Presence and personal mindfulness
I lived in Switzerland for fourteen years. High in the Swiss mountains, there are incredibly agile mountain goats. They climb in crevices and along ridges that seems impossible to those without mindfulness gazing from below. Many people never have the presence to see them as the goats are so far away and well camouflaged. There are also tiny deer leaping from rock to rock and grazing on the rich grass far away from human habitation. Marmots hiding in the undergrowth so people often don’t realise they exist. However, some individuals have no trouble hearing and seeing these creatures. Those with true presence and personal mindfulness.
How do they do that?
The mountain people have trained themselves to practice mindful stillness. They are so aware of their own body, presence and surroundings that they are able to see and hear with a sharpness so elusive to others. It is this kind of stillness and acute connection with nature that creates this special bond. The energy of nature and all it offers us if we just take the time to listen and observe.
Learning from nature
I was fortunate in that my father in law was a Swiss mountain guide. From the first moment I met him, I noticed how he observed and listened to anyone who spoke to him. He responded to the present moment with a profound sense of calm and deep awareness. He seemed to know instinctively what you needed without asking. If you were sad or happy, needed space or company he would know. With few words, he was able to convey his love and quiet presence and personal mindfulness when needed.
He took us to the mountains on many occasions and his ‘connectedness’ with nature was astounding. I remember feeling frustrated when I was unable to see and hear what he so easily managed. Animals in the shady crevices, tiny mountain flowers, birds high in the sky, trickling water. He had no better hearing or sight, just mindful presence and oneness with all that surrounded him. Slowly I dropped my wanting to see and I saw a tiny movement. Quietly I observed emotions in my body and noticed my surroundings, just as they were and not as I had imagined. I became still and curious with less expectation. I lived in presence with personal mindfulness. Images, sensations, feelings and sounds all began to have a clarity I had not known before.
I began to discover a real moment to moment awareness of how everything was connected; A realisation that all was as it needed to be, in that particular space and time. It was fascinating to realise that aspects of my own way of being had obscured what I felt, saw and heard.
How do we tap into the silence that enables us to go deeper into our 1-2-1 meetings?
How often do we feel the need to respond to the pain or challenge of our employees and in so doing we intrude on their own way of being and coping? In this way, we merely interrupt our relationship to their own individual’s thought process. We can prevent this by increasing our awareness of how are we sitting – still, relaxed and open to whatever turns up. Paying attention to our gestures and noticing how they fit with our words and emotions. Practising presence and personal mindfulness.
Showing respect and acceptance
It is this quality of attention that shows respect and allows for an unconditional positive space for employees to explore and grow. It enables us to better notice and understand the intricacies and often multi-layered relationships they are involved in.
Leaders need to keep a broad overview of what is going on for them in the organisation and how the different parts relate to each other. How the different personality types and behaviours affect standards, performance, well-being and core values. When we pay attention and are present in the “now” of the meeting we can support employees to clarify their own understanding of those sometimes very complex contexts.
The key to ‘seeing from the whole’ is developing the capacity not only to suspend our assumptions but to ‘redirect’ our awareness towards the generative process that lies behind what we see
Quote from ‘Presence by Peter Senge
It is the quiet and respectful attention we show when listening to a wonderful musical performance. To recall those moments that have touched our hearts and allowed us to go deeper to listen to the rhythm of the soul.
Is there a distinction between mindfulness and presence?
When we are mindful of all that surrounds us, we become more sensitive to what is happening to us and within us, more alert. We can take in the sounds, sights, smells, touch and be in tune with our body and feelings.
As a result, we become present to what is happening in the moment for others and ourselves tuning in with our body and breathing. We are totally grounded in the moment with no internal chatter or invasive thoughts.
As leaders in the fast-paced VUCA world, this is vital to ensure considered action and clear decision making.
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