Practising Presence





Quality of presence is really important to me. I think it’s one of the reasons I enjoy coaching so much - it requires me to be fully present. Not just mentally, but with my whole being. Breathing deeply, my feet firmly on the floor, I ease the sharp focus of my mind in favour of the soft focus of my heart. When my sense organs become antennae for this inner source of wisdom, which speaks only in the language of emotion, I am able to hear the greater story that is both within and beyond the moment.


Sometimes, when the conditions are right, and open hearts meet, the world can open up and that thing beyond can be glimpsed, felt, remembered. In these moments we can feel our hearts beating harder, our lungs breathing deeper, we may gasp, sigh or cry in recognition that there is SO MUCH MORE.


I had a moment like this on my coaching training, when one of our tutors came in to teach us despite going through a family bereavement that weekend. During the check in, many people vocalised they thought it was remarkable that he was able to be there considering what he was going through. We discussed the complex nature of experience, how we can learn to hold many feelings simultaneously and he said, ‘the heart’s big enough for all of it.’ Those words touched something deep inside me and in that moment I felt connected to the pain, joy and wisdom of ages. I was able to see the heart in an expanded sense as the stage of the human drama and to conceive of love as the cosmic force directing the show.


This moment was powerful because my tutor did not try to hide or diminish his feelings - he brought the fullness of his love and his grief into the room, and they moved us all. Had he felt the need to put those things away, he would not have been fully present with us and the moment wouldn’t have opened up the way it did. It was one of the most important lessons on the course. Potent presence does not come from the careful straining of our awareness until it is free from messy distraction, but from the expansion of our awareness so it is big enough to hold all the chaos within it, without needing to split.


In order to practice deep presence then, we need to become adept at feeling our feelings - something that most of us find remarkably difficult given how much conditioning we carry around what is a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ experience and what it is ‘ok’ and ‘not ok’ to express. The truth is that we all feel all the feelings, and the more we can consciously feel them, the less they will unconsciously control our behaviour. In a world that has taught us to ‘pull ourselves together’, ‘get on with it’ and ‘get over ourselves’ it can be difficult to give ourselves permission to feel, but if we’re constantly undermining or rejecting our emotions, they start to create a level of psychic interference that makes it difficult for us to meet the present moment openly.


So how can we create more emotional clarity? As ever, the best techniques are simple but they require commitment. A daily practise of tuning into the body, feelings and mind though sitting or moving meditation/ dance or breathwork combined with journaling is a great first step that requires only a notebook, a pen and a willingness to be present to yourself. But of course that last part isn’t always easy! This is where commitment is really important. Practise isn’t just there for when you’re feeling good and motivated, it’s there for when you’re not, and in fact that’s when it’s most important. Practise is a container that can hold you in whatever you are experiencing. If you show up no matter what and offer whatever is alive in you to your inner altar, you can be baptised. That is the transformational power of emotions when consciously embraced.


And yet many of us spend so much of our lives desperately trying to avoid feeling our feelings. We come up with all sorts of elaborate distractions so that we don’t have to be present to what is inside of us. But it is only once we recognise the emotional rudders that are guiding the flow of our perceptions and behaviours that we are able to change course. The spaciousness of perspective gives us more room for manoeuvre. This is what coaching with me is about - increasing your self-awareness in order to increase your capacity to respond to life in a way that honours your highest potential.


Every time we feel ourselves triggered and observe the change in emotions without becoming hijacked by them, we liberate ourselves from unconscious patterns of behaviour. And every time we meet our pain or fear with awareness and just allow it to be there without rejecting, dismissing or pushing away, we expand our capacity for emotional freedom. It is in these daily battles to hold the tension of our experience that we expand our capacity for deep presence. Remember the heart is big enough for all of it. So breathe deep, feel your feet on the ground and allow yourself to open to everything that is alive within you.