The Power of Presence

18th Oct 2018

For years I’ve wanted to created more space in my day-to-day calendar. You know – for thinking, for downtime, for reflection. For breathing out and lightening up. For the past couple of years, I’ve even had ‘spaciousness’ as one of my words for the year. I’ve been super-committed!

And each year I look back on how I spent my time and say “Wow, I wish I didn’t get so busy. That was full on! Next year I want more spaciousness.” If you’re a long time reader, you’ll know I plan my year ahead and book in big chunks of time out for holidays. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about getting a sense of spaciousness in day-to-day living.

The nature of my work means my time is often booked months ahead for workshops, keynotes, and client meetings. And in between those blocks of time is preparation, idea development and general admin. It gets pretty full. In the past, I’ve had that sinking feeling at the start of a week when I look at my calendar. “When am I going to get some thinking space?” Maybe you feel the same when you look at your calendar?

A few weeks ago I got honest with myself and realised this spaciousness-in-the-calendar thing was not going happen. So I decided on a different approach: I’d make it less about the conditions ‘out there’ and more about the conditions ‘in here’. What I mean by that is that it’s more about my state of mind than the state of my calendar.

In practice, I chose to focus on being ‘present’ as much as possible. Just be totally focused on what I was doing at the time. Not ruminating about what I’d just done (or should have done), nor worrying about what was coming up next. (My colleague Nick Petrie has written extensively about this – well worth a read). As I began to practice being present, I noticed an immediate shift in my energy and sense of OK-ness. In a word, I felt lighter. Life became lighter. Nice. More of that, thanks.

Does that mean that I don’t think about what’s coming up, or consider how I could have done something differently in the past? No. However, my relationship to those things has become different. I’ve still got a part of my mind paying attention to where I might need to be next. But that voice is not so loud anymore. It doesn’t need to be. I can be present while knowing that time is unfolding.

I’ve also noticed that I’m getting better quality reflection happening ‘in the moment’. In a recent leadership workshop, one of the participants profoundly said “you can meditate while eating toast.” Being focused doesn’t have to take a big chunk of your time. At our last Change Makers workout, we discussed the power of focus, wherever you are. I think one of the reasons I love to surf, windsurf and mountain bike is that they force me to focus on what’s right in front of me. Distractions dissolve, lightness emerges. Fun begins.

What I’ve learned is that I don’t need huge amounts of downtime in my day-to-day (and in any case, it’s not practical) And if I practice presence, it makes all the difference.


Photo: The Surfer’s Journal