Presence, Control Patterns, and Saying Yes to Life

Recently, I’ve started practicing what I call ‘Present Time’ again with my children.  

How I practice Present Time
First, I make sure that I’ve done anything that I might otherwise keep thinking about – such as making a phone call, or doing the washing up.

I put on a timer; to let myself know that I am committed to being present with myself and my child for that length of time.

Then, I sit down and become aware of my breathing.  I become aware of the sounds around me, the sensations of the air on my skin.  

I let my child know that I’m offering her present time – which means her choosing what we do, and me being present with her whilst we go where she leads.

I look at her face.  
I become aware of her body breathing.  
I notice of the sound of her voice.  
I look into her eyes.  
I become aware of my breath.  
I am aware of my body as I look at hers.  
I touch her skin and feel exactly how it feels.  
I see her as if for the first time.  
I notice the particular things about her – the way her hair looks, or her freckles, or how she looks at me.

Present Time is like being with a spiritual teacher
I had been avoiding present time with my children for quite a while.  Once I started it up again recently, the first time I did, after about 10 minutes I felt tired, I noticed myself slipping into thinking, or planning what we were going to do next, or wanting to tidy up.   

I realised that these were all the same things that I experienced when sitting with a philosopher/teacher who lives in a state of presence and compassionate acceptance of others.  I felt the same type of sleepiness, thinking, thinking, more thinking; and the same opportunity to keep choosing to bring myself back to connecting with myself and with the present moment.

After I have sat with this teacher in meetings, I have come home and found myself able to be more deeply present with my children.  In receiving the gift of someone being fully present with me, I have been able to pass some of that gift on to them.  One evening after a meeting, I cam home and sat with Sunny and he kept avoiding eye contact with me.  I stayed with him, gazing lovingly at him, and soon he started crying.  After crying, then wanted to gaze into my eyes too.  I could be with his disconnection, his feelings, and his presence.  It was all beautiful to me!

Empathy, dissociation, and control patterns
Recently, I found this quote; "Dissociation is a non-empathic relationship with an aspect of ourselves."  Firman and Gila, Psychosynthesis, p.104

The way I see it, when our baby or child feels something that we are not able to be present with, then he experiences a change in our demeanour.  He experiences our not being with him.  That not-being-with feels so uncomfortable, that he disconnects from that feeling by numbing out or dissociating.

Control patterns
This is where control patterns come in.  They are literally places where something isn’t seen and experienced.  In order for our child to re-associate with that feeling, he needs empathic presence for that feeling from an adult.  

As adults, when we want to move beyond a control pattern, we can choose to receive empathy from another, or empathy from ourselves, or allow a sense of connection to something More.  As we find empathy for that feeling, we bring it back into ourselves.  We replace not-seeing and disconnection with seeing and connection.  The more we are able to connect with in ourselves, the more we are able to see, be with, and mirror those types of feelings in our children.

Saying no to control patterns and yes to more aliveness
A few nights ago, in the middle of the night, I was revisiting how I feel when I’m in the midst of a control pattern – like eating hurriedly, without tasting the food, whilst thinking of something else – and how afterwards, there is a sense of something missing, and the missing thing is me – I’m not there.  

I delved into why I would ever choose to spend any of my life like that.   After self-facilitating in this way, I remembered that quote from Hellen Keller, “life is either a daring adventure, or nothing,” and a joy swelled in my heart.  

I woke up in the morning to a vibrant blue sky and the willingness to choose, over and over, to truly experience connection with myself, my life, and my children, rather than the avoidance of life that control patterns give me.  I saw that in order to say ”no” to a control pattern in the moment, I needed to say “yes” to something more, to the miraculousness of being alive; to embrace life.  I see that this gives me a context to set a loving limit to my control patterns, in order to feel what I feel.  

And after that moment, I have been so much more aware of Lana and Sunny’s feelings, and have had such clarity that my passion is for them to retain their aliveness.  They both allowed their feelings to flow in a way that they haven’t done for some time, and Lana cuddled up with me that evening, closer and more cuddly than she had been in quite a while.

And today, I helped find the sweet spot for Sunny so that he had the biggest release he’s had in over six months, and afterwards I held him in my arms and felt how relaxed and at peace he was.  

So, I see, that being present is a choice, and it’s a choice I need to keep making, saying yes to, and meanwhile saying no to the numbness of the experience of a control pattern. And the more I make that choice for myself, the more aware I am of when my children are disconnecting from themselves, and I am willing to be lovingly present with them in their painful feelings

Last night, I opened up “The Soul of Money” by Lynne Twist, and read this, “The second toxic myth is that more is better…. The rush for more distances us from experiencing the deeper value of what we acquire or already have.  When we eat too fast or drink too much, we cannot savor any single bite of food.  When we are focused constantly on the next thing – the next dress, the next car, the next job, the next vacation, the next home improvement – we hardly experience the gifts of that which we have now.”  (pp.50-51)

She also writes, “When we let go of the chase for more, and consciously examine and experience the resources we already have, we discover our resources are deeper than we knew or imagined.  In the nourishment of our attention, our assets expand and grow.” (p.76)  

"Wow", I thought, "so practicing Present Time and choosing presence in general actually starts replacing control patterns.  Noticing the fullness of the presence of my child and myself actually brings fullness; shows me that I am not empty, that I have enough and am enough… and so makes the desire for a control pattern lessen."

And tonight, I read an email by Terry Patten (see

He wrote, “Saying a "Deep Yes to Life" is a no-matter-what commitment….
It means that whatever may occur in the world or in your life, good or bad, you have made a wholehearted, life-defining vow to affirm the essential principle of life, to say "yes" …
However, practically speaking, things happen every day that cause us to close our hearts, narrow our awareness, and in effect, shut out the fullness of life -- to energetically say "no" to life…

The practice is very simple. Next time something frustrating, annoying, disturbing, or stressful occurs, first notice your immediate reaction. ….

First take a deep breath, feel into your reactivity, soften your awareness, and then specifically remember the infinite goodness, beauty, truth, and power of life ….
Remember that Cosmic Yes and say "Yes" quietly to yourself, recognizing that there is nothing that could possibly happen to negate the Miracle of Being, or the blessing of incarnating in a precious human body.
Say "yes" again and feel how the universe IS yes.  Feel how your own utterance is, in a very real sense, the universe's own self-affirmation. And recognize that whatever might have prompted your initial reaction is not other than or separate from life, but an equally miraculous part of its very nature and expression. And, it's a perfect opportunity for you to recognize yet another aspect of the divine.

What Terry Patten speaks about is just like the “a-ha” that I had had in the middle of the night, that big “yes” to life.

I wonder whether you can relate to my “a-ha” moment?  Do you notice where you tend to go numb and where your children do too?   Are you willing to choose more presence and more connection with yourself and your children; and more aliveness?