What is Presence?
You hear it a lot in various new age, conscious sexuality or therapy worlds – it’s all about Presence. A woman wants her man to be Present. It’s by being Present that we allow the magic, and so on and so on. So I started to ask myself – what exactly does this magical word mean and how exactly does one become “Present”? Here are my thoughts on it so far. I feel that Presence is the quality of being in the moment, embodied and in conscious awareness of one’s environment and one’s response to it. For me I discover that there are three elements that allow me to be Present and here I’ll give simple examples of how to cultivate each of these qualities.
Own Your Space
When I really allow myself to take up space in the world, when I feel sufficiently safe in the world to stand my ground, when I can really allow myself become king (or queen) over the dominion of the physical space that I occupy in the world, knowing that no-one can dislodge me from that inner embodiment, this is the staring point of Presence for me.
To practice this, you can stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, begin to feel yourself planted in the ground, rooted to the earth. Feel the physical container of your body and notice the space that it occupies in the world. Now say out loud (or in your head if that’s too challenging to begin with) something like “This is my body, this is my space. I own my body. I own the space it takes up in the world. No one can take this from me. This is my dominion.”
The second quality is groundedness. This is feeling one’s self connected to the earth, feeling supported by the planet and staying “down” in your body. There are many ways to ground ones self but here’s one I like. Stand again with your feet shoulder width apart. Now imagine that you have a pole running through your body from crown of your head, down your spine and coming out of the base of your pelvis, going down into the earth. Now imagine a ring, a coit, on that pole at the level of the top of your head. Slowly bring yourself up onto your toes then drop your weight down heavily onto your heels. Repeat this several times. Each time you drop your body down imagine the ring around the pole dropping a few inches down the pole inside your body. Keep doing this until you feel the ring settling in your pelvis. When you drop down, just relax your body and let your body weight and gravity naturally drop you down onto your heels. It may take a few minutes to drop deeply into your body. Notice how you feel different in your body each time you thump down on your heels. It’s usually best to do this exercise with your eyes open so you don’t lose balance. The more in our head we are the less Present we will be. The further down in your body your awareness is, the more embodied you are, the more Present you’ll be able to become.
Connection to Self
If we visualise the grounding exercise as a vertical axis, connection is the horizontal axis. This is our relational axis. It is here that we connect with others (or not). Many people come to me and tell me that they are very sensitive to others and therefore they feel that they “ought to” be seen as Present. But they’re not. Why is this? That’s because they are out of emotional balance on this horizontal axis. If too much of our attention is out there on someone else we simply cannot be Present with ourselves. If you’re always worrying about what your partner wants, or how he/she will react to this or that, you’ve probably lost connection with your own needs and truth.
When we meet another its useful to allow some of our awareness to go out onto to them to see if they are friend or threat, to understand what they are hoping/expecting/needing in that moment. But if we are too absorbed in their experience we will lose ourselves in the process.
Presence is about being Present with one’s self. It’s only if we feel ourselves first that we can be Present with another. The practice here is to bring back your attention, back into your own body, to feel your own bodily sensations and emotions. I visualise my awareness as a ball of energy. When I’m on my own its in my own body, when I’m interacting with another it goes out to meet them – but not too far. If you find yourself too sensitive to the needs or feelings of others, bring that ball of energy back into your own body and feel what’s happening for you. Your body acts as a receptor for the other anyway so there’s no need to put your attention out on them. Your body knows it naturally. And by staying connected to yourself whilst doing this, you are much more able to be Present with them.
When we combine these three elements, this allows us to be fully Present with both our own experience and another. And in this space the magic really can happen.