The importance of being in the room where it happens

Photo by Pawel Chu on Unsplash

This week’s theme for me was about getting myself out there. Over the last few months,

I noticed that I haven’t been going out to meet the world as much as I could – particularly around and about in Brussels. Perhaps it was a hangover from the pandemic, but the convenience of online meetings has led me to become a little overreliant on online communication.

Don’t get me wrong – I think that the way we can now connect so seamlessly is a massive gift. But there is still a big place for seeing people in person, particularly for the first time.

So this week I attended a few networking evenings plus work events. I feel a bit silly now, but it became starkly evident that I had been missing out on great connections due to my passivity. From a policy perspective, there’s so much to be gained by attending events for new ideas, whilst at a networking discussion a short conversation can build a far deeper connection than an ongoing email exchange ever could.

I attended the launch of the InclusivEU initiative on Tuesday morning to increase diversity in Brussels. It was the first time I had been to a diversity-related event here. To be honest, I didn’t know whether anyone would show up – I didn’t think that there were networks of people who cared about it here.

So it was a really nice surprise to meet a group of people that genuinely cared about the subject. After the event ended I somewhat sheepishly mentioned to people that I had written a book about the subject (I kept a spare copy in my bag). It was really nice to see how supportive people were. Someone even asked for a picture of me posing with my book!

For the last 12 months I thought I wrote a book that was only a passing interest to people in this town. Honestly, It’s a bit embarrassing that I didn’t realise there was a whole network of people looking at this stuff!

The final ‘room’ I was in this weekend was in Utrecht. I attended a two-day body-house movement event. In fact, I’m writing this on the train back home right now. The weekend was around personal development, but far more around body and presence than other events I’ve been to.

In the heady world of policymaking, I never realised that we have access to a deeper level of presence. I’m not just talking about actually listening, I mean deep, deep presence. As a rough illustration, let’s say that the first level is being present whilst having distractions. This is when we have background noise or our phones. The second level is being present without external distraction such as speaking to someone without notifications on in the background. The third level is being present without external or internal distraction. This is where we are present to someone without being distracted by our own internal monologue.

What I learnt is that there is an even deeper level of presence. I only accessed it for short bursts (I found it extremely tiring to be in!) but what I experienced was being in a realm-bending level of presence. When I am in this state, it’s like the concept of time (and basic reality) no longer exists. Everything is slowed. Actions are exaggerated and heightened – almost explosive. I feel like matter is a blending movement of sensory energy and wave of movements. Suddenly small movements and gestures suddenly conveyed to me an incredible amount of information.

I’m not sure what I experienced really has words. It’s a bit frightening and exciting to know that it’s something I can access. Aside from sounding cool, the reason I find this a valuable thing to access is that I find my ability to understand and connect with people deepen the further I play with these sorts of experiences. So it’s one I’ve committed to playing with now I return to ‘normal life’.

Most of the remarkable things that happened to me this week were in spaces that were not ones I was obliged to attend. The easy thing would have been to not do any of them. Nobody would have complained or blamed me for doing so. After all, they came at some cost – I gave up another weekend away, and the amount of free time I’ve had for myself this week has felt quite minimal.

But I also know that if I want to make deeper connections, and more critically, heightened impact, I need to be in the rooms where it happens. The same goes for you.

If you want something new, go out and explore. It could be the most effective route to getting what you want.

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