Rules vs Presence
To be present is to respond to what is.
In body, presence is sensation. In mind, presence is awareness. We sense, we are aware, of what is. Stable in the fluid movement of time through space, we are responsive to what we are able to sense, what we are aware of.
When are we not present? When we are preoccupied, with pain, pleasure, planning, and the past. We are not present when we indulge in our fixations, when we disconnect ourselves from our surroundings, when we dissociate our mind from our bodies, our breaths.
People are rarely present; rare people are present. And yet, we seem to be responding to reality.
When we are not present, when our minds and bodies are unlinked, or busy, or insensitive, then we follow rules. And there are millions of rules. There are the rules of propriety: what is considered normal, sane, appropriate behavior. These are dictated by our era, by our society. We fit our individual expressions within these frameworks.
There are also our own personal rules: what we know worked for us before, and what we trust will continue to work for us into the future. Like all rule based behavior, this requires memory. Layers of memory, groups and pairings of behaviors that we associate with one another.
When we follow rules, external as well as internal, we come into a standardization. Our personality, our habitual ways of doing things. What do we lose? The nuances of thought and action, the sensitivity to what is changing moment to moment, and the newness of now.
Rules break down when we are startled, or memory fails. We are forced to recognize change, what is new, and we become present. Memory fades. Sensitivity heightens. We become aware of the people around us, their actions and their intentions. We recalibrate our direction in space, our values in time
Rules are relevant when we encounter repetition: the same circumstances, the same expectations, from either within us or our perception of what is happening around us. We create patterns of action, which become patterns of thought, and cycle into deeper trainings in patterned actions.
Rules save us from uncertainty. We are sure, we know, just what to do. We feel the safety and security in following, in conforming. It is easy to find validation and comfort. The path is laid out ahead of us, and we are accompanied by the many others who follow the same steps.
The sameness, the standardization that comes from following expectations, following rules, gives us a limited balance between static and fluid thought/actions. There are slow cultural drifts, the trends that we celebrate and attend to or become the highlight of average conversations.
In our knowing, in our certainty, we no longer have to devote energy to thinking, to deciding. So when decisions must be made, we feel lost, startled out of our somnambulism.
Much energy is lost when we struggle though unpracticed, unskilled, uncoordinated movements of the mind. We waste time running simulations of the future based on our past, creating expectations, mazes in the mind. We formulate if-then statements, new rules, so that we respond to new situations with speed but not agility.
Reconnection of body and mind, of breath and awareness, is startling. We drop out of our habits and into the present, where there are no rules, just space-time for freedom.