Actors say that one should never work with small children and animals. Why so? Well there is congruence and honesty about them. There is no act or pretence. They are in the moment. And this establishes a presence, which we all intuitively recognise, and subconsciously we gravitate to that.
As adults too often our presence is lost, as we are consumed in tasks, (relative) status and function.
It is presence which facilitates relationships. In what Patsy Rodenburg calls the second circle we are as equally open to that which is occurring around us as to what we are contributing. When someone is present with us we have their attention, we are connected, we feel acknowledged and valued. When someone with great presence enters our space they shift the energy, they light up the room. Our attention is naturally drawn to them.
How often do we work with presence? And what does that mean?
In our modern lives and in our work we are bombarded with distraction. Phones. Email. Social media. You name it. We are challenged my a clash in demand. Once upon a time if we turned up early for a meeting it was time for a quick catch up with our peers now it is perhaps time to do a couple of emails or see what likes have come in on Facebook or LinkedIn.
To have presence we must be first be present. Submitting to the distractions draws us away from the present. Our attention ceases to be in the same place as our bodies. Mind dislocates from our bodies. The lights are but no one is home, to quote that aged cliche.
Throughout most of human endeavour work has been active. I would argue that we are now passive or at best sedentary, be it scanning bar codes in super markets or constructing and completing complex spreadsheet. Our minds are busy but our bodies are not. Traditionally our bodies were busy too.
In somatic learning we acknowledge the equal contribution of our bodies to our consciousness. In some ways the modern word is boring for our bodies. Like all mammals we are hardwired to move. Now we have to create special time for that, we have to take it to them to the gym or out for a run each morning. Boredom opens us to distraction.
The Art of BEING at Work is about learning to recognise our triggers or to effectively recognise when we have been distracted. That our attention is no longer where we intended it to be. It is not so much about fighting the distractions, but knowing they occur, recognising them and then returning our attention to where we intended it to be.
To be present for others we must first be present for ourselves. We must be in our bodies. We must notice when we have been drawn away and find the means to bring ourselves back, to ground and centre ourselves within our being,
For me sometimes I breathe. Sometimes I allow my attention to rest quietly back in my own physicality. I might find a stillness within. Whenever I can I stand beside a horse.
Presence never happens if do not permit ourselves to be present. The Art of BEING at work aims to shine a light on that foundation. To offer different ways and means of returning. And by taking that exercise to a space alongside horses we create a real, yet safe and non-judgemental analogue of distraction to work with.
Horses are a perpetual embodiment of presence. Beside them we are invited to be the same.