Today is day three of Present Tense, an exploration of how various wonderful, wise women work to be more present in their daily lives.
It is my privilege to share with you today the words and insight of Danielle LaPorte. I bought Danielle’s book, Style Statement, when it came out, and I have been a devotee of her writing and her thinking since before she launched White Hot Truth. It was an absolute thrill to meet Danielle in person in September at a Firestarter in New York. The session at Aidan’s house overwhelmed me, in the best possible way.
Then I was lucky enough to have a one-on-one with Danielle in early November. Much like at the firestarter, I found myself fighting back tears (not always successfully) during that session. So I’m concluding that Danielle is one of those people who, both intuitively and gently, accesses the vulnerable and volatile core of other people. She’s a sage in snakeskin leggings. I’m serious. She is soft-spoken but intensely charismatic, and she sees into the heart of things. And of people.
I wish I could be more specific about Danielle’s gifts, but they are as ineffable as they are undeniable. You can get a real sense of her through her writing on White Hot Truth, though. I love her words and her voice: she is funny and straight, deep without a whiff of grandiosity. She writes about provocative topics in a compelling way and shares quotations that inevitably make me cry with their wisdom. As far as I can see, her approach to the world is honest and brave; she tolerates no bullshit and accepts nothing but her heart’s true path. She makes me want to live the same way. Danielle fills me with inspiration and hope that is tangible: talking to her makes me feel like there’s a balloon in my chest. When I’m not crying I’m gasping, unable to quite believe the beauty of the life she dares me to imagine for myself.
I’m delighted and honored that she agreed to participate in this series (which, truth be told, was pretty much her idea!).
1. When have you felt most present? Are there specific memories that stand out for you?
I was in a car accident a few years back and it was amazing how much “information” I received in nano-seconds – the cause, the state of mind of the driver, the future physical implications, the whereabouts of my husband and child, the depths of personal issues I was going through at that time in my life, a certainty of human inter-connectivity. It was so holographic, I was astonished at how much I knew-saw-felt-smelled in that crash-bang-crack-flash.
Luckily there have been less traumatic moments of presence. Birthing my son at home was one of them, for sure. But in terms of everyday kinds of Presence…my awareness is most piqued when I’m not looking to get anything from the exchange. I let the moment, the friend, the circumstance be free to be itself and I listen with all my cells. Sure feels good.
2. Do you have rituals or patterns that you use to remind you to Be Here Now?
This is so incredibly new age cheesy, but…candles. I only burn honey beeswax which I order from this crazy place in small town Ontario (did you know that real beeswax candles clean impurities from the air? the petroleum based wax is nasty shit…I digress…) Fire reminds me to focus. Ditto for some old mantras and chants that I pull out once and a while, especially before a speaking gig.
3. Do you have specific places or people that you associate with being particularly present? Who? Where? Any idea why?
Some of my girlfriends have a huge presence to them – you feel like they have all the time in the world for you, even though they don’t. My Jew-Bu shrink is like, Shamanic in his capacity to hold space and see everything floating in the air, I’m grateful for that, to say the least.
4. Have you ever meditated? How did that go?
I’m meditating right now. And when I do the dishes. And walk the dog. And read to my kid. And wander an art gallery. It doesn’t have to happen in lotus position. I try to be my own temple, that way, I’m always home. But yah, I’ve logged many hours cross-legged and watching my in-breath, out breath. And much of my prayer transcends into meditation for me. For me, the learning has been to mediate without attachment to what the meditation will “produce” or do for you. In terms of meditation, I’m more interested in observing my mind than trying to control it. Easier said than done, because there are soooo many others things that I’m also hooked on controlling.
5. Has having children changed how you think about the effort to be present?
Absolutely, positively. When my monkey-boy came along almost six years ago, I got FOCUSED. I wrote a poem about it in which I said, “my world became the size of a seed” so focused, so massively full of possibility. My greatest heartbreak is noticing when I’m not present with my kid. It’s what he wants and deserves the most.
6. And just cause I’m curious, what books and songs do you love?
I’m currently loving Pema Chodron’s latest book, Taking the Leap.
Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clariss Pinkola Estes changed my life.
The Soul’s Code by James Hillman is one of the few books I’ve read more than once.
And I never leave home without some Red Hot Chili Peppers or Serena Ryder.
Danielle … thank you.
In September we spoke briefly about birth and I know it’s something that we are both interested in. I believe devoutly that birth can be a defining and deeply spiritual experience for women, an opportunity to be present almost unlike any other. I love your other examples, though. I think the idea of not needing anything back from the other person or the moment is profound. What I wonder is if we can wish or think ourselves into this or if that is in direct opposition to the goal?
I love the expression about your shrink “holding space.” Oh, there is something to that. Are there people whose spirits have a stillness that allows us to relax into the space we share? Somehow certain people can create for us the conditions where we are present. What an extraordinary gift. Danielle, I suspect you hold space for a lot of other people.
Your comments about meditating everywhere you are remind me immediately of the work of Thich Nhat Hahn, whom I’ve long loved. Your words seem to echo the understanding I have of his teachings: the point is to be present in your daily life. To make a meditation, a celebration, of washing the dishes. Of waiting at a red light. To be aware of your breathing in and breathing out. To hear you say that letting go of attachment to what the meditation “produces” is a revelation. I think I get caught on that, every single time, and I can’t get past it. This is one of those aha moments that I suspect you create all the time for others: it seems so blindingly obvious now that you say it, and is utterly revolutionary. Just stop worrying about what the end of the meditation is. Just take a breath. Let go. Wow.
As usual, with all things Danielle-related, I am full to the brim, blinking back tears, my mind full of thoughts and questions and hope and horizons heretofore never imagined.
Thank you. Thank you.