As a child actor, I would sometimes be complimented on my “stage presence.” People would say they could feel my joy of performing, that I radiated a “something” that was interesting to watch.

It was actually easy for me to be “charismatic” when I was prepared, knew my lines, and knew exactly what was going to happen.  In everyday life, however, I could feel, shy, tentative, and somewhat insecure. As I grew older, I began to wonder if there was there some way to bring that confidence and joy into my everyday life.

And so my spiritual search began. Intuitively, I knew that, while the sense of control one has while performing is specific to being on stage, the sense of “presence” was not. Practicing yoga and meditation gave me a connection to something beyond self, beyond ego, and beyond external circumstances. Unattached to any situation, I could feel confidence and joy no matter what was happening. What I had discovered was The Presence.

Today, I seek to make The Presence my constant companion. When I’m leading Kirtan, I’m seeking to be a Channel. When I’m chanting “Sita Ram,” I’m actually inviting those deities into the room with us. Kirtan is not Performance, it’s Transformance:  the call-and-response creates an ecstatic feedback loop, one where “Leader/Crowd, or Audience/Performer” dichotomies dissolve. What’s left is only The Presence –  in the form of an ecstatic, joyful, transcendent, dancing, celebrating, mass of humanity.

As we come into this Holy-Day season, it’s useful to cultivate the Presence within ourselves. As the temperature drops and the days get shorter, we are naturally drawn “within”– to meditate and contemplate. Doing so allows us to see through the eyes of Inner Divinity, which, in turn,  inspires us to give, share, celebrate, and love those around us. It’s fitting that during this time, we give “presents” to our loved ones — all the while knowing that our Presence is the greatest gift of all.

(Excerpted from Inner Visions Online,