I want to share some thoughts I have had recently about presence. Presence, or the act or process of being present, is to be fully engaged in the moment. It is the capacity to engage with others while at the same time being aware of the effect I am having on the other person or people I am engaged with. Sounds easy, right?  Well, it really is not so easy.

To be fully present and engaged requires us to do many different and necessary things at the same time. To be fully present, we need to be aware of our thoughts, our words, and our bodies as we are relating to others. We also need to get outside of ourselves and be aware of the other person’s words and actions through a neutral lens. In order to be present, we cannot assume what someone is thinking. We never know what someone else is thinking unless they tell us. We have to ask questions and continually enter interactions with others while asking ourselves, “what can I learn from you?” and “what am I assuming about you or your behavior right now?”

To be fully present in any interaction, we need to fight the urge to impose our values or desires onto the other person. Doing this - being present – is very difficult and takes an enormous amount of energy. Maintaining presence is difficult in the best of times. During those times when our energy is low, or our concentration is not at its best, or when we are stressed and tired, or when we are living with too much ambiguity, maintaining presence is almost impossible – almost. It is possible if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and  ask each other for help. Ask how we can help. Ask what we can learn. Ask how we are being viewed by the other person. We are all different. This difference - is what holds us together. The great benefits of our wonderful diversity emerge through being truly present.

Our mission at Aspire is rooted in relationship – the relationships with those we serve, as well as our relationships with each other. Presence is the essential element of connection – it is at the core of all that we do. We cannot serve our mission or live up to our responsibilities towards one another if we are not present. Be mindful, be present, be aware of the needs of the other person. If we all practice these basic actions, our collective needs get met and we transform.

One of my favorite poets, David Whyte, says that “beauty is the harvest of presence.”. This is so very true. The beauty that emerges from serving others, from knowing that we have affected others in a positive way, from showing up for each other, and from creating meaningful relationships is the light and the energy that fuels us and our work. It is essentially the beauty of our craft. Presence is the emotional center of Aspire Living & Learning.

I look forward to continuing the journey with you all. Take care and be well.

- Lou

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The Art of Presence