By Your Pupils You Are Taught – Being Present

It’s a very ancient saying,

But a true and honest thought,

That if you become a teacher,

By your pupils you’ll be taught.

~ The King and I

It was the last day of the conference – the last few hours in fact. I had one more session, then pack up, get on the bus to the airport and fly home. It had been a wonderful few days, in which I participated and presented. My presentation naturally included elements of conflict management utilizing concepts from Aikido, skills for difficult conversations, and centering practice.

Students from all over the world attended the conference. In my session, a gentleman from Japan, Yoichi, volunteered to be my Aikido partner for some of the demonstrations. Skilled, kind, and adaptable, he proved to be the ideal uke, the partner who attacks, receives the throw, falls, and returns to attack again.

We were new to each other, but with his easy grace and fluid movements, it was as if we had practiced together many times. This sometimes happens in my seminars – magic.

As I was heading through the crowded Westin Hotel lobby towards the last conference session, thinking about what I needed to do to make it to the bus in time, I happened to pass Yoichi. I stopped briefly to thank him one more time for his generosity in volunteering.

I stopped in that way I have of not actually stopping. I mean I pause physically, but my body and mind are on the way to the next thing I have to do. But Yoichi really stopped. Yoichi was centered in that moment – was with me completely – and his presence stopped me cold. I came to – to this moment. It was a lot like waking up. I was at rest and present with another human being.

I thanked him as planned, he received my gratitude gracefully and thanked me also for the opportunity to engage. As we exchanged words, we also exchanged ki - energy, life force. The moment was brief, and the moment was ki.

I left that moment grateful for the teaching and ready for more practice. How many times a day can we practice the simple act of being truly present with someone else? Think about it today. When your friend or coworker asks a moment of your time, stop your internal dialogue and make them the center of attention. Become single minded.

Each time you notice that you were not really there, stop and become present now, in this moment. This is how you develop the habit of presence. This is how it works.

Multi-tasking is easy and, in my opinion, way overrated. What takes practice is being fully present with one thing, one place, and one person at a time.

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