The less I am present, the more I can be present

dissolve self

I love what I do and have found, over time and practice, that I have developed a level of mastery at being a sounding board, with the key to that having little to do with knowledge and experience around leadership and business, it is far more to do with the ability to deeply listen.

As I wrote about yesterday in “Presence and asking the right questions“, I am constantly looking to deepen my practice. As with yoga, it is called practicing yoga. We are never “there”, it is a lifelong practice to grow, to improve.

Today a reflection on a particular exercise we ran at the Modern Elder Academy this week, ultimately leading me to come up with the Koan:

the less I am present, the more I can be present

As the monk Thich Nhat Hanh notes, is a Buddhist practice to “dissolve the self”. His message in the image above, though, takes it to another level. There is always another level on the journey of practice, and so it is with the practice of presence.

This week with my cohort of compadres at Modern Elder Academy, I have observed us all at different levels of mastery in different areas of what we bring in service of ourselves and others.

One of those areas has been the level of presence (or otherwise) we have each been able to bring to different areas of the work.

This absolutely includes me, as for personal reasons I have found it difficult at times to be fully present, as for those reasons I have often felt my focus shift away from Baja and back to other places, so I have recognised this to be part of my own challenge and opportunity to be present, to practice presence.

One area to talk about today is, as I talked about in yesterday’s post around being present to ask the right questions when we are being mentors, coaches, advisors, sounding boards to others.

One exercise we ran this week was to break out into pairs and have one person ask the other “the five whys”. Simply put, to choose one from a series of questions and have the other person ask you the same question five times. Each time you must give a different answer, and what always happens is that the answers get deeper and deeper to the source answer.

From the questions we were given to choose from, I chose “what mastery do you offer to others?”.

The first answer was basically what it says on this site and my Linked In profile, that I bring a wealth of business and leadership experience along with coaching experience to be a sounding board.

As the questions were repeated again and again though, the answers became more and more about bringing presence to another person to truly and deeply sense and hear them.

After we finished, I turned to my partner in the exercise and these words came to me:

the less I am present, the more I can be present

In the Buddhist way, yes, this is about my own practice of dissolving self.

In a more earthly expression, though, let me put it simply. The less our mind is present and thinking about the question to ask, the less we are present with our conscious and unconscious biases, our lens, our agenda, our thoughts. The less we are present ourselves, the more we can deeply listen and sense the other person. If I ask great questions, it happens when I am not thinking at all, the question organically comes forward from being deeply present to the other person.

As with all my writing, I share in hope and anticipation that sharing what I learn in my practice and from others can support you.

Also published on Medium.

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