The best gift to give yourself and others is presence
Bill’s Tip for December: The Present of Presence
‘Tis the season for good cheer. We hustle and bustle, often going that extra mile to illustrate how much we care. Yet one of the most easily accessed and valuable offerings we can bestow on others is often overlooked:
The gift of our full-attention
Although texting in traffic, phoning while flipping channels and forwarding Facebook posts are all current ways to keep in touch, these practices do not qualify as acts of focused communication.
Because our brains love a good challenge, our thinking often goads us into multi-tasking behaviors: One errand complete, we’re on to the next – often jockeying around others as if they were obligations to check off or obstacles to manage. Unaware, we gulp-down our schedules and speed-swallow itineraries without savoring the vibrant flavors these interactions could provide us.
Please stop sipping your coffee and race-reading through this newsletter. Put down your mug, silence your smart phone and try the following two-minute exercise:
Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Draw in a couple of deep breaths. Focus on your sense of hearing: Mop up all the noises – great and small – around you. Flood your head with the existing sound-scape.
Should any distracting thoughts pop up, allow them to drift by as you return again and again to the din of life’s unfolding moments – listen to everything. Stay present. Notice.
Eyes now open, recollect – perhaps for the first time – the traffic you just heard outside your window, the ticking clock on your desk, the faint voices down the hall:
- Were you surprised by the number of sounds that came to the forefront?
- Were you startled by the volume of these sounds once you noticed them?
- Maybe the drawn-out length of the two-minute exercise astonished you?
- Are you feeling less stressed from this small dose of in-the-moment awareness?
I’ve worked clinically with athletes battling performance problems. Usually their issues revolve around being in their heads – striking out or missing the return volley because they are tied to thinking and, therefore, not fully present. Once these athletes clear their minds of internal dialog they find plenty of time to see and effectively respond to any exchange their sport presents. The same principle applies to all of our endeavors. As Teddy Roosevelt once said:
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
This year, consider savoring the season by chewing through your holiday schedule with a heightened perspective. Ask yourself:
Do I honor others with my presence?
Share the present of presence. Your full attention will often get theirs and together you can truly enjoy life’s greatest gift – each other.