Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Think Better - Presence IS Personal

A note from Suann Polverari, out of our New York office:

Moved as I am by images and words from powerful leaders, when we first started discussing presence as a team I turned to the regular suspects to inspire my introspection. After all, don't we all love stumbling on a great quote at a perfectly timed moment, or even better, sharing one with a friend just when they seem to mean it?

Greats like the unidentified protester in Tiannenmen Square, Rosa Parks or Mother Theresa are so iconographic it leaves the impression they were BORN for greatness with some special genetic coding to predispose them to rise with courage in the face of need or disaster. What about regular people like you and me - just getting through the day? Remembering that we are all born with such greatness of spirit and presence can be challenging with such examples to live up to.

Turning the question of presence to a more personal perspective is where the elements of presence come home. The following example of presence has nothing to do with changing the world or delighting celebrity news junkies. Ten years ago my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and on a very rapid decline. Her prognosis was to be immobilized within 6 months, a devastating change for my entire family, not to mention a catastrophy for her. No movie star, my mom is not someone you'd notice without reason, but what she did by focusing her intention is an act of being fully present to her situation.

What happened is this: as the first year went by all of us were in nervous anticipating the day when my mother would be unable to lift herself from her bed. After the second year, although slower in her movements she was still not in a wheel chair. To counter the natural depression, under her doctor's suggestion she began journaling, meditating and practicing yoga. After a couple of months, she was moving better, sleeping through the night.

The combination was miraculous: her positive thoughts resurfaced. My mother was back! A full ten years later, she has never succumbed to a wheel chair, and if you ask her how she'll tell you this, “I made a promise to myself to wake up every day and look in the mirror and say you will NOT be in a wheel chair permanently and you are a strong women who can conquer anything that comes your way.”

Many are the days when I need to remember my own strength and that I can conquer anything that comes my way. The practice below is one to remind yourself of exactly that:

1. Identify a challenge you are facing
2. Name all the reasons you MUST overcome it - these are the practical gains, the personal accomplishment, the evolution in your life, the hallmarks of success
3. List the QUALITIES you need within yourself to overcome it - courage, determination, compassion, communication, energy, etc.
4. Acknowledge you have all those qualities within yourself and remind yourself of that throughout every single day especially in moments where fear or limitation feels especially present.

Because while life has the propensity to knock us into auto-pilot, react react react, it is single-pointed attention that summons not only the greatness within us, but allows us to be present to that greatness and operate from it's ability rather than conditioned small thinking. If we're lucky, we'll never face a wheel chair at all. But because we're human, we do face self limiting possibilities every single day and need to cultivate the ability to confront them with determination and greatness.

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