In the empty spaces between rushing water, I picked up pieces of the radio program “On Being” with Krista Tippet. In response to one of her introductory questions, Krista’s guest, Joanna Macy, indicated that the greatest gift we can give to someone is to be present. From there a few thoughts about being present came to mind.
First let’s accept that each of us a great gift. We each have a unique perspective, unique ideas that the other person really wants. To be present means that all of you, body and mind, is in
that conversation with the other person.
Being present requires more than just the effort of the moment. In order to be able to be wholly present with someone else, we need to be able to put other tasks and other thoughts aside. This requires that we are comfortable that we will have time for ourselves to complete those tasks and to have those thoughts. Having time for ourselves means that we are intentional about how we use our time. That is, we plan how and when we are going to use our time. We plan how and when early on.
Sometimes we are afraid to really be present because we are scared that we will not have answers. The other person does not necessarily want you to give solutions, sometimes they just want someone to listen. To listen means that you are hearing the words coming from the other person, not the words that are rattling around in your head.
If we do have something on our mind, or we are distracted, it does a lot for the other person to know what is going on in our head. As embarrassing as it might be to ask someone to repeat themselves because your mind drifted, I have found that that gesture is actually greatly appreciated because it shows you really care and you want to be present and hear what they have to say.
To be present means that you are making an investment. An investment implies that you will get a payback. While it is not always clear what the payback will be, it almost always happens. The more you put into the interaction, the more dividends you will receive.