Throughout our schooling and training lives, we answered to a roll call. “Here”, or “Present” – or the boys would try to shake it up with a “Yo” or unintelligible grunt (girls – admit you rolled your eyes). It was a ritual that began every class – confirming who was here. As in many rituals, our responses to roll call were automatic. The real question was – after class started, were we only physically here? Or were we totally present? My teachers often said I was the former.
Today we are all busier than ever – our professional and personal circles – jobs, loved ones, communities – all need or demand more of us than ever. And we ask more of ourselves than ever to meet all those needs. But for most of us, we’re simply adding to the plate with a diminishing sense of accomplishment. In one discussion, one client said to me, “I’m not burning the candle at both ends – pretty much the whole thing is in the fire. I’m wondering if I’m throwing light or just melting.”
I’m not burning the candle at both ends – pretty much the whole thing is in the fire. I’m wondering if I’m throwing light or just melting.”
The Risk of Ritual
The cool picture from our Yoga teacher trainers prompted us to think about the difference between being “here” and being “present.” Our lives often have a ritual to them – and ritual can be very helpful for a sense of order and continuity especially when there’s so much to do. But with practiced ritual can come automatic response – being here rather than being present. I made my meetings. I finished my mid-year reviews. I made my class. I called my mother. I saw my daughter’s game. I got it done – I was here.
How to Be in the Present
To be fair, just being here for the important things is its own accomplishment – that’s a higher level ofintegration (take the Integrated Practices Assessment) than missing them altogether. But the level above being here – the level that starts getting at that sense of doing things well – is being present, aka being mindful. There are different practices that help us increase our mindfulness (yoga being a favorite), but if you want to try something simple today that may take you from here to present, take a breath.
If you want to try something simple today that may take you from here to present, take a breath.”
Breathing Techniques at Work
Before you have your next business conversation, breathe. Focus on your breath for a few moments as you imagine the conversation. Whether you’re just saying hello or taking a tough question in a meeting – try it. If you are asking a tough question – try it. See how different it feels. The American Institute of Stress has written about the value of taking a deep breath. Imagine how would be to feel that each time you are dealing with something at work.
Breathing Techniques at Home
Or at home. If you’re watching a loved one participate in something, leave the phone in your purse or pocket, breathe, and watch with your eyes. If you’re lying in bed awake and are one of the many cited in a Harvard study needing to sleep, focus on your breath and count each one. Taking a breath at work or home is one way to be present.
Integrating what you do is a great way to be more present – take the APP IPA to see how integrated you are or contact APP directly to learn how they work with business leaders to improve productivity, engagement, performance and wellness.
But today – just breathe.
Some people can stand their inverted body over their forearms, others are blessed to stand up straight on their feet. Neither is more mindful than the other.