It seems to me that the issue of being present is one that almost entirely depends on a willingness to permit intimacy. How intimately do you allow yourself to feel the presence of the world around you? That will determine how present you are to it. How intimately do you experience the presence of the person with whom you are chatting? Again, that will determine how present you are to them.
The challenges to intimacy are not simple. It involves a steady process of softening: softening our breath, our expectations, our judgment, our scar tissue, our anxieties – until at last, as with onion layers peeled away, our core is revealed to the light and available to the world. Once that happens, you will be changed. It cannot happen that the world will touch your core, or another being will touch your core, and leave you unchanged. It’s like Alan Alda’s observation about listening: “Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you.” I think that’s what makes us wary of intimacy – the instinctive recognition that it involves so much change: the change of softening to achieve it, and the changes that are stirred up as soon as you are touched by presence. To deprive yourself of intimacy, though, is to deprive yourself of the greatest riches that life has to offer