With Elio Guarisco, in Venice, Italy
“When we apply presence, we go beyond the individual practices of each religion … Sometimes by following a path a practitioner focuses on mantras and visualizations but without presence … If we do not practice presence we lose a good part of life, we are already a bit dead … “.
Mindfulness, the Principle of Complete Presence: we are in Venice in the Scuoletta dei Calegheri, in the beautiful San Tomà Square where Elio Guarisco is holding a workshop open to the public for the whole day (21 May) to introduce the participants to a practice that can be applied to every spiritual path and at every moment of our lives. The workshop was organized by Gyamtsholing in collaboration with Gabriella Dalesio, a student of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and a professor at the Venice Academy of Art where there will be a conference on Lucid Dreaming by Elio the following day.
“Complete presence is learned by applying it to the body, feelings, mind, and mental states.”
In recent years, Elio, a well-known Tibetologist and Santi Maha Sangha instructor, has given numerous talks and seminars on Mindfulness after studying in India and in the West with the major exponents of this school. His approach is clear and useful even for newcomers.
Elio devotes the morning to illustrating the basic principles for practicing presence in everyday life, underlining the common mistakes that, distracted as we are by the events in which we are involved, lead us to observe life through established patterns of thought, conditioning, and judgment. “Presence does not know acceptance or non acceptance, it is a state that is not related to a reaction.”
How do we practice presence? “There are various methods: we start with the body, with breathing … we focus on breathing because it is always with us, in every moment, even when we ignore it and practice with an ‘object’ giving some kind of entertainment to the mind in that moment… We have a tendency to project into the future. This is very dangerous. The present is the most important, most significant thing.”
The explanation continues with the aim of deepening the principle of presence through examples that clarify “concepts” linked above all to what presence is not. “Presence is not connected with morality. If we have negative thoughts, for example, we can try to correct them or let them vanish, but not fall into self-judgment, or least of all get depressed. In fact, when we exercise our presence we do not enter into the details of the thoughts that pass through our minds. Whether positive or negative, we do not judge them.” Recognizing our thoughts, perhaps in a moment of pride or malice, recognizing them and recognizing in what state we are means applying presence.
Mindfulness is much broader than, in most cases, the way it is presented today. Elio explains how it has been removed from its context to be reduced to a single technique to suit teachers (often psychologists) who teach applying what they themselves have never practiced.
But the path of mindfulness is ancient, profound, and there are a lot of exercises that can be done to practice the presence transmitted from various teachers throughout history to their disciples.
The afternoon hours are therefore essentially dedicated to practice.
“We always work with presence and therefore with awareness”. And it is good for us practitioners who, at the end of our earthly existence, are preparing through the practice in that “dying with awareness is something that can only take place if one has lived with awareness”.
Thank you Elio on behalf of all of us practitioners for this intense and beautiful workshop!