Fully Present and Totally Untouchable: Experiments in Presence

It was one of the hardest weeks I’d experience so far and considering I’d been suffering for almost four years, that’s saying a lot. I felt like my spine and neck were in a vice grip. When I tipped my head back to look at the ceiling and shifted my head from side to side it felt like the stem of my skull was grinding in a pit of gravel or in shards of glass; it made a gritty sound like sandpaper on bone when I moved. I also felt like I had the flu, not the usual winter-down-for-a-couple-weeks kind, but a deep-seated, heavy-duty kind. Like most people suffering with Lyme, it feels like my brain caught some kind of ‘forever flu’, a feeling that subsides at times but has yet to fully go away.

Taking ‘Lyme killing’ herbs, had brought on this bout of uber-sickness. The Lyme seemed to be dying off faster than my organs could clear it. The result was a feeling of being systemically poisoned—actually it wasn’t just a feeling—this is what was happening. What was particularly scary about this ‘crash’ was the sense of debilitating weakness in my limbs. I normally don’t struggle to make it up the flight of stairs to my room. I had to set my fork down between bites and anxiously googled ‘lead arms’.

I found myself lying on the floor in tears, crushed under the weight of unbearable discomfort. Scared and demoralized. Sure of nothing. No longer having faith that there would be mercy for me. As I lay there, I began to focus on inhabiting the sensations at the core of my experience.

Like most, when I experience pain and discomfort my natural tendency is to push back on it, to exert energy and effort in trying to rid myself of it. I try to create some semblance of space between ‘me’ and ‘it’. This time was different. I didn’t have any energy left to push.

I was on the floor with arms too heavy to lift and a brain too compromised to try to figure anything out. I felt into the discomfort in my spine and plunged my awareness right into the achy heart of it. I felt into the gravel in my neck and infused the light of my awareness into the grit. I felt the delirious weight of my fatigue and entered into it with my presence. As I inhabited the innermost depths of my experience something quite miraculous occurred. My suffering waned and then stopped altogether. As long as I kept my presence fully centered, I was somehow untouchable.

As I lay there my focus would waiver and the pain and malaise would resurface. I would then shift my presence-awareness right into the heart of the experience again and experience relief. I realized that when I fully inhabited ‘center’ that ‘I’ no longer existed.

The ‘me’ who identifies with being me is the same me who suffers. Somehow, in inhabiting the experience fully, the ‘me’ who suffers disappears.

I became presence itself. I realized that it's through my resistance that I kept the suffering alive. As paradoxical and strange as it may sound, fully inhabiting the pain dissolved it completely.

I practiced keeping my awareness actively present. The moment I would ‘lose the center’ or start resisting again the unbearable pain and discomfort would resurface—Marie-Ève would resurface.

In the true center of my experience, I am not ‘me’, I simply am…paradoxically untouchable and yet fully immersed and present all at once. I’ve said in other writings that our challenges are ‘calls to attention’. Perhaps the more extreme our pain the more intently our presence is being summoned.

In that center-place, in pure presence I am not sick. I am untouchable there and while I can’t hold that being-space consistently (yet) I know that it is in the light of this presence and non-resistance that true healing occurs. It occurs because in that state of being I am not sick.

Copyright © 2015 Marie-Ève Bonneau

PHOTO CREDIT: M. BONNEAU

PHOTO CREDIT: M. BONNEAU