What did the yogi ask for the holidays?

No gifts, only presence.

I heard this joke earlier in the week and it made me remember a book I’d received as a gift called The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson. I shared the joke and the message from the book in the yoga classes I taught on Christmas Eve.

The book is about a young boy who learns about the precious present from an old man. The old man tells the young boy that anyone who receives such a gift will be happy forever.

Of course, the young boy wants to receive this gift (who wouldn’t) and goes in search of it, finding out along the way that:

  • You can’t receive this gift by wishing for it.
  • You don’t have to travel across the globe to find it – you can access the gift anywhere and be perfectly content where you are.
  • Most of us have known this gift best when we were children, and we’ve always known how to find it, we just simply forget how to.
  • The precious present is not something that someone gives to you – it is something you give to yourself.

Much later in life the boy, now a middle aged man finally came to the realization that the precious present was just that…THE PRESENT. Being fully grounded and loving the moment he was in.

I’m not sure if Spencer is a yogi, but if he’s not, he should be, because the topic of his book – living in the present –  is one of the primary teachings of yoga. Letting go of the chatter in the mind, the regrets of the past, the fretting about the future, and seeking peace and happiness as we savor the moment we are in.

In the story the man is happy for a few hours, living fully in the present until he realizes that he totally blew it all the years he was looking for the precious present. In all that time he had missed out on a helluva lot of happiness. He began to berate himself and became sad. He let the guilt of the past keep him from the precious present. He eventually got over the guilt, returned to the precious present, and the happiness returned.

A few days later the man started to worry about whether he would be able to maintain the joy of living in the precious present tomorrow. Needless to say, unhappiness ensued until he kicked himself in the butt with the reminder that he could only find happiness when he was in the precious present.

Why don’t we all spend more time letting the precious present nourish us?

Why don’t we savor each moment as a gift?

One of the cool things about the story is that the young boy was always trying to figure out why he liked being with the old man so much. He finally realized that it was because the old man was totally present when he was with him, and it just felt good to be listened to and to have a person’s full attention.

How many times do you find your mind wandering when someone is talking to you? Are you being fully present for your family, friends, and co-workers? We all have the opportunity to give others the gift of our presence in every conversation we have. Try it out over the next few weeks and notice how good it feels for both you and the recipient of your presence. Being fully present for others is a beautiful gift you can give, and it doesn’t cost a thing.


I’d like to share a direct passage from the book:

“The present is what is. It is precious. Even if you don’t know why.

It is already just the way it is supposed to be.

When you see the present, accept the present, and experience the present. You are well and happy.

When you feel guilty over your imperfect past, or are anxious over an uncertain future, you are not living in the present.  You will experience pain, make yourself ill, and be unhappy.

As long as you continue to stay in the present, you will be happy forever: because forever is always the present.

The present is simply who you are, just the way you are right now…and that is precious.

The precious present is something precious you can give and receive from yourself.

For you are precious.” – Spencer Johnson, from The Precious Present