I love words. If I was not in Education, I would probably like to be either a writer or a glossologist, a journalist or even better a professional blogger. For me, words, their structure, their letters, the verbs and their tenses, the adjectives, the position of the words in a sentence is pure magic! Once a word is written down, it gains a unique power, its relationship and position with the rest of the words, reveals the message, the writer, the feeling and the meaning, a meaning which is “translated” here and now, based on the context, the person that reads it, now, in the present moment.
The title of this post is an example of the power of the meaning of the same spelled word – p r e s e n t – and the different ways it can be used. And the post is indeed about the present of presence in the present moment, the gift of being present here and now.
Even though our everyday habits have lost their meaning, their truth intention is for me, brilliant. All of us have been in meetings, conferences, classrooms etc where the first thing that takes place is “seeing who is in the room”. In some way – fun, standard, simple, creative etc – each participant/student declares that they are present in the room, or the organizer/head of the meeting takes the role to check or present who is there. A practice, which may seem trivial, boring, not necessary, however for me reveals a great practice of humans, the one of calling the people in the specific place to be present, body, mind and soul.
And someone may say, yes, easy, so what? Not really. Could we all actually say that we are 100% present in all moments in our lives? Are we 100% present in every meeting, every relationship, every hangout with friends and other loved ones? Are we 100% present in our classrooms, as teachers or students, are we 100% present when we are at a conference, at a party, at an arts exhibition, at a walk with our dog?
Calling people to be present is the first step of co-creating meaningful, purposeful and reflective learning spaces.
And by learning space, I mean, any kind of relationship that gets formed with the purpose to improve, become better, learn from each other.
How do I know if people are present or not? and what can I do to bring them back on track?
Being present is a statement. It is an acceptance of someone saying “Here I am. With my experiences, my thoughts and ideas, my failures, my successes, my flaws and my talents and I am open to cocreate and learn with you” Can one spot when someone is not in such a mood? Yes. Each one of us can.
What can we do though when someone gets off track?
There are some practices that help. Meditation for example is one, to bring people back in the space and in a state of mind that allows them to give and receive, to breathe in and breathe out. Gently calling people to come back; with respect and genuine interest, bringing the attention to the person that they are not there. And because of that, they are missing and the group is missing, the collective intelligence is missing out, too. Eye contact is crucial. No speaking while looking at my tablet, smartphone, notes etc. Being there and being present, means I open my mind and heart and I let you, I welcome you see that.
When I am at a business meeting, my body posture, my state of mind, my brain works in this frequency. I am not thinking of the next meeting, the dinner with my father or the party I went to last week. If I start doing that, I am conscious of that and I bring myself back…even if I am in love:) (harder I know). When I am at a party with my loved one, I am not thinking of the work I have the next day. If I decide to spend 2 hours with my best friend I will make use of the time by being there; by respecting life, destiny and all the choices that both of us took that made us fortunate enough to share that moment together.
Imagine how a meeting, a discussion, a conference would be if all would be or make a genuine effort to be 100% present. A different world. With different conversations, different choices, different.
A practice for being present is having meaningful conversations. For me, this means connecting with people in a way that goes into fields that matter to each, not just the professional ones, but also the things that shape them as a whole; what they love, what makes them laugh, cry, stressed, sad. All these things, that noone will find in a Facebook profile, in Linkedin or in a twitter account. For starters, this is not an easy process for me either; being totally open and vulnerable is definitely not something that I master at. Second, the economic crisis? the comfort of distance that comes with technology? the “type” of people in my network? has that made people more scared of showing anything that makes them less perfect? This is a huge obstacle for someone to overcome, when wanting to have an authentic and meaningful relationship.
I believe that everything that happens in our lives is for us to meet specific people. Not to just experience a situation, a new place, but in the end, for us to meet those persons that will influence who we are. It may happen through a beautiful connection with them or through one that will hurt us and tear us into pieces. In any of these cases, my way is to experience them 100%, not holding back of who you are, your presence, not operating from a source of fear. By being there fully present, with the intensity of your emotions, with the power of your brain and all that you can give. If you are in a relationship, and for some reason you are not present a. see why and b. try and fix it, even if this means that you let go of the relationship. But if you decide to stick around, make it count. Cause in the end , as it has been said, our life’s legacy is measured by the “taste” our presence leaves to the people that cross our paths.
Can we be perfect? Can we be kind to anyone? No, we are bound to hurt others. But, we can also go back and say a “Thank you” or a “I am sorry.” or treat people as if they matter, even several years later, when we realise it. We hurt others, we get hurt, we learn and through that we hopefully become better. Living with regret or an un-examined, not reflective life is two extremes that take away our peace and happiness.
Finally, even though I have used the term “present” (gift) in the title of this post, being present is definitely not something that is just given to us. It requires a lot of effort and most of all, mastering our most powerful tool; our mind. Even though we come across situations and people so attractive that captivate us in the past or make us think constantly about the future and what it will bring, the truth and the matter is that in the end of day that is all that we have: now, the present moment and the choice, the opportunity to stand up, show up and be present.