The Paradox of Presence

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly The Paradox of Presence_imageblogger.

I’m beginning to believe that being present is the most important thing to be. That’s a big statement for me, at least the part of me that’s driven, calculating and constantly planning for this or that contingency.

This morning I received a note from a friend, Carol, who runs a successful business training and development business. She had just read my post, Be Present – Another Reminder, and she was compelled to share this story:

“In early April of 1999 I took a sailing trip off the coast of Mississippi with some of my experiential learning friends. We titled the trip, ‘You must be present to win!’ At that time I had been recently laid off and was just working contracts, trying to find what’s next. During the sail we discussed what it means to be present and what you win if you are present.

It was truly an amazing two days doing things I love to do and with people I love to be with so it was rather easy to be present. I could tell you almost every moment of that trip still today. The outcome was a very clear path forward. I was moving back to Iowa closer to family and starting my own consulting firm. And on May 7th, 1999, I did just that with absolute clarity and resolve.”

Carol’s story reminded me of my own that I recount in my book Erik’s Hope. One day, at a crossroads regarding a decision about starting my business, I abandoned my typical desk work and followed my heart (and dog) to the beach. After a full day of meandering among sand, surf and a bountiful sand dollar harvest, I was quite clear about my decision. Magic ensued, as predicted by these famous lines:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!

For both of us, the present moment was the mechanism that allowed us to see our future steps clearly. That’s a tough concept, as our tricky minds hijack the moment and we think planning the future is more important than feeling what’s true now. In fact, the act of being present will carry us into our perfect future. It’s the paradox of presence.

Begin it.

When we embrace the moment (an idea), and stay present, we automatically embrace the next (a possible action). One thing leads to another.

If you are at a crossroad, overwhelmed, or even bored – draw in a breath. Look, listen and feel the presence around you. I’m betting your next move will serve you well.

A Time for Every Purpose


by Andrea Chilcote


The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

Invigorated by an idyllic beach walk with my beloved dogs, wind in my face, the refrain of an old song was playing in my head. “Turn, Turn Turn,” made popular by The Byrds in the 60’s, is based on the book of Ecclesiastes:

To everything
There is a season
And a time to every purpose under heaven

As we laughed and played in the California surf and sand, I felt pure joy. Then, suddenly, I remembered the pain a friend in Arizona is experiencing as she grieves the loss of a dear companion. Once again I was reminded of the seeming contradictions in this experience of life, and our ability to ride the waves of change with resilience and grace. Our beach dance was a reminder to keep the faith.

A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

Intrigued by the power these words had over me, I did a bit of research and learned that the songwriter, Pete Seeger, is still alive today at age 93, singing and giving interviews to convey his enduring message of hope for our world. On Monday of this week he had a studio audience singing along to “Quite Early Morning,” a song he wrote in 1969 to “inspire people to keep the faith that a better world is possible, even in the midst of suffering, tragedy, and setbacks.”

Don’t you know it’s darkest before the dawn
And it’s this thought keeps me moving on
“Quite Early Morning” by Pete Seeger

Whether at this moment you dance or mourn, it is yours to either embrace or resist. At least for today, I’m choosing to dance.

Just Chill

Cambriaby Andrea Chilcote

The following is a repeat of a post I made for The Spirited Woman Community in August, just before departing for vacation. While I am in Cave Creek this week, not Cambria, the spirit of “Just Chill” seems appropriate for the holiday weekend. Enjoy!

August 2012

As you read this post, I am officially on vacation. I am in Cambria, California an idyllic haven that offers my family and me a unique sort of respite, a place to “chill out” figuratively as well as literally, given that it’s also a cool escape from the blistering Arizona summer.

I strive for peace and quiet amidst the busyness of my life. Yet the world is not quiet. That is not a judgment, rather it is an observation. Whether one is a public servant, a public figure – or even a monk – this “disquiet” can seep into the psyche, creating discord that impacts the quality of our lives and those we care about and interact with daily.

In the past, I have written of the importance of rest and renewal. And, as is so often the case, I have observed a theme this past week: A dearth of rest. So many people are starved for a break, for peace and for release. The definition of rest is broad. It can mean temporary cessation from an activity as well as relief or freedom from disquiet or disturbance. Rest includes recreation, and it can literally re-create our outlook, equipping us with renewed drive and energy to use as we choose.

Some of us “rest” in motion…through vigorous physical activity, or an active break from routine. Others need stillness and contemplation. The idea of a nap or an afternoon under a beach umbrella may satisfy some and not others. For me, the simple absence of a schedule provides supreme rest.

We’ve been resting in Cambria each summer for the last six years. On the first day of our first trip there, Arthur and I were having lunch at a wonderful sidewalk table at a Cambria classic, the Indigo Moon. Our dogs Whisper and Amigo were with us. Just as our server approached, another vacationing dog passed by our table. Whisper, the Malamute, tends to challenge other dogs, and this was no exception.  The server looked her straight in the eye and cut her off mid-growl. “Chill doggie,” she said calmly. “This is Cambria.” Amazingly, both dogs “chilled.” From that day forward, time in Cambria came to represent a time to take a deep breath and relax.

Maybe you too can visit Cambria, in person or in your dreams. Until then, just chill.

It’s that frenetic energy that keeps us stuck in perpetual ‘fight or flight’ and that keeps us in an energetic fear loop that robs us of truly being present, enjoying life, and connecting deeply with our loved ones. – Resting expert Dan Howard