This past year has been a time of adapting to change and expanding my capability in what can be achieved at short notice and with little preparation. What I learned through this was the importance of ‘presence’ – the quality I bring to my work. What I appreciate even more, is that at the age of 74 as I draw closer to the end of my professional working life, there has been more for me to learn about myself as I step up to meet the continuous changes that are required.
I had taken 6 months off work at the end of 2019 but felt that I wanted to return to work at the start of the following year. My job is as a casual lecturer at the local university and the teaching year starts at the end of February/beginning of March. And as we all know, that’s when Covid hit. So after only a couple of weeks teaching face-to-face, the university disbanded all on-campus classes and went online. Like many of us, I was new to this, and was I surprised at how smoothly it went. I was also surprised at how easy it was to connect with the students and how understanding and supportive they were to me as I fumbled with the technology. I put this down to the fact that I had spent a couple of weeks working with them on campus and that we were all learning together. On reflection I now recognise that it is the quality I bring to my work, a quality of deep settlement and presence that supports me to connect with the students, whether online or face-to-face.
The second study session came around at the beginning of July. This course I knew was going to be much more challenging as it involved students learning practical skills. So, not only would I be delivering online workshops, but I would have to organise the students into online ‘break-out rooms’ to practice their skills in small groups and for me to monitor their progress. Unexpectedly, it was a very rewarding experience and again I was surprised at how much intimacy and connection I felt with the group. One student at the end of this three-month session remarked that he had never known a university lecturer to ‘hold’ a group the way I had held them through the session. It showed me that we can truly connect with people even through the medium of technology….and, when we are able to bring ‘presence’.
This feedback was invaluable, because in a couple of months’ time I would be working with a much larger group of students, along with another lecturer, over a 3-day intensive workshop. Doing this workshop face-to-face is quite demanding for both teachers and students and I wondered how we could possibly manage online. But manage we did – there were a few numb bums, but we got there! The students did well and so did we! One student in particular commented on our commitment over the three days and how we held their interest, maintained focus and enthusiasm and that each one had managed what seemed impossible at the start, that is to produce a video recording of a 10-minute interview at the end of the three days. Many commented on how much they learned through the workshop.
So, what was my learning? It was a very confirming experience to be able to adapt to what was needed and for all of us to come through with a smile on our faces and a deep appreciation for the connection we had made in spite of all that Covid was dictating to keep us apart and dis-connected. And I learned that the habitual default of anxiousness that I have experienced in the past has almost gone from my body and being. I can’t deny that there was some there at the start, but it quickly dissipated with preparation and a deeply held intention to connect with the students in spite of the hindrances imposed by the Covid restrictions. Hence, I was able to bring presence to myself and thus to the students and we all came through with flying colours!
One of my favourite quotations, and one that has helped me with anxiousness in the past, is from Pythagoras who says:
‘You are equipped to handle everything that is before you, but what’s not before you, you don’t know.’
to which Serge Benhayon adds,
‘We are equipped to handle presence, and in presence we are super powerful.’
(Serge Benhayon, March 2014, UniMed Living Library)
This past year has taught me the power of presence. It has helped me overcome anxiousness and I have learned that we can deeply connect with one another in spite of other forces at work, doing their best to keep us apart.
Judy F., Australia
If you enjoyed this article you may also like to read: