Are You With Me?


Clueless in Conversation-ville?

Are you really “with” people when you’re with them? Are you really hearing, seeing,
feeling, sensing, breathing them in? Or are you often bored, distracted, rushed, or
wishing you were somewhere else? Do you jump ahead in the conversation, saying
what you know they meant to say or strategize “fixes” for their concerns before
they have hardly left their lips? Do you find yourself sizing up their clothing choice,
or facial quirks, or figit with your pen or take in the activity in the room while they
are speaking?
No matter who I am with, I am often dreamily lost in thought: “if only they… speak
up, shut up, be quick, be reasonable, or be honest. I spend a lot of time “wishing”
who I think the other person ought to be and what I want them to say – or not, and
only a small part of my brain or heart is really with them in the now. Sure, we’ve all
been accused of not being “with it” as they say; but often it has become a very bad
habit. Our lack of presence speaks volumes.

Is Your “Half-Heartedness” Showing?

When a person is getting only a portion of our attention, it sends a clear message
that they don’t matter terribly much. As a result, relationships subtly suffer and so
does productivity. Sure, we can “get by with it”, we all do it. And But what price are
we paying to have half of our consciousness half way around the world? A lot of
misinformation and misinterpretation takes place. People are confused, hurt, and
angry, lost. They feel insignificant. They tend toward uncooperativeness, half-
hearted work, absenteeism, health issues, even undermining each other.
Relationships are strained and artificial or contentious. The loss to me personally is
something I rarely consider – lack of support, lack of intimacy, lack of integrity.

Is it that we don’t value each other enough to be attentive for just a minute, don’t’
realize the impact, or is it that we just don’t know how?

Practice the Presence

In his 1999 book Practicing the Presence of People. Mike Mason on the contrary,
encourages the reader to learn how to be present in– and to– the “presence” of
other people. This involves being willing to see others as they are, for who they are,
and be OK with that. Essentially, to practice the presence of others means paying
full and close attention to the people you are with. The surprising thing is how
rewarding and freeing it can be – on both sides.

When we are able to be present, we are warmly focused. We find ourselves
enjoying the other’s company, fascinated by their uniqueness, intrigued by their
mystery, and at the very least — or best — at peace with them. Practicing the
presence of people is an awareness, yes, but most of all, it is a choice and finally, an
art. As with any art or creative expression, the basis for great results is practice,
practice, practice!

Love the One You’re With

To be “with” someone or present to someone is a choice, but it is a dedicated choice
some might call a commitment. Could it be, that giving someone our full attention
is the essence of real love? Attentiveness is a listening with the heart and soul. It is
not something you give on occasion, it is a consistent way of being with other
people through thick and thin. There are steps to be learned, difficulties to be
overcome, insights to be implemented, benefits to be enjoyed. All of this involves
devotion and persistence. Mason compares the experience of being present to
other people to a contemplative way of praying. Why? Back in the 1600’s, a monk
named Brother Lawrence aptly coined the phrase “practicing the presence of God. ”
Brother Lawrence learned the secret to being aware of and taking in the reality of
“God with us. ” This led to his ability to be ever connected to this divine presence
with an added bonus that changed his life- contentment in everything.

When we connect to the presence of another, we are “engaged”. We are content to
‘love the one we are with” and not wsh we were somewhere else.
In engagement, we move from being spectators to being participants. In this role,
we are no longer intimidated or judgmental, nevermind distracted. We are fully
aware but not rest-less. We are in a state of active rest.

So, away with pre-occupation, away with busyness, business as usual, time-
consciousness, driven-ness, thinking ahead, fixing, solving, sweating the
discomfort of others. Let’s practice being fully focused, fully present to the next
person we converse with. It’s a awarenes It is choice. It’s an art. It is love.
Rewarding conversations not only make sense, they make cents. “Presence” is the
best kind of gift!

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