Definitions of presence (noun) – according to Google
- The state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. Synonym: existence.
- A person or thing that exists or is present in a place, but is not seen. Synonym: spirit, specter, ghost
- A group of people, especially soldiers or police, stationed in a particular place.
- The impressive manner or appearance of a person. Synonym: charisma
Interestingly, “the state of being right here, right now” is not a definition recognized by Merriam-Webster. Look in the Urban Dictionary.
I’m not sure what it says about our culture that presence as “charisma” is “officially” recognized and presence as “right here, right now” is not.
“We first thought of presence as being fully conscious and aware in the present moment. Then we began to appreciate presence as deep listening, of being open beyond one’s preconceptions and historical ways of making sense.”
Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, Betty Sue Flowers, – Presence
- What is happening right now?
- What biases and assumptions am I bringing to this obsevation?
- How do I choose to respond to this?
This definition speaks to the relationship between self and the environment.
Senge and Co.’s definition of presence includes two of the three pillars of mindful training (as defined by Daniel Siegel): focused attention, open awareness, and kind intention.
- What am I paying attention to?
- What else is there? Is there a different way to frame this?
- How can I frame this with kind intention? Mine and others?
Presence, to me, is the skill that underlies the ability to listen, ask questions, and make change.
It’s also the most challenging skill (for me) to practice.
There are so many distractions.
We are encouraged to evaluate the past, plan the future, and be anywhere but right here, right now.
Looking at lessons learned is good, in its place. Planning for the future is good, in its place. Escapism can be useful, in its place.
I’m learning that I need to bias the right here, right now. Be more focused on who or what is right in front of me. Be more open to what surfaces. Approach it all through the framework of kind intent and assume kind intent in others (since that has been true in my life at least 75% of the time).
I’m more adaptive and agile if I am present and not looking so far ahead or hewing so closely to my plan.
My relationships improve when I am present – focused and open to the other.
Presence makes practicing the other 5 skills easier and more effective.