Am I moved by being present?
Commentary by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.

The norm is to live in a distracted way, doing things and at the same time having automatic thoughts and emotions that do not really allow me to grasp what is happening in the life outside my head. It is like watching a film when a friend is constantly talking to me. At the end of it I have not grasped one thing or the other. I have not been completely attentive to either and I am left with a very superficial impression of the film or of my friend’s chatter. Some parts of the film’s plot have escaped me completely and I just fill in the gaps based on what I think must have happened and I do the same with my friend’s chatter.

Ultimately, the feeling is that I did not get a very clear picture of what happened during the time I spent.

Now, I am remembering moments that I have spent on the beach with the constant, thunderous noise of the waves crashing against the rocks and with everything beneath a dome of pink and purple dawn clouds. Now that I have started to describe it, details emerge one after another, because words, like thoughts, cannot capture a whole, but break things down into units: clouds, waves, noise, colours, smells and temperature. Thoughts and words are not the best tools for making you feel part of an overall moment.

But when I was there on the sand, without thinking about what I was looking at, without telling myself how beautiful it was, but simply being there within all that, the impression is very different.

And not because the landscape was beautiful in itself, it could have been different, but because there was sufficient quiet within me to perceive what was there without doing more than just being aware of it.

It is curious that you can have the same sensations with an “ugly” landscape, you can be moved not by the landscape but by that way of seeing or being, which means being present without thinking about what is there, but being aware of it, and open to it.

Try observing a junkyard or a car scrap yard without thinking about the iron parts.

Observe it as if you were a child looking at it for the first time, the shapes, the sizes, the colours, not the individual parts, but the whole picture, without thinking about it. You can do it right now. Look at whatever you have in front of you, some pencils, a picture on the wall, a door, unwashed crockery, it does not matter what it is, and observe it without thinking about it.

Also observe the effect it has on you.