Being present

Here’s an exchange I had recently with a delegate on the second morning of one of my Communication Skills courses...

Here’s an exchange I had recently with a delegate on the second morning of one of my Communication Skills courses. I had taught the group some powerful techniques on the first day – such as letting the breath drop down to the abdomen – and I’d asked them to practise these overnight.

K. ‘How did you get on with practising the techniques overnight?’
‘I didn’t really. I think need a bit of time on the weekend really to practise them.’
‘What, breathing?!’
‘Well yes.’
‘You’re breathing all the time, aren’t you? Once you go out of your house to catch the tube or whatever, as you walk along the street, you can practise your breathing then. It doesn’t need to take up any extra time.’
‘But I get distracted when I’m walking along. There’s lots of stuff going on in my mind.’
This raises a profound point. Almost all of us are distracted when we’re walking along the street. Our minds are jumping around all over the place. It’s like zapping TV channels. We’re replaying a conversation we had earlier this morning, or last night. Or we’re rehearsing a conversation we’d like to have with our boss or with our partner, or our bank manager. We constantly allow our mind to drag us back into the past, or pull us forward into the future. And we’re seldom truly in the present moment. We can walk to the tube station and not even notice what sort of day it is. And we are certainly not aware of how we’re breathing. There’s no awareness.
If you can occasionally catch yourself out in these fantasies, and jolt yourself into the present, into the now, you become aware. You become present. Even doing this for a few moments, a few times each day will make a difference. Being aware, you are going to heighten your presence. And doing this more often in everyday life, in small ways, you will gradually be able to bring that presence into the big moments in the workplace – you’ll have more presence in a meeting, a negotiation, a phone conference or a presentation.
So to come back to my original point, if you want to develop the skill of breathing down, you can remember to do this when you’re walking along the street, or driving your car, or watching television.
‘But I like to plan out my day when I’m walking to work. It’s like free time.’
‘Fine, but there’s a difference between conscious thinking – such as planning out your day, or solving a problem – and unconscious thinking, which is just chatter inside your head. The knack is to catch yourself out when the chatter takes over again.’

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