What does it mean to be “fully present”?
I believe it’s much more than giving what or whoever is in front of you your full attention.
Firstly, when you are “in relation”, you are an important part of that relationship, and so I think it’s important that you are present with what’s going on for you, as well. That means paying attention to your own thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, body language, etc. They are a part of the space, and hence part of this relationship (if you wanted to learn a bit more about what that means and how to use it in psychological work, I can recommend my conversation with Robin Shohet on the Animas podcast.
Another dimension of presence is to pay attention to all the nested systems within which the relationship takes place, such as families, organisations, politics, culture, the eco-system, etc. Being present and paying attention to systemic influences on the relationship means you’re being more present with what’s in front of you than trying to view it in isolation.
In physics, the “4th dimension” is time. And on that level we’re being present to not just the present (pun intended), but also pay attention to the past and future. In coaching this translates to the coach having the client’s initial presenting issue and their history (past) as well as their goals, dreams and aspirations (future) present as they’re listening.
And yes, I appreciate it can feel counterintuitive that full presence means to pay attention to something other than the person in front of you, here in the present moment. But keep in mind that all these factors are always showing up, right here in the present moment.
The past is showing up now. The future is showing up now. The influence of various systems is showing up now. What’s going on inside of you is showing up in the space. They all influence the space, the person, and the relationship, and so they are worth paying attention to, and be present with.
No small feat, but a skill that can be acquired. And the more you practise tuning in in this way, the more it’ll become a way of being.
If you’re reading this, take a moment to look up!
Whatever it is you see (person, woman, man, camera, TV), I invite you to spend the next minute or so to be fully present with that.
Is there a 5th dimension, I wonder… ?
New content: Coaching for bereavement?
Many years ago I had an encounter with a coach who specialised in working with bereaved parents when they had lost a young child to illness or accident. I remember vividly how I felt. I felt it was wrong, well out of the scope of coaching, unethical. I wrote a Nugget on the subject, and several “bereavement coaches” reached out to me and in the conversations that followed, I changed my mind. Not on that particular coach that started it all. I still think they’re well out of bounds and ill-equipped to hold that space. But I did recognize that there is a place for coaching when people face loss and grief. It also goes well beyond having loved-ones die. It’s a broad range. Julia Menaul wrote the book on coaching and supervision for bereavement, and I was delighted to get to explore this work with her, and also discuss some of what made me cringe back in that day. A fascinating and timely conversation thanks to the podcast team at Animas Centre for Coaching. As always, you can watch or listen to this episode.
Back on popular demand
If you missed it last week, after a 2 year hiatus we’ve decided to run my popular Existential Coach training twice this summer, on the weekend of the 19th-20th August, and across 5x3hour sessions in September and October. Tickets are now live.
If you can’t make the dates, or you’re in the Eastern hemisphere, but keen to learn, hop over to this poll and indicate that you’d like to get on the waiting list for the online training (which is now finally in its last stage of production). Cheers!