"Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying." This truism is well-known in human potential circles and can often be heard at personal growth-and-development seminars. But the implications of this meaningful phrase are often ignored in our day-to-day activities and relationships. Sometimes we pretend that others are unable to see through our facade of words and that they cannot recognize our hidden qualities, desires, and intentions.
In the world of Snow White, Sleepy, Grumpy, Bashful, and Happy were exactly that. The dwarves were their names! In our world, though, Madison, Cassidy, Jason, and Patrick don't help us out that much. But people unknowingly present many signposts that function equally well as do names of the dwarves from Snow White. Tone of voice, eye contact, posture, and facial expressions are some of the clues to what's really going on. In fact, if one is able to pay attention and accurately interpret the information available, other people might just as well be holding up pictures of the Seven Dwarves in front of their faces. The character of their inner selves is clear.
Other people really do know what's going on with us. If we could get the full impact of this powerful proposition, all of our interactions would benefit. Also, our stress levels will usually go down. When we're interacting meaningfully and communicating clearly, we become less stressed. The unlooked-for benefit is our health improves as a result.1,2,3
Here's a quick way to get how you're being in the world. Do dogs growl when they pass you on the street or when you enter the home of a dog and its human companions? Similarly, do cats hiss at you? When you're introduced to a baby or toddler, does the kid start to fuss or cry? These are all pretty good signs of a certain kind of personal vibe.
The flip side is also accurate. When dogs see you, do they start licking your hand, jumping around, and generally letting you know they want to play? Do cats rub around your legs and purr? Do babies smile and gurgle at you? Do little kids show you their toys and smile shyly at you? These are all signs of a different kind of vibe.
Animals and young children are excellent barometers of the qualities of the people around them. Who you are being is not a mystery to them. They get it all. Many of us lose this inner sight and interact with others based on what they say. In this respect, everyone loses - we think if we say the right words, it'll all be ok.
The notion of being-in-the-world is important in health care interactions. The doctor you've waited two hours to see says nice words, but you sense he doesn't really care - he just wants to move on to the next patient. Likewise at the front desk - they're perfectly polite, but you're aware they're super-stressed and can't wait to get out the door themselves.
In contrast, chiropractors are aware of the importance of the human component of their interactions with patients. A chiropractor's office is a welcoming environment - people often say their chiropractor's office "feels just like home". You get the sense your chiropractor is authentically interested in your health and well-being, making sure to take the time to really listen to your concerns and make sure you're getting the service you need. Chiropractic is a healing profession and the quality of the doctor-patient relationship is an important part of the healing process.
1Seedat S, et al: Life stress and mental disorders in the South African stress and health study. S Afr Med J 99(5 Pt 2):375-382, 2009
2Beeri MS, et al: The effects of cardiovascuclar risk factors on cognitive compromise. Dialogues Clin Neurosci 11(2):201-212, 2009
3Koetaka H, et al: Long-term effects of lifestyle on multiple risk factors in male workers. Environ Health Prev Med 14(3):165-172, 2009
Practicing Being Present
Being present is not the same as raising your hand when your name is called. The skill of being present implies "being in the moment" and is an ongoing practice. It's not something you learn how to do and then there's nothing more to it.
Being present is not even a skill that becomes second nature like playing the piano or shooting free throws. Being present is a moment-to-moment thing. It's a very subtle skill and requires ongoing attention.
Which is the whole point, really. Being present is all about paying attention. Paying attention to the present moment. Because, after all, the present moment is all we have. The past is gone. The future is not here yet. If we're not in the present moment, we're nowhere.
Being present provides great personal power. When you're present, everyone around you can feel your energy. Their experience of you is that you're a great listener. You become very attractive. People want to be with you. They feel good in your presence, because you are able to be with them authentically.
Being present can start right now, in this present moment.