The first of the four qualities listed is ‘Mindful Presence’.
The writer suggests that, ‘When you’re interviewing potential teachers or coaches, notice whether the person is in the moment, without judgment, and really present for you‘.
I agree with this, although I think it can be hard to determine whether someone is residing in mindful presence without spending some time with them.
It is possible to fake it, at least short term, by mimicking the qualities he suggests, such as being attentive and non-judgemental.
What is Mindful Presence?
To understand what mindful presence really is, try thinking about when you are having a conversation with someone one to one.
Especially those times when you are in the role of listener.
The question I would ask, is are you really listening, or are you partly (or fully) involved in your own thoughts, your own reactions, and the story of your life?
You see I can be sat apparently listening to you, but my mind can be running a commentary about how I forgot to tell the school that a friend would be picking up the kids tonight, or what am going to cook for dinner tonight.
Then again I might be worried about something and playing certain scenarios through in my mind.
Or feeling bored and fed up and just wishing that you’d stop talking and that I could escape to get some peace and quiet.
Or, I might be listening, but having various opinions and emotional responses to what you are saying.
Like you say you cut work because it was sunny, and I’m thinking ‘What sort of a person does that?‘ and sitting there experiencing a reaction to what you are saying.
Sitting with a mindful presence does not mean that thoughts and images and even body contractions will not occur.
But one is not taken away by them.
So the thought might arise that I am thirsty and could do with a drink of water. But I do not fixate on it and spend my time obsessing over my thirst or wishing our meeting had finished so I could go get one.
Instead the flow of thoughts, images and sensations continues, but happens within the spacious awareness or ‘presence’ in which in actuality, all things occur.
Here’s an analogy:
My six year old daughter doesn’t like flies.
When a fly enters the room at home, she flies into a panic, wanting to get it out the door, or grab the electric tennis racket shaped fly killer, and erase its existence from the planet.
Whereas my nine year old isn’t fussed. She acknowledges the fly but it doesn’t bother her.
She remains present with whatever she is doing.
See the difference….?
How to recognise Mindful Presence
The thing is that I am not sure that years of meditation necessarily guarantees you mindful presence.
I tend to think mindful presence comes from a seeing through the illusory (and conceptual) nature of thought.
But when someone has this, you will feel that they are bigger than you. That they can absorb all that you have to say. That they have no need to advise you, or counter your arguments (although they might).
And you will have a sense of this.
Like they are in touch with something that gives them a solidity and assurance and an ability not to waiver from whatever is happening right now.
It’s a beautiful thing, and if you can tune into it, you might just find that your problems and concerns start to melt away.