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BriefConsulting 1.6: Presence

All change occurs in the present, whether influenced by the future, the past, or a just-now painfully stubbed toe. So much attention flows outward toward the future or sticks back in some previous experience that the present sometimes seems the very least accessible place. We could be excused for trying to fix the past and exonerated even though flailing to fix the future, but our real work always happens right here. Identifying cause—even root cause—often over-presumes a causal stream unlikely to actually exist. Sure, it’s satisfying to savor what we woulda or coulda and perhaps even more gratifying to believe we’ve guaranteed some projected gonna, but any course change hasta happen right here. Now.

Staying present in this present when surround by clever planners constructing even cleverer plans might be the greatest challenge for anyone, consultant or client. The future tense becomes a trance, difficult to see from within it and nearly impossible to escape from once inside its grasp. Past tense, too, can be hard to shake. All change, Virginia Satir claimed, comes from the full, albeit temporary acceptance of the way things are. In other words, change requires presence, if only a smidgen and perhaps only for a brief time. We gotta find some way to really be here, now.

Many complaints seem to come from some absence of presence. I’m prone to pre-living my future, squandering my present by foreshadowing my future. Sometimes I’m stuck in my past, reliving a script when I already know full well who done it; it was usually me. And there’s value out there, ruminating and reminiscing, but little leverage.

This Brief Consultant always struggles for his foothold in the present, for his presence, and this feature might well qualify me for this work. Those who habitually center, enter, then engage might forget the struggle most of the rest of us experience shaking off their future and their past. They might lose the sharp snap presence produces when finally surrendering into focus, and this can’t help but be one darned subtle barrier to change. We might otherwise walk away satisfied when we’ve merely finished a plan or produced some clear policy statement or finally rewritten our history; forgetting that something here and now might maybe ought to have shifted, too. In real time.

I too easily forget that my mere presence probably influences more than my performances. I can over-produce my play, over-dazzle my already overwhelmed client, and so serve as the single best reinforcement for any client’s unwanted status quo. I can know far too much and thereby become altogether too little.

I try to remember to pinch myself then, to force-feel something standing in the here and now. Brief Consulting might be about 90% presence, bringing myself into the present and thereby nudging my client there with me. I cannot credibly insist upon my client being present when I’m not there. We often begin the dance together with one of us there and the other one then, when we could only connect right here. I really try hard to remember to pinch myself then, to feel something, to remind myself that my senses are always present, ready and waiting here, even if my head’s in the sky or stuffed up my backside. No sensory experience or change happens anywhere but here.

Nobody’s ever been in the presence of their own presence. I cannot know from personal experience what anyone else experiences when I enter a room. I might feel tiny and insignificant or huge and disruptive while appearing neither to anyone but me. And I cannot see myself to confirm my sense. I can feel the resonance, though, produced when people become present to each others’ presence. Sentences need not be finished then for understanding to appear. We anticipate the swerves and veers of real communication. We can time-travel into the future or the past without losing the space we hold together. Perhaps there can be no presence alone.

I have no clever suggestions for more effective presencing. It’s possible, perhaps necessary, but maybe only in the presence of others. For the consultant who aspires to brevity, simply attend to being present. Not first, for you’ll doubtless not find you or your client present at first. Just noticing where I am can shift my focus. Pinching myself can confirm the possibilities. Then, finally here, anything can happen.

©2012 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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