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  • Writer's pictureJuliana

The art of being present has become increasingly challenging. We are bombarded with distractions, from buzzing smartphones to never-ending to-do lists, making it difficult to stay focused and truly engage with the present moment. Yet, the ability to be mentally present is crucial for our well-being, relationships, and overall quality of life.

What does it mean to be mentally present? Being present involves fully immersing yourself in the current moment, without judgment or distraction. It means being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings, and accepting them without trying to change or escape them. Being present is about cultivating a deep sense of awareness and connection with the here and now.

So, why is being mentally present important? Here are a few key reasons:

  1. Improved Well-being: When you are present, you are better able to manage stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions. By focusing on the present moment, you can prevent your mind from wandering into past regrets or future worries, leading to a greater sense of peace and contentment.

  2. Enhanced Relationships: Being present is essential for building meaningful connections with others. As you'll learn in The Bigbie Method's Intro to NVC course, presence is a key component to empathy. Being fully present with someone can strengthen your relationship and deepen your bond. Click here to learn more about how to foster greater connection with those around you through Nonviolent Communication (NVC).

  3. Increased Productivity: When you are present, you are more focused and efficient in your tasks. By eliminating distractions and staying engaged in the task at hand, you can accomplish more in less time and with greater quality.

So, how can you cultivate presence in your daily life? Here are some tips:

  1. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. You can cultivate mindfulness through meditation, yoga, or simply by bringing your attention to your breath and bodily sensations throughout the day.

  2. Limit Distractions: Identify the distractions in your life and take steps to minimize them. This may involve setting boundaries with technology, creating a clutter-free workspace, or establishing a daily routine that allows for moments of uninterrupted focus.

  3. Engage in Activities That Promote Presence: Activities such as hiking, painting, or playing music can help you cultivate presence by requiring your full attention and engagement.

  4. Practice Gratitude: Take time each day to reflect on the things you are grateful for. This can help you stay grounded in the present and appreciate the beauty of life as it unfolds.

Being mentally present is a skill that requires practice and intentionality. By cultivating presence in your daily life, you can experience greater well-being, deeper relationships, and a more meaningful existence. So, take a moment to pause, breathe, and immerse yourself fully in the present moment. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you for it.

For some time I have inherently known the power that comes with empathy, whether that is self-empathy or empathy for other, but it was not until someone in the Intro Course shared a personal story that it became explicitly clear to me.

Without getting into too many personal details, I can share that this person was out in public with his child and he made a decision to do something. A woman saw him and had thoughts that what he did was unsafe for his child, so she reprimanded him and shared her blatant judgments about what he did. Now, he did not agree with these judgments, nor did he think what he did was unsafe, but instead of arguing with this woman or internalizing what she said, he gave her empathy. In that moment - a moment in which a stranger was yelling judgments at him - he was able to lean in with curiosity and listen for the need that was coming from this upset stranger. He even later noted that he felt touched and grateful that this stranger seemed to have so much care and concern for his child's safety. He was not angry at all, or even annoyed.

And this is what I'm talking about when I say that there is power that comes with empathy. First and foremost, there is power over yourself. When you are able to do what this person did - listen for the need instead of internalizing the blame - you have power over your own emotional state. That situation could have very easily turned into a day ruiner. Instead, he had choice around how he received the words from that stranger.

Now, I want to note that this is not always easy. There are definitely times in which someone says something that might be hard to hear and it is hard to hear. Emotions may come up whether you want them to or not. But even in those instances, having empathy for self can bring you power, because you can lessen any charge that may have bubbled up, and move to a more calm and rational head space. Instead of reacting, empathy gives us choice to respond with thought and care.

Additionally, beyond self-power, empathy can often give you power over the outcome of the situation. Think about it: in any instance that you experience, you are a part of that experience. You have some agency in what goes down. If you are simply reacting from an amygdala response, the other parties in the situation may react to your reaction... and this, more or less, is the cycle of conflict. But, if instead of reacting you engage your pre-frontal cortex, start to look at the situation objectively, and think about the feelings and needs of yourself and other, you are much more likely to quell the desire to blindly react, but rather you respond in a way that considers the possible needs of the person in front of you. When responding in this way - with compassion, care, and intention - you've taken power back from your lizard brain, and likely the person/people in front of you will probably calm down as well.

And let me just mention that most people are not used to having an experience of being heard or understood when they are angrily yelling at someone on the street. Instead, they are used to more conflict. The mere shock factor of being held in an emotionally safe way by a stranger they just yelled at is usually enough to calm someone down, but, as we have seen time and time again, empathy alone (without the shock factor) also accomplishes this goal. So not only do you have power over your response, but your response will likely dictate the outcome of the event in some way.

Finally, there is power in empathy in the sense that you can have connection with someone and disagree with them at the same time. In the example above, the person in this situation shared with our cohort that he did not agree with the woman yelling at him, and he didn't have to! He was able to guess her needs around the situation, have connection with her, and still hold his thoughts about what he did without adopting hers. I think people often assume that they must agree with others to have connection with them, but that is simply not the case. Empathy allows us to experience connection, even in times of conflict, without agreeing with the other party. And to me, that is pretty dang cool.

As always, if this all sounds intriguing to you, please know that you can learn this stuff as well! The Bigbie Method has an Intro to Nonviolent Communication course that will teach you how to have empathy for yourself and others, even in times of conflict, plus much more. I simply share snippets of how empathy and NVC can benefit one's life, or even specific NVC tools, but these works are not exhaustive, and formal teaching and guidance is really quite beneficial when trying to be effective with this stuff. I highly recommend checking out the Intro Course if you are serious about fostering greater connection in your life with yourself and those around you.

Conflict resolution is the process of finding a resolution to a dispute that satisfies all parties involved while also ideally avoiding things like physical violence, name-calling, and any other behavior that might be seen as disrespectful. It is a wonderful and magical thing, and not necessarily always easy. There are, however, some tried and true strategies that are incredibly helpful when it comes to conflict resolution. Nonviolent communication, or NVC, is a tool that employs conflict resolution strategies, and there are even steps one can follow to more confidently attempt resolving a conflict.

Here are the steps:

  1. Cool yourself down. If you are in your own conflict, it is likely that you probably have some emotional charge around the situation. The key here is to get to a place in which you are calm and open enough to truly hear what the other party/parties have to say. There are many NVC tools to do this: you can give yourself empathy, you can get empathy from a third party, or you can do some deeper processing if need be like enemy-image processing or 3-chair mediation. The goal here is to find support elsewhere (if possible) so that you can be emotionally resourced to face your conflict with a clear head and open heart. Additionally, you'll want to become very clear on what your needs are regarding the conflict so that when the time comes, you will be able to advocate for them.

  2. Listen and lean in with curiosity. Start to truly and fully listen to the other parties involved in the conflict. Get curious about what is alive in them around the situation. Just like in your own processing, try to find clarity on their needs. Give them empathy. Listen with presence. Maybe try reflecting what they are sharing. And take some verbal guesses to what their needs are. Keep guessing until you all know what needs are not being met by the conflict.

  3. Express with respect and care. After you have given the other party/parties empathy, you can make a connecting request and see if they are willing to hear you. If they are, express in a way that holds emotional safety for all. This means no blame, and no judgments! Instead, try using NVC's template of observations, feelings, and needs. You should already know what these are from the work and processing you did in step one.

  4. Make a request. Finally, after you have heard and named their needs, and you have expressed your own, you can start to come up with solutions. Your request might be clear already, or maybe you ask for the other party's input as well. The key here is that you are keeping everyone's needs in mind when coming up with strategies to resolve the conflict. This is the part that most people falter on. They get stuck on the strategy level instead of focusing on needs. Remember, if you come up with a strategy and the other party doesn't agree to it, that just means there is a need that is not being met for them by that strategy... and that is okay! You just go back to the drawing board and try to come up with another strategy that meets everyone's needs.

As always, I want to make note that while I've provided a succinct list of steps for resolving conflicts, this may prove to be more complex in practice than it looks here. Each one of these steps involves quite a bit of emotional awareness, intentionality, and work. If you'd like more support on your conflict resolution journey, consider The Bigbie Method's Intro to Nonviolent Communication Course. In it, you'll learn about all the steps listed above and so much more.

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