Four People: Dynamics of Conversation and Connection

This week I am with a group of four older people. They are all related to me in one form or another. The youngest is 67 and the oldest is 83.

As I think about the subject of my last blog being on being present, I have thought about being present with the four people I’m interacting with this week.

Sometimes when I sit with them I just listen and observe. I am being present in the moment and present to the experience of conversation with four very different people.

The dynamics of the conversation and the relationships I find fascinating, quite apart from the concept of being present with each one of them. Although I guess the concepts overlap.

I am deliberately trying to be present with each one as they are speaking. Part of being present involves thinking about where each person is coming from with their own particular histories and life events.

They are all such different people and have been shaped by such different events. Two of them have lost spouses to divorce. Two of them have lost spouses to death. And yet all of them found new relationships and new lives when they married each other.

The marriages were both second marriages and took place in the second house of each of the four people’s lives. The youngest was 52 when he remarried. The oldest was 62 when she remarried.

They all have children from their first spouses. These children are in various forms of relationship with their parents today.

As I have listened to each one of these four people over the last few days, I have become aware of some of their personal insecurities and regrets.
One of them still deals with guilt and regret over choices he made in the first half of his life. I can see that impacting his life even now.

This particular person has found great joy in the second half of his life. He considers himself greatly blessed.

And yet at the same time I sense a fairly profound sadness in him for opportunities lost and mistakes made. He is estranged from three of his four children. He also has had professional disappointments. And this causes him sadness as well.

He doesn’t say it but what I pick up is a sense of a life that was somewhat wasted. Or the sense of a life that succumbed to unfortunate events that were beyond his control.

I really don’t know if he could have changed any of the things that happened in his life—things that are disappointments to him. Still, I see those events as causing him sadness and regret now.

He is a fairly intense person and in our conversations he himself has realized that he still has some unresolved anger. This has come out of our conversations about a current situation that doesn’t even involve him but involves someone that he cares about.

Another of the four has had major hurts caused by the husband who left her with three small children. And yet she displays great strength, and today is a woman of courage. I see her as this and it fills me with inspiration and hope.

It also shows me that I can rise above my current dramas and see how a vision for the future. I can act from that position rather than out of current fatigue or the feeling of wanting to give up instead of fight.
A third of the four people is not super in touch with his feelings and yet he contributed deep insight into the importance of children’s feelings and memories. He has given me much to think about and is an inspiration also to fight for a future vision.

The fourth person is mostly quiet. I know that she has insecurities that keep her from speaking up with confidence. She has her own demons that she has fought over the years.
Being present with these four people this week has been a gift and an education and an inspiration.

Being Present: It’s an Art

Learning to be present with others

There is a theme that seems to be running through my readings and my exposures these days. That theme could be summed up simply as being present.

I’m involved in series of seminars that focus on being present–being present to my current experience.

Being present simply means having all of your senses focused on what you are experiencing in the very moment. It means paying attention to how your body is feeling, not just in general, but very specifically.

What is going on with the skin? What’s going on with the heart rate? Is there tightness in the chest? Is there peace in the stomach? Is it stressed, or is it in knots?

Being present also involves paying attention to your emotional and mental state. Are you distracted? Is your mind racing? Is it empty? Is it at peace?
Being present in the very moment to the current experience is something that requires awareness and attention.

This is not something that is typical for the average person. But when the average person is able to remove himself or herself from the chaos of life and focus on the present moment, it’s really a liberating experience.

Not only is it liberating but it is also empowering.

The empowerment comes in the awareness that you have removed all extraneous thoughts and distractions and you are fully present to what’s actually going on. This gives you the ability to be single-minded in how you process the current experience and how you go forward.

So, I’m attending the seminars and I’m also reading a book. The book happens to be on the subject of abandonment and how to heal from it.
The first chapter talks about a coping strategy called mindfulness.

Mindfulness is essentially being present. The book talks about mindfulness being where are you completely focus yourself on what you are experiencing in that moment.

Just like the seminars talk about being present, being mindful also has you paying attention to the sounds that are around you, the things that you see, and how your body is feeling. All of the same things that are part of mindfulness are also a part of being present.

I have a book of devotional centering readings that I read every morning. These are faith-based and centered on the person’s relationship with Christ. Each of the devotionals talks about being present with Christ. They don’t so much talk about focusing on sights and sounds and feelings in the body as much as being present to your relationship with Christ–deliberately choosing to rest in that relationship and let go of anxiety.

The focus there is on choosing to trust and giving up worry. Actually not even so much giving up worry as choosing to trust. In the choosing to trust and in the trusting, there is left no room for worry. So you are not trying to stop worrying; you are focusing on  trusting and in so doing pushing worry out.

It’s very interesting to me: all of these things that I’m reading and participating in that are separate from each other are all linked by a similar message or theme–the theme of being present.