Written by Claire Gold, InterCHANGE People Development Associate 

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled” Plutarch 

What are the qualities of someone who is present? Inspiring, empathetic, great listener, dynamic, confident, authentic, engaging and assertive are all words that spring to mind. 
But how do we do it or be it? Being present is dependent on you being with someone or something else; in conversation, in play, in nature. Even though it depends on another the real work of presence starts with you. It is the internal work of being fully your self with awareness. Sounds simple, right? Mystic maybe? You are here right now, aren’t you? What is being fully yourself with awareness? Often we work from the outside in. You could put on a great suit for a meeting or interview, say all the right things, but behind all of that there is a you that can be seen. Presence is an inside out approach; through connection and knowledge of your unique self, you bring your awareness to how you are with others, how they effect you and how you effect them. 
We live in language; we put words to our experiences and feelings. As we go about our daily lives we often have a running commentary in our minds which is often an inaudible murmur, below our awareness. However, this unconscious process can have a powerful impact as it is full of messages we tell ourselves about ourselves and others. Why does this matter? Because without us always knowing it, these messages show up in our lives. In the choices we make and more subtly in our body language, tone and facial expressions. They can have a huge effect on our life without us even being aware of it. How do we take control of this, and bring the unconscious into the conscious? 
Become clear about your intention. For example, before going into your mentoring session ask yourself “How am I?”, “How do I want to do this?” “What skills do I want to use?” E.g. you may say “My intention is to listen with curiosity and an open mind” 
Observe your thoughts and notice any bodily sensations you may have. Are you anxious, stressed, had a busy day? What do feel about walking into mentoring session? By asking these questions you’ll shift your mind from an unconscious narrative to a conscious intention, replacing the commentary with a choice. 
Take a moment to sit calmly and take a few slow breaths. This will help calm any bodily sensations and clear your mind allowing you to be more receptive and open, which in turn, supports your listening skills. 
This approach has great power. By connecting more to yourself you will increase your capacity to connect with others. This will inspire them. The origin of the word – inspire – means to breathe life into, to inflame. The power of presence is lighting fires in others. 
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