The Present of Presence
Jason Garner is a father, husband, former concert promoter, and spiritual student who spent the first 37 years of his life working his way up from flea market parking attendant to executive at a Fortune 500 company ― never taking a breath in the belief that in order to be loved he had to be the best. As the former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation, he has worked with rock stars and sports legends and was twice named to Fortune magazine’s list of the top 20 highest paid executives under 40. The sudden death of his mother caused him to re-evaluate what was important in life … and to finally breathe. In this new phase he has spent thousands of hours studying with some of the world’s best teachers, including traveling to China to learn from the monks at the Shaolin Temple.
In a class I took once on deepening the connection of romantic relationships, the teacher said, “In over 30 years of working with couples I have found only one thing that women want from their men: presents.”
“Great,” I thought. “A Gucci purse should do the trick.”
Except the teacher had said “presence,” not presents.
Another one of my teachers told me there is always truth in jest. That humorous story, while charming and cute, is also a realistic portrayal of much of my relationship history. I used material presents to compensate for my lack of physical, emotional, and spiritual presence in the relationship.
Why? Because Hallmark told me to, that’s why. More jest, and more truth.
As a man I have been bombarded since birth with images of what it means to be manly.
A knight in shining armor. So I rescued damsels in distress and then wondered why I felt disconnected.
An emotional rock. So I bottled up my feelings and felt misunderstood and unloved.
The provider. So I spent all day at work and all night thinking about work and then spent the money I made at work on gifts to show I cared about something other than work.
The result of all this? Two divorces and too many failed relationships to count, a lot of money spent on designer shoes, purses, and dresses, and hours and hours of counseling. While this story is mine, it is — in one way or another — true for most of us.
So when that teacher told me that “presence” was all it took, I thought to myself how easy that would be. He suggested I lie in bed next to my wife, put my hand on her heart (not boobs!), look into her eyes, and say, “I see you. I hear you. I love you. I am here.”
Easy, right? Try it. It will make you cry and want to go out and buy 100 expensive purses so you never have to go that deep again.
Truth in jest … again.
Seriously, the practice of being present is a gift. As men we think of it as a gift we give our wives or families. As much as we’ve been conditioned to be the knight, the rock, the provider, deep inside we are so much more. And connecting with the deeper part of ourselves, our true self, is a gift we give ourselves as well as those around us.
I know that in my life the constant striving to be strong, to not show my fears, to make everything okay all the time, to fulfill the illusion of fixing the damsels in distress, and to make as much money as possible wore me down. The never-ending march up the hill of my life left me feeling sick, tired, and scared of the day it would all come crashing down.
So while I now give my wife presence often — tender kisses in the morning, a look in her eyes with a gentle “I love you” and lots of big hugs of love — I recognize that those moments are also gifts for me. They are the times in the day when I take off my cape and am true to the man inside the costume, they are reminders that I am loved just for being me. Those times calm my fears because when I am present, I know all is well.
We can start now, present only in ourselves, a few deep breaths and the silent message inside, “You are loved.” And then, as the comfort level grows, we can share the same with our spouses, our children, our parents, our brothers and sisters, and even the clerk at Whole Foods (maybe just “Hi, how are you?” instead of “I love you” or you may find yourself present in the doghouse). Eventually, you can try the exercise my teacher shared with me — lie down, put your hand on your partner’s heart, look into each other’s eyes, and say, “I see you. I hear you. I love you. I am here.”
Together, present in life, we find love and connection. That is the present worth giving … and receiving.
Big hugs of love,
Read more of Jason’s perspectives and sign up for his blog at www.jasongarner.com.
Thank you, Jason, for the present of you! ~Mali & Joe, authors of The Soulmate Experience: A Practical Guide to Creating Extraordinary Relationships, 52 Prescriptions for Happiness, and the upcoming book The Soulmate Lover, and creators of Mantras for Making Love