Four Rules for Living, #1: Show Up

The anthropologist and spiritual teacher, Angeles Arrien is credited with these 4 rules for living:  Show up.  Pay attention.  Tell the truth.  Don’t be attached to the outcome.

Show Up

It’s easy to show up if you think it means you only have to be present in body. Yes, that’s easy. We do it all the time when we’re preoccupied with family issues at work, or when we wake up in the middle of the night thinking about a conversation we had the day before. We’re there “in body,” but we’re not really “there,” we haven’t really “shown up,” for our work or for ourselves.

Show up. Be present. Be there, now! See what’s in front of you. Feel what you feel. Show up for yourself in order to show up for others.

How do you “show up” for yourself? My first thought is that this takes work. “Showing up” means letting go of everything that isn’t working for you now. For example, how often do you react to someone else the way you reacted to your mother or father when you were 5 years old?

Are you working too hard in order to not pay attention to the nagging feeling you have about life?  Do you still live by the rules you were taught as a child, without ever questioning whether those “rules” are valid for you, for your life, for your times?  Are you drinking too much, or even every day? Are you letting your health go?  Are you too busy to connect with others?

The real work of life is to learn to let go of those things that don’t serve you now, and haven’t served you for a long time. If you’re preoccupied most of the time, then you have work to do. Maybe you need to talk to a trusted friend about what’s troubling you. Maybe you would be helped by talking to a therapist. Maybe you need to take some time alone to get back in touch with yourself and your own needs. Maybe you need to get up and move a bit!

Show up for yourself.  Breathe.  Notice your surroundings.  Notice how the light falls on the walls  of your room.  Notice how the light changes.  See what is outside your window.  Show up for this moment, show up for your surroundings.

Show up. The world needs some folks who are adults, who respond to life and its ordinary emergencies with clarity and presence. If you haven’t done the work, then our world needs you to do the work. None of us is perfect, but we all have work to do in order to “let go of childish ways,” to take on the ways of being an adult.

One of the important practices of life is to show up. I remember keenly – and with great fondness – those friends who have been there when there has been a loss in my family. I remember a good friend walking with me from my mother’s grave on the day of her burial – in the Midwest, in February – telling me that I had a wonderful family. I will not forget that my friend had shown up, nor will I forget that she shows up – again and again.

Moments like that one at my mother’s grave are the moments that remind me to show up. For me, to show up is a kind of practice, a way of being an adult, a true act of presence.

Are you showing up? Are you present when something important happens? Are you present for the important people in your life when they need you? Are you present when a transition, a turning point is being celebrated?

And, deeper:   when you show up, are you really, really there???!


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