | Updated Apr 15, 2012

The Best Valentine's Day Gift Is Your True Presence

To love, we must be present. It is impossible to love another if we are not truly with each other. But for many of us, this is easier said than done.

These days, attention is a commodity, and we often find ourselves detached from the moment in one way or another. Perhaps our minds are regretting the past, planning the future or being distracted by some electronic device -- the phone, the laptop, the television set. Maybe our emotions are wrapped up in an internal debate. Are we even aware of being present, right here and right now? For example, when was the last time you were conscious of how your feet touched the ground with every step? All parts of us -- our body, mind and feelings -- must unite in the present moment in order to fully engage with another person.

We are so used to multi-tasking that pure one-on-one interaction has become increasingly rare in our lives. How often does our "quality time" with a loved one involve some other distraction -- watching a mindless television show, co-working laptop-to-laptop or eating breakfast while each of you scans your smartphones? Any moment with our dear ones can be special, yet so often, we are not truly present. Looking deeply into the eyes of another person while listening compassionately to their words is very powerful. The truest gift we can offer those who are dear to us is thoughtful interaction.

Thich Nhat Hanh illustrates this beautifully by naming our presence "sunlight" and our loved ones "flowers." In the warm, golden light of our authentic company, the people we love bloom. What a gift we have to give! We don't need to fight the crowds at the mall -- our gift has nothing to do with materialistic consumption in any way. The best part: It's a two-way gift. When we take the time to really be with our friends, family members or a partner, we open ourselves to receiving their love.

By being conscious of our in breath and out breath, we can instantly unite our body and our mind. This is the simplest form of meditation and an instant return to NOW. From here, we are prepared to authentically connect.

Practice by saying to yourself:

"Breathing in, I know I am breathing in."

"Breathing out, I know I am breathing out."

In this aligned state, you may wish to enact a mantra. A mantra is a saying, or phrase, and when we speak a mantra in a state of concentration, focusing on our breath, we can transform our relationships.

Here is a simple but powerful mantra from Thich Nhat Hanh's True Love:

"Dear One, I am here for you."

Try it -- adapt it as you wish -- you may find it to be the most precious Valentine's Day gift you have ever given.

For more by Lilian Cheung, D.Sc., R.D., click here.

For more on consciousness, click here.