Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Power of Presence - Not an Act but a Habit

Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit." Orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Duke Ahn, embodies Aristotle's insight. For my Tip of the Month, I want to share about the Power of Presence, which has everything to do with what we have repeatedly been doing and is either working for us or not. When I met Dr. Ahn, he had come to my hospital room the night before surgery to answer any questions I might have. As he sat next to the bed facing me, I had only a couple of questions. But while he described my injury and his plan for the surgery, my questions began multiplying, tumbling out of me one after the other. His responses were direct and detailed in content, his tone soft and steady. Being in his presence was somehow drawing more and more questions out of me and we were in a living partnership of give and take. Dr. Ahn's years of study and practice didn't just emanate passively and non-verbally from him. They acted like a catalyst and a magnet on me. When he left, I was confident that my leg and I were in the hands of a meticulous, masterful surgeon. The next morning, as I was wheeled into surgery, I looked forward to being in his reliable hands. The proof is that I'm walking now (the injury had been called "devastating") and several other unrelated doctors and therapists have commented on the exceptional appearance of my surgery. The results were planted before my surgery took place, during Dr. Ahn's years of meticulous attention to details, and they gained momentum during that hospital visit. So to wrap up, we can all ask ourselves, what is the nature of our presence? What is the effect we have on others? By weeding out what isn't working and repeating what is working, we, like Dr. Ahn, can have a more powerful presence. Please comment below.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Art of Listening As a Slow Dance

Breaking my leg in Oct 09 has been a huge pattern interrupt, testing my own and my family's adaptilibity and determination and also exposing me to the medical world. After I was released from the hospital, I began treatment at Dr. Ahn's office, where Steven was his assisting nurse. His manner was gentle, warm and quiet. I instantly felt connected to him. The day arrived when I was ready for the staples that had closed my wound to be removed. There were 20-some of them and as you can imagine, this was not easy or pain-free; but all I can say is that Steven slow-danced with me. His touch was gentle with a soft healing vibration that warmed my skin. He listened when I asked him to stop or said I needed a break and he allowed me to lead him. He didn't resist me and he wasn't in a hurry; he took his time. For me, it was the empowering experience of being heard without judgment and of having perfect rapport. Who Steven was being was the listening and that's why I continue to remember him with deep appreciation. This is a powerful reminder for someone like me to switch from "Ready, Fire, Aim!" to "Stop, Look and Listen" instead. And slow dance. I love this metaphor of listening as slow dancing and can use it. On a scale of 1 to 10, where do you fall in your listening as a slow dance? Please comment below.