By Barbara @ Follow Your Own Rhythm
Truth be told, I have a slight "obsession" with people being present while they're engaging with me. Maybe it's due to my highly sensitive nature, but I'm keenly aware of people’s energies, tendencies, feelings, and behaviors, and therefore I pick up SUPER easily on when they aren’t 100% tuned in.
The cues are subtle, but I can tell when they are distracted, disinterested, confused, aren’t fully listening, aren’t fully there, and everything in between. I can tell more than they can tell about themselves. Often times if I bring it up, they'll say "yea, I didn't even realize, but you're right, I was thinking of something else."
And this sense of awareness extends to being keenly aware of myself, as well as of my environment and surroundings, therefore I pick up on all sorts of subtleties happening around me.
I guess you can call this a gift, and of course it has it's pros and cons, but with regards to the pros, it's allowed me to have genuine conversations with people and to be more present with them. With regards to the cons, it can get frustrating and overwhelming being so aware of everything and sensing when people aren't present.
Why the obsession with people being present though?
On a soul level, and especially in this disconnected and unconscious society, we all crave CONNECTION. This stems from our childhood where we were never seen for the true spirit that we are.
We were born into an unconscious world with unconscious parenting and we grew up believing that we aren't "enough" or that we "lack" something.
So we try to fill this "lack" with external things and identities, but what we're truly lacking is connection. Connection from our true spirit, our soul, our Higher self. Connection from others. And connection from Life, the HigherTruth, God, the Divine, our Source.
And guess what? Presence awakens this connection.
Therefore, I try my best to be present with others, not only to exemplify what I wish to get back in return, but it’s the only true way to connect to another.
So what is presence?
Simply put, presence is awareness. And awareness is basically attention. When we are present with other people, it simply just means that we are conscious with them and giving them our full and conscious attention and awareness.
You can look at being present with another as a form of unconditional love because when you're truly present, there are no egos, judgments, agendas, or distractions involved; just one soul being with another.
Now this might sound complicated and people might not understand when someone tells them to “just be present with others” as they might think it has to do with doing things for them, buying them things, or showing them off to other people (such as showing off your baby to others like “look what Chloe can do or look how smart Sarah is!”)
No. Presence doesn’t require DOING. It’s so much simpler than that. It’s a matter of BEING.
What does "being" mean?
Being simply means to just let yourself, others, and life just be, without your control, without having to do, say, or think anything, and without any distractions, expectations, judgments, or agendas.
Your “beingness” as Eckhart Tolle calls it is your presence. It’s the energy of life, peace and existence itself that emanates from deep within you. It is the truth of who you are.
Being has nothing to do with doing. Doing, accomplishing, and achieving all have their place, but when you’re trying to be present and tap into the essence of life, it’s all about being.
“It is to see clearly that what I perceive, experience, think, or feel is ultimately not who I am, that I cannot find myself in all of those things that continuously pass away. What remains is the light of consciousness in which perceptions, experiences, thoughts, and feelings come and go. That is Being, that is the deeper, true I. When I know myself as that, whatever happens in my life is no longer of absolute but only of relative importance. I honor it, but it looses it’s absolute seriousness, it’s heaviness. The only thing that ultimately matters is this:
-Can I sense my essential Beingness, the I AM, in the background of my life at all times?
-Can I sense the I AM that I am at this moment?
-Can I sense my essential identity as consciousness itself?
-Or am I loosing myself in what happens, loosing myself in the mind, in the world?”
Eckhart Tolle from “A New Earth”
When you’re present with another, it’s all about giving someone your time, energy, and attention.
It’s all about tuning into their energy, their essence, their heart, and taking in the wholeness that they are.
In practical terms, it means truly paying attention to what they’re saying, doing, sharing or asking. And it’s also about recognizing when someone needs more of your presence, and then tuning into them wholeheartedly.
Now this doesn’t have to be draining and self-sacrificing, so don’t think you have to spend all of your waking hours listening and paying attention to other people.
You also shouldn’t become a doormat for people to dump their complaints, opinions and problems on.
What you should do is weigh the conversation and relationship and see if it’s worth your time, energy and attention in any particular moment or situation.
“Is this conversation worth it? Is this conversation meaningful to me? Do I care for this person? Does this person need me right now? Do I want to connect with this person? Do I want to upkeep this relationship? Do I want to show my love?”
So basically, you have to evaluate your conversations and relationships and determine whether or not you want to nurture them. If the answer is no, then you know it's time to walk away.
But if you ARE deciding to maintain a relationship with someone, if you ARE committing to a conversation, if someone wants to share their heartfelt feelings with you, if someone needs you, or if you just simply want to be more connected to others, then you should definitely practice total presence. Here are 5 ways you can do that.
5 Practical Ways to be More Present With Other People
1. Drop your agenda and your expectations and just listen with an open-mind and heart.
If you want to totally be present with another, you have to first and foremost stop what you’re doing, forget about your expectations, desires, and standards, and just simply take in what the other person is saying.
If you don’t do this, then the whole time they are talking, you will be focusing on "not wanting to be there” and not having enough time to listen to them, being annoyed at what they’re saying, thinking of what they should be doing better, waiting for your turn to talk, disagreeing with their point of view, and all sorts of disconnecting thoughts.
The other person, in turn, will pick up on your restless energy, feel that you don’t want to be there or that you’re not truly listening to them, and they will feel immediately disconnected from you. This can lead to arguments, passive aggression, or relationships ending.
2. Make eye contact when talking to another person.
In order to be more present when talking to other people, it really helps to look them in the eye either as you talk to them or as they talk to you. First of all, this shows to the other person that you're engaged and paying attention, which essentially shows that you care for them and respect them.
As my speech teacher in college used to say "the eyes are the window to the soul." When you look someone in the eye, you can learn so much about how they feel, so no wonder it's a connecting experience when you make eye contact with another.
Making eye contact while talking with another also ensures that you’re not off in your own world thinking about something else, that you’re not looking around getting distracted, and that you’re not doing things while people are talking to you. It’s a simple trick but very powerful.
3. Engage in the activity that the other person is doing WITH them.
This could also be called quality time yet it’s a bit more specific than that. It’s not just about hanging out with another doing something you both love, it’s about immersing yourself into the activity that the other person is immersed in.
This is most common with children, so for example, getting on the floor and playing legos with your child, playing dress up with your daughter, making a movie with your teenager, or helping your son with his homework.
However, this can also be applied to adult loved ones by spending your time doing things they love. If they love cooking, you can cook with them. If they love gardening, you can garden with them. If they love scrapbooking, you can scrapbook with them. If they need help brainstorming ideas for a new business, you can brainstorm with them.
Obviously you should do this within limits and not burn yourself out, because than you’re no good for anyone. The point is to go beyond what you like to do and into the world of someone else, and show them that they are worthy enough of your time, attention, and energy.
4. Just BE with the person without having to necessarily DO or SAY anything.
Your loving and peaceful presence can be felt without words, and sometimes it’s all that’s needed. For example, you can simply just sit next to your spouse and just BE in the moment without talking or doing anything. It’s what some people would call “awkward silence” so they avoid it by filling the air with meaningless words and actions, but this is exactly what you need to get comfortable with. Just being in the silence without feeling like you need to do something. You can both be next to each other, comforting each other with your presence, and just enjoying the moment together.
However, thinking incessantly, playing on your phone, or doing some other distracting activity would not qualify for being present with another as you’re not FULLY there. The whole point is to simply experience the silence, the space, the energy, the moment…. simultaneously with someone else.
5. Simply take in and observe the other person while they’re in their “element.”
We’re not talking in a creepy, stalking kind of way, but in a genuine “I care for you, I see you” kind of way. An example of this would be observing and paying attention to your child playing, swimming, or reading a book, your husband cooking or working on his car, your friend drawing or painting, your mom tending to her garden, etc.
It’s about taking in the other person while they’re in their natural environment and element.
And the key is to observe them without internally judging, criticizing, correcting, interpreting, or even saying anything to them. You’re just simply “seeing” them. You’re becoming aware of them.
You can do this with a gentle smile on your face and a loving look in your eyes so they know you’re not judging them, but the point is to give someone else your full attention WHILE they are "doing their thing."
They might look up and see you watching them, and they will sense your love and presence and feel all the more connected to you, and to their true, authentic selves as well. This is presence at it’s best. Just simply becoming aware of another.
Dr. Shefali Tsabary played a key role in helping me become more present with others. If you'd like to explore her teachings, I recommend starting with her book "The Conscious Parent" whether or not you have any kids. Her teachings are more about transforming yourself and becoming more conscious, and from that place you can be more present with others.
At the end of the day, when you want to show someone that you love and care for them, the best present you can give them is your presence.
I hope these tips will allow you to be more present not just with the people you love, but with all the people you come into contact with.
The video linked below is by spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle on the how to be more present. He talks about the power of silence and using it as your teacher. If you have trouble sitting still or feel uncomfortable with silence, I highly recommend watching this video.
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