“Before doing, being.”
Donald Winnicott, MD
It’s for good reason that we frequently hear about mindfulness and presence practice along with collaboration in our work lives. Practicing presence helps us respond to people, opportunities and setbacks with greater clarity, honesty and authenticity. The capacity to collaborate enables us to perform with greater effectiveness and satisfaction. Although presence or mindfulness practice is ancient, interest has grown steadily in recent years. Books, instructors and instructions on the subject abound. Increasingly we see presence practice has made its way into our work places. By linking the practice of presence and collaborations, where can we fundamentally point?
Within us resides a knowing that we are not separate. We are connected to each other – collaborative beings – whether we prefer it or not. The knowledge of our inter-connection opens up this perspective: that we are responsible for acting consciously and compassionately with others and ourselves.
Practicing presence can help us fulfill that responsibility and to more effectively navigate our relational world. For those of us who work with or lead others, moments of mindful presence can:
- Transform our habitual responses to old problems into new perspectives and fresh choices.
- Guide us away from saying, doing or writing something damaging that cannot be taken back.
- Help us behave authentically, innovate and drive new ideas and collaborate with each other unbound by negative past experiences.
Being present is simply the capacity to attend to what’s happening now, without being hijacked by memories or worries about future events. Sensing each breath, we are present with our body. Listening to a colleague speak –her/his words and intonations – without making up our own stories about them, we are being present with another person. And, in the space between and beyond thought, we can deepen our experience of presence. We become more conscious of who we are and where we are – cognitively, emotionally, somatically and relationally.
Presence is a state and a practice well worth cultivating.
Let’s do a brief practice right now. Let’s stop. Can you notice your breath? Can you notice your attention when it goes back to thought? And, can you redirect it again to the breath? Can you allow yourselves to be quiet?
When we stop to rest in mindful presence – even for a moment – we offer ourselves the chance to notice everything just as it is. Our mind chatter of right and wrong, good and bad, likes and dislikes, can recede. For a moment, our inner argument with reality ceases. Informed by enhances awareness and perspective, we can make wiser choices and take actions more congruent with our purposes.
No matter where we are, we can direct our attention to presence practice: sitting, walking, attuning to the gap between words in conversation or in the space between words on the page.
As we begin to practice, we may see our experience of presence appears fleeting. Yet, however few and far between, these moments of conscious presence positively impact us. Right here, only a breath always, presence invites our return.
By practicing mindful presence, we can choose to act with greater clarity and authenticity while we pursue our individual and collaborative goals.