Presence First

It was many years ago now that I asked my good friend and colleague Toke Moeller, “If you had one tool, what would that be?” We had just completed an Art of Hosting, the first in North America, helping to further encourage the body of work that is participative leadership. We were at the Marsh House at the Aldermarsh property on Whidbey Island in Washington State. The building and retreat center were empty, 30 bodies had scattered out into there varied destinations, after having been together for three wonderful days together. This was 2002. Toke’s response, in the quiet of this now empty building, was “presence.” His words echoed just a tiny bit in the empty meeting space. Those words have not stopped echoing in me.

It was only a day ago that in conversation and planning with another friend and colleague, Christina Baldwin, I heard similar words. She was sharing what was the essence for her, a version of response to “Why circle?” “Presence,” she began, “is what changes how we are together. Presence is what people are longing for. Presence is what people are struggling to have in a world that requires tending through multiple distractions. Circle helps to create this.”

There it was again. Simplicity. If in doubt, give energy and attention to presence. Showing up to listen to silence together. To listen to each others words. To listen to what is in the middle of those words and that silence that glues them together.

Both of these people, Toke and Christina, are woven into my soul. They are both kind and gracious. They are both welcoming. They are both fiercely committed to good. My friendship and growing up with them is one of the things I’m most grateful for in my life.

And there are days, for all of us, when returning to the simple advice from friends that travel life together, is the only thing that seems to matter.

Presence first.

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