conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Posts Tagged ‘presence

Give Your People Presence

with 10 comments

Is Drawing a Spiritual Discipline?

Betty Edwards, in her Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999) calls for a different way of seeing as a beginning point for drawing. In my 60+ days of producing a dumb sketch daily I can say with certainty that my seeing has been altered. I’m open to and actively looking for much more detail in ordinary life. In particular, in the back of my mind I spend my days looking for scenes or objects or people I can reproduce (badly) on paper. And I see far more detail in buildings and structures and postures and faces than I did two months ago.

Starting to see differently feels like a small victory.

Can a dumb sketch help you be present?

Can a dumb sketch help you be present?

Edwards has a long section on brain functionality, how the left brain works versus the right brain. I have a growing skepticism about the neatness of those two categories. I think there is some truth in the distinction. And the distinction works well for release from our typical analytical state into a more meditative zone of creativity. I’ve long depended on that zone for more creative writing assignments. But the research citations feel a bit dated and frankly I’m always a bit skeptical of forced black and white interpretations of complex physiology.

But this notion of sitting with stillness before a scene to observe, capture and (potentially) understand—it feels like a life skill that could and should translate into all sorts of different settings. Slowing to see and hear has begun to awaken all sorts of new thoughts in my brainpan. I find the practice encroaching on normal conversations, on meetings, on writing, on driving and even as I pray.

Especially as I pray.

I cannot help but wonder if learning how to observe, capture and (potentially) understand is a step toward being more present with all the beings in our lives.


Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

February 9, 2015 at 9:00 am

Being Present is Hard Work

leave a comment »

Just Don’t be Boring

I know this from teaching college students. Some students are right there with you (I love these people!). I see others fade into and out of our discussion while some simply park their carcass in a chair as their mind plays on a sandy beach in South America. I don’t blame them. Helping any audience be present is a challenge for every communicator. It’s a challenge I try to take seriously in teaching, writing and face-to-face conversation. A creative director I worked with would always say, “just don’t be boring.” He was right. No speaker or conversation partner has a right to squander someone else’s attention.

I know being present is hard from my own experience as well. Paying attention to someone requires a lot of energy. Maybe introversion/extroversion has something to do with it. Maybe not: extroverts have an especially hard time listening because they really, really want to interrupt and say their spiel.

Over the weekend I talked with a physician who works really hard at being present with each patient. Her day is spent in 15-30 minutes intervals of intense listening followed by repeating what she heard, followed by diagnosis mixed with more listening and more response. It’s easy to see why it takes all her energy.

Rereading Robert Sokolwski’s Introduction to Phenomenology, I ran across this quote:

All experience involves a blend of presence and absence, and in some cases drawing our attention to this mix can be philosophically illuminating. (18)

The physician worked hard at being present with her patients precisely because the words uttered by patient after patient were only one piece of the puzzle. She was also analyzing what wasn’t being said, what the patient was trying not to say, as well as analyzing physical appearance and the way the patient holds him or herself. Same stuff we all pay attention to, but the physician needs to draw concrete conclusions or at least educated guesses that could lead to a course of action.

Being present is a gift we give to each other.


Image credit: Paul C. Burns via thisisn’thappiness

Written by kirkistan

August 13, 2012 at 9:52 am

%d bloggers like this: