10,000km – my journey to change … km 5,800: Presence while on the road by Charlotte Murray

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I’ve been on the road now for several months, and have been more busy than I can remember. Wake up 6am (sometimes before) to complete a press release, pack up tent and gear, do at least one dive, drive five hours while writing a blog and seeking out the next coffee shop along the road that has free wifi. That being said, every day is different. A different schedule, a different route, a different camp ground, a different dive site.

With all of the commotion that comes with being in the action I’ve realized that being present feels different and is more profound for me now than it was when I worked in a corporate environment.

First, each day is so different, there is no set ‘routine’ like I used to have. Without a set routine, I find that I’m naturally more present than I might have been on a normal Tuesday because my previous corporate life routine meant that I was often doing things on autopilot and therefore not 100% present.

Second, I’m more present because I don’t have 24 hour 7-day a week internet access like I’m used to. We have had days where there was no cell phone coverage (only satellite phone) and passed only one coffee shop along the road that had free wifi. At first it feels very abrupt but I have quickly adjusted to the unconnected world. I enjoy the sunset as we drive along a very straight wooded road (while keeping a look-out for moose and deer), I notice funny road signs such as the one that said “don’t feed the bears, they may be dangerous”. I’ve more naturally started noticing the small things that I might not have given the time to notice before because I was always checking my iPhone. Not being connected gives me time to actually do something productive; like process and think about my next blog, plan our next few days’ itinerary, and prepare another press release, all without the constant interference and pull to be online.

Thirdly, presence for me comes with listening. Listening is essential as a coach as it is for scuba diving; the Co-Active Coaching* book talks about three levels of listening – level 1 is with the self in the center, level 2 is the client’s words in the center and level 3 is listening to the client in the center while integrating signals from the holistic environment (body language, sounds in the background, voice and so on). In my mind I make a link to the three levels of listening with scuba diving, which is why I bring it up here. In scuba diving you need to be aware of yourself and your surroundings (the weather, the water, any boat traffic) and your dive buddy at all times. Whether it’s constantly adapting your air underwater so that you maintain buoyancy at depth, or picking up that the tide has turned or the current has increased (which means you might adapt your dive plan) or checking on your dive buddy to make sure they’re ok – all of this requires constant listening and adapting accordingly. You cannot not be present while scuba diving. You cannot not be present while coaching either.

So my few points for you this month:

1)     Notice when you’re on autopilot. That’s the first step to practicing presence even in moments when you might daydream or withdraw from the situation (or just quickly check your email).

2)     Take time to disconnect from the online world – totally. This is where I feel that my being present in my current transitory situation has really increased. Being disconnected from the online world was not actually a choice of mine, but it came with the circumstances, of which I’m now appreciative.

3)     Listen, listen, listen. Even if you think you’re listening, listen some more (at level 3 – holistic environment). The only thing that can happen is you see something with a new perspective (from below the water and above).

4)     Get some distance and perspective. Being busy means you’re doing things (whether it’s part of a routine, a habit (checking email) or something else). Having been on the road and having been so busy in a non-routine way, being consciously present has helped me maintain the big picture while being on the road.

*Kimsey-House and Sandahl (2011)