How do I show up

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How Do I Show Up

Recently, I have been pondering the question, "How do I show up?"

In Zen, one is taught to be and stay present in each moment, to have "just now mind." I find that asking myself the question, "How am I showing up?" helps me pay attention and be present in each moment.

When I sit in meditation and when I do yoga, I pay attention to my posture and breathing. Paying attention to my posture and breathing throughout the day can give me clues to how I am showing up.
When I go to a meeting, am I fully present? Am I listening? What is my body saying about my presence? Do I notice if I am slumped in my chair? Am I playing with my pen? Am I listening fully or am I distracted by my own thoughts? Am I open to the ideas of others or am I internally critiquing what I hear? If I pay attention, I can make a decision on how I want to show up to this meeting.
If I am leading the meeting, are my body language, voice quality, and my words those of a leader? If I say, "I'm really looking forward to starting this project with all of you" – do the participants believe me? Are my voice quality, my expressions, my body posture and my words all communicating the same message?

I find that paying attention to all of these parts of myself is not always easy to do without losing track of what I am thinking and saying. It takes practice and often the assistance and feedback of a teacher or coach. Sometimes I will pay attention to one quality at a time, for example, my body posture, and then add another quality to my attention the next time. Sometimes I will ask a trusted colleague to give me feedback after a meeting to see if her observations match my own experience of how I was coming across.

To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Thoreau

I had the pleasure to work with a woman named Kathy whose presence exuded kindness. Everyone in the neighborhood knew her and felt acknowledged by her. I decided that I wanted to try and embody some of this kindness and positive spirit that she had. Now when I walk down the street, I am conscious of smiling at people (most of the time). When I am at the bank and the grocery store, I say hello and thank you. In small ways, I try to be a positive influence in people's lives. I am trying to affect the quality of my day and the days of others in a positive way.

I don't always feel in a positive mood. Recently, I took care of my 7 year-old nephew while my brother was in the hospital having surgery. I was concerned about my brother, yet also trying to be present with my nephew. I needed to pay attention in so many ways with him. His interests, his taste in food, his activity level – all had changed in some ways since the last time I'd been with him. I couldn't make assumptions. I needed to show up fully, except when I couldn't. Then I had to know that I needed a break and it was okay to let him watch TV or play on the computer so I could recharge my batteries.

Being mindful and being present allows me to notice my mood. Then I can decide if I want to sit with my mood or if I want to shift it in some way. I was consciously trying to think positively about my brother's surgery rather than imagine all of the awful things that could happen. This was not easy. I have a fertile imagination and sometimes I would find my mind going off into unpleasant territory, but then I would try to rein myself in. I wanted to think positive thoughts about his surgery. Where do I choose to have my thoughts go? Can I be open to new ideas? Can I ask questions? Can I not be so attached to my ideas/thoughts/ways of doing things?

The first step in choosing where my thoughts go is simply to notice them. Am I aware of what I am thinking?

Only that day dawns to which we are awake. Thoreau

In my work with a coaching client, I asked her to observe herself during the week and ask the question, "How am I showing up?" She discovered that at an important meeting, she let her mind wander and wasn't listening to the discussion. She wasn't listening and was then asked her opinion. She realized that she had not "shown up" for the meeting. She was not able to contribute in the way that she would have liked because she had not been paying attention. She decided that from then on, if she thought it important enough to agree to meet, she would put her whole attention to it and by doing so, be a full participant. Both she and her colleagues would benefit from her full attention.
This was just one of the ways that asking the question, "How am I showing up" helped her to wake up and be more present to life and to make a contribution to her colleagues.

© Sue Schleifer, 2007

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