Presence is a key practice for leaders and for anyone wanting to be more fully engaged in their life. One of my favorite ways to understand presence is that we are able to stay related to our inner experience and the context of what's going on. Being fully present allows us to respond from a place beyond personality and habitual patterns, a place that is more aligned with our intentions and what the situation calls for.
Practicing presence is easy when we’re enjoying ourselves, say with a loved one or on a hike, but try being present when you don’t feel good in your body or things are stressful. When things get tough, oftentimes the last place we want to be is in the present. For many of us, being caught up in our heads and stress response feels uncomfortable but familiar. So we need to practice and train being in the present moment, holding the sensations and feelings arising.
Here are 3 steps you can practice anytime when you need to become more present. The practice doesn't require any special tools or situation and can take anywhere from 1-5 minutes.
I suggest cutting this out and posting it at work or on your fridge at home. That will help you remember to practice this a few times a day until it becomes second nature. You can take about a minute for each step, or take one step and extend it. Sometimes I only practice step one, for a few minutes as it takes a while sometimes to fully come into the body. As this practice becomes more natural, you can also do it “on the spot” before a meeting or in the car, taking just a moment for each step.
Feel how you feel. Begin where you are in the body. Take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders, your jaw and the muscles in your face. Do a body scan starting at the feet. Feel your feet and on the earth. If you’re sitting down, feel your bottom on the earth. Feel your belly. Relax as much as you can into the body and into the breath, which can only be found in the present moment.
Become aware of the space around you. Feel a sense of 360 degree space all around. Feel the space of potentiality in the present, anything can happen. Bring your awareness outside the room you’re in, imagine the horizons all around.
Now join how you feel in your body, with the space around you, in your heart. If you’re in a place where you feel comfortable doing so, put your right hand on your heart. Feel your heartbeat. Simple BE, however you are in this present moment. Feel a sense of complete acceptance toward yourself, right now, just as you are.
So to recap, first you feel your body and your breath in the present moment. Ground into you body, use your breath to help you relax into the present moment, on the earth. Then, feel the space around you. Have a sense of the unpredictability of what’s to come and a 360 degree awareness. Last, join the groundedness of being in the feeling body with a larger sense of awareness, in the heart. Put your hand on your heart and feel a sense of kindness and acceptance of yourself and the present moment.
Now move forward into your day. The more you do this practice, the more it will become a natural response to working with challenges in everyday life.