01/03/2011 08:11 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Gift of True Presence

"When it's over, I want to say: All my life, I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms."
--Mary Oliver

Every now and again we are given the gift of true presence. Usually it is when we are faced with the stark reality of life ending, whether it is through the death of someone or something beloved. The details that we often think of as life itself fall away, and the mystery of our frail human form and relationships that make life meaningful is all that we have, and all that we ever really had.

This naked place of pure presence is not an easy one to live in -- we know in these moments of pure love and connection, pure loss and loneliness, that our emotions are not thoughts in our head but physical, weighty forces that fill our physical body so completely that they have the power to alter our senses. Falling in love is a full-body experience, one that alters how we see everything -- a more powerful drug you can't find on the planet.

The same is true for grief, especially grief that we don't allow ourselves to experience. Feeling the weight of our own sadness is frightening. There is no deeper emotional access to the present moment than our sadness and grief. Yet feeling the full force of these emotions often reminds me of my kids when they were three years old, just old enough to get their experience but without a big enough body to contain it or a language to express it. Witnessing the trauma of a full-on tantrum is enough to make any sane adult choose to repress it -- the power of the feelings are as large as any force of nature.

Giving yourself or someone you love this gift of pure presence is the most amazing and life-changing gift you can offer. Here's the truth: it doesn't work to repress our feelings. Our experience of life deserves to be witnessed and shared. All that is not given the air and space in the world around us will, like any force of nature, so transform and alter our internal landscape that we can't find our presence -- with ourselves and not with the people we long to love the most.

Eternity is not waiting to happen after you die; it is happening right now, and the meaning and love that you have the chance to make in your life is the only gift that will really count when your days are over. So instead of just exchanging physical gifts, open your arms wide to the stories and feelings that make our presence real and our relationships sustainable.