The Power of the two Ps: Pausing and Being Present

A blog post written by Whitney Ederer, 2017-2019 Fellow

Greetings fellows! I thought it was a perfect time to write a blog post with some powerful lessons learned during the fellowship to help the first years that have been with the program a few months and second years who are in full-swing. Something that I learned during the fellowship was how to pause and be truly present.

Prior to the fellowship, I was the stereotypical type A multi-tasker that is the “norm” of law school folks. Then the fellowship happened. During our learning community meetings, people were asked to put away electronics and be truly present with presenters and the community as a whole. Additionally, reflection was built into the fellowship at numerous stages that helped me grow professionally and serve populations in a different way.

I wanted to write this blog post about the power of pausing and being present to remind fellows that those skills are assets to your professional and personal development. As fellows you have so many responsibilities to your placement sites, the fellowship program, projects, presentations, monthly meeting planning, professional development, and professional relationships. I learned throughout the fellowship that pausing allows me to take a break, and come back to the table stronger than before, and being present is crucial to ensure you soak in all the needed information and respond after careful deliberation.  These skills have enhanced me personally and professionally, and I believe they will help all fellows as well!

People in general have different levels of the mastery of pausing and being present. The range is from a zen yoga instructor to me in law school. Can you guess which image goes with which one? The important thing to note is that pausing and being present isn’t a competition. Instead, view the practice as a journey instead of a destination. 

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I wanted to share some tips I have learned along the way to help you all on your journey to pausing and being present.

How to pause

  • Take mini breaks! This could mean taking a few steps away from your desk, going on a different floor for the bathroom, or asking someone how their day is going. I’ve noticed when I come back to work or return home, I have more motivation and higher energy than before.

  • Set work time boundaries. Try setting an hour a day to work on something specific you have been putting off. Calendars get full of meetings, presentations, interrupted with phone calls and in person meetings. If I didn’t set boundaries on my calendar, I wouldn’t get anything done!

  • Take time to think. Many times, people feel they have to immediately respond to others via email or in person to answer a question. Depending upon the type of work you do and the level of urgency, respectfully ask if you would be ok to decipher the question or idea and have a response to them by a specific deadline.

  • Comfort with silence. Every moment of your day does not need to be filled with noise. In fact, meditation practices are so helpful, especially for those that might only have a few moments of silence in their days!

  • Daily time for yourself. You will thank yourself for taking time for yourself, even if a few minutes, each day. For me, that means reading a positive, uplifting book before bed while heating my back (I have back issues!). It’s super relaxing and helps me to get through the day knowing I will have some restorative time right before bed.


How to be present

  • Put your phone away. I recently noticed how often people are on their phones. Last night, I noticed biking home people walking together on State Street with their heads down, on the bike path people weren’t talking to the person behind them, and before a workout class at the gym people were still on their phones! It is probably the “old school” person in me, but I believe a healthy dose of phones are great, but too much will leave you isolated and not actually being present with the people and environment around you.

  • Be an active listener. Don’t listen to think about what your response is going to be, truly listen deeply to what the other person is saying. This will lead to deep connections!   

  • Do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking, sorry, really isn’t a thing. I’ve learned that when I truly focus on one activity or project or communication, I can get it done faster and more efficient, with less room for error, than trying to do multiple things at once.

  • Enjoy moments. Too often people are thinking of the next best thing or what they need to do later in the day, night, next weekend, etc.. Living in the moment is so refreshing and will change the way you go about your day.

  • Acceptance. Lots of time, life doesn’t go as planned (sorry type A planners – I am one of you!). Learning to put your best forward and accept what happens next is an important professional and personal skill that will bring you great joy.