On Presence

What is it?

We hear about it all the time. There is a lot of chatter around the idea, Actors have stage presence. 'Be present' is emblazoned on T-shirts and yoga mats. But how do you know you're present? Isn't wondering if you are a surefire way to lose presence? When we're present, we're presumably not distracted, not elsewhere. Present in body only, not of mind, daydreaming. While there is nothing wrong with daydreaming- it's preferable when you’re alone not in the middle of a conversation or while working on a task.

Many of us live in a bit of split screen. Physically present, but mentally elsewhere. It is such a normal state of being we don’t even find it odd. Going through the motions, on auto-pilot, in a fog, something on my mind- with ourselves alone, with others, with loved ones, even in high stakes situations. All the time.

In the day-to-day presence can be fleeting. Giving yourself moments to practice presence, can be incredibly worthwhile.

When we’re more fully engaged in a kinesthetic experience- like dance, going on a hike, learning a language, playing with a toddler or puppy- we tend to have clearer experience of presence. There is a different type of paying attention to our use that happens in circumstances like these.

Activities like reading, long stretches at the computer, driving can all become quite disembodied. Even though your hands and feet are working while we drive, unless something is unexpected it is really easy to disconnect from the felt experience, and to register the visual information only as needed for the moment, with no need for retention.

A very simple way to start practicing presence is to just 'wake up' your senses.

  • Take a moment to pause what you are doing

  • Allow yourself to hear the sounds around you in the room, it may take a little bit to adjust.

  • Then: what do you see? are your eyes glazed over or fixed? refresh your sight by seeing something new, allowing your eyes to gently refocus.

  • Then: add your sense of touch- register the contact of your clothing, or the air on your skin- Feel where you are connected to the ground. Feel your breath moving in and out.

You can go between these three points of focus as much as you like. Sound, Sight, Touch. You can stay with each one as long as it holds your interest.

Feel free to continue what you are doing, or allow yourself to make any changes to your environment or how you’re relating to it before continuing.

How long or how frequently is up entirely up to you. It’s an opportunity to connect your whole self and the space you’re in, even if just this fleeting moment of presence.

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