Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beyond Stereotypes: Presence in Law Practice

True presence is absent of preconceived notions, and that includes stereotypes. Among others, lawyers have suffered from innumerable jokes that caricature them in stereotypical ways.

So I am delighted to say the best definition of presence I've found was created by CUNY Law Professor Victor Goode and Jeanne Anselmo, RN, author of chapter 15, "Relaxation" in Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice.

Their presentation, "Law in the Service of Human Needs: Social Justice and Contemplative Practice," defines presence as a contemplative skill:
"Therapeutic Presence assists students and attorneys to bring a centered, grounded, open, aware, active, concerned connection with one's self, one's client and the environment. It is not detached, nor is it numbing out, but rather is remaining as fully present as possible in the face of chaotic, difficult and challenging circumstances."
To achieve this state, we develop awareness and trust in our own purpose and process, self care and self reflection, and deep listening. Borrowing from Goode and Anselmo's presentation, these steps are key:
  • Ground Yourself: Stand comfortably, breathe deeply and drop your breath to your center of gravity in the lower abdomen.
  • Center Yourself: Connect to your intention for the interaction and your deeper commitment; allow your personal and professional resources to arrive in the moment (spontaneously vs. planned).
  • Listen Deeply and with Compassion: Seek to understand the other person without judgment.
To Goode and Anselmo: Bravo, Brava!!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Grok Spock

"Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed — to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science — and it means as little to us (because of our Earthly assumptions) as color means to a blind man." Wikipedia quoting Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land.

Michael, the hero of Stranger in a Strange Land, was born on Mars where grokking was taken for granted. So he was unencumbered by the barriers to intuition many humans encounter. As an example, he grokked grass before walking on it to ensure he was not causing another creature pain.

Grokking seems such a natural concept and so appropriate to any conversation about presence
one can't logically explain exactly how to do it, but I think we're all capable of envisioning a connection so deep we are both one and all.

I've always considered the Vulcan mind meld to be a form of grokking - again, we must leave the Earth to find beings for whom such a deep connection comes naturally. So I was delighted to find there's still a craze for "I Grok Spock" t-shirts. Why is that, I wonder? Possibly because we are the strangers in our own land, longing to be able to grok, to meld.

What a combination - a deep mental understanding (which also requires physical contact) aligned with a complete emotional-intuitive awareness of another: body, mind and heart attuned.