The Art of Being Present
What's In Front of Us
Written by Gwen Halchuk on January 23, 2020
A couple years ago I was walking along a paved path in a park filled with blossoming green trees and my favorite flowers, tulips, were in bloom. It was an amazing spring day. The bright shades of eye popping pinks and bold oranges had my full attention as I was lost in thought over their beauty. I remember losing track of time for a few minutes as I took it all in. On one side of me was a handsome man playing frisbee with his golden lab where with each catch the dog made, the man would praise him endlessly. On the other side was a woman reading a novel that she was very enthralled in. She never looked up so you know this book was a good one. Every once in a while her face would crack a smirk followed by a subtle chuckle. I looked at her with curiosity and wondered what she was reading that had her so engaged. All around me were several people walking, running, or out for a stroll. It wasn’t about the pace, for them it was about the socializing and the fresh air.
Presence in Action
This is what I saw when I was being present. When I was 100% focused on what was right in front of me. I was practicing the art of being present! Living in the day for the day was a phrase that never made sense to me. I could not wrap my head around what it really meant to be living in the present. It seemed silly to me. Of course we live in the present, I could see myself getting stuff done and feel myself having various emotions; what more is there to see, I often pondered. I discovered living in the present is so much more than that, it really is an art and like any artist you act with intention even when you do not know exactly what will come to fruition. It action it is hearing what people have to say during the many conversations we have each day. It’s acknowledging the emotions of your friend that just got a job promotion and listening to the excitement in her voice. The cool idea that your co-worker had to make team meetings more impactful. The song that plays on the radio that brightens your morning or the birds chirping when spring is in full bloom.
Being Present in Conversation
One of the easiest ways to lose yourself and not be present, is during conversations. Throughout our day we have various types of conversations whether it be with our partner, a friend, our children or the Barista at our coffee shop. We are inundated with information and as the day goes one our ability to stay focused can absolutely be hindered. For myself, the big impacts are the time of day, how much problem solving I have been doing and what the topic is. These are just some of the distractions that pull me away from the act of being present. Now how do we improve our abilities; this is where it gets tricky as we all need something different. Boundary setting is an important skill to learn and apply; boundaries are not just physical where you seek solitude or go to yoga to clear the mind. It is also letting people know that you only have 5 minutes to chat or asking people to wait two minutes while you complete your task or thought at hand. You are then giving yourself time to switch your thoughts over and increase your chances of hearing what is about to come your way. Giving gratitude throughout is another small gesture with a big impact. When we are thankful for that perfect parking spot or the sunshine or the morning drop off for the kids going smoothly, it clears our mind through acknowledgement. When we acknowledge we let it go and make more room in our minds for new information.
Being Present in Meetings
How easy is it for our minds to wander in a meeting? Most people reading this know what I am talking about. Some of us experience back to back meetings or coaching sessions all day and these can be mentally exhausting. This is the perfect ingredient to throw presence out the window! To survive these days we have to set ourselves up for success. There are three key actions to take to that I utilize daily to take ownership of my mental state.
Take control of your calendar and ensure you block out time to execute, plan, strategize, etc; Your brain can generally keep up with all that it needs to do in a day, however it needs time to be flexed in different ways and given the opportunity to think about different things.
Always know why you are going into a meeting; are you there to lead the meeting; give insight; participate in a brainstorming session, etc. Know your role so your brain knows how much energy it needs to exert and keep emotions in line.
Do not over commit; just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to. This circles back to owning your calendar and setting boundaries for your mental health. Over committing leads to stress, anxiety and long days. Being present will be really hard to do.
Making a concerted effort to be present no matter what the situation, you will feel better about your day, more connected with your friends and family and better about your sense of self. The number of life elements that start to change in your life from the benefits of being present is phenomenal. There will be amazing changes that you are thankful for and seemingly, changes that you are not welcoming. However these usually end up being wonderful too once we can see the real impact. We all have a choice in life and choosing to make a change to improve your life is to be applauded. Make change today and enjoy what’s right in front of you and practice the importance of being present.