We’ve all heard the expression that someone has “presence.” You think of a person walking into a room being so magnetic that people are drawn to them.
To me, presence isn’t really the same thing as having charisma; it’s more about projecting confidence in ourselves. It’s an outward way of being that affects how others see us and also a beneficial internal state.
What is Presence?
Yes, Presence is “being present,” but it’s more than that: it’s the creative aware intelligence that’s always available to us, where we experience a sense of wellbeing, harmony and connectedness, while also feeling alert, engaged and relaxed. It’s “our number one resource into which we can attune ourselves and from that place of attunement, access immediately a state of resourcefulness and responsiveness to the needs of the present moment.” –Dr. Mark Atkinson.
Presence is being conscious—the opposite of being unconscious, which most of us are the majority of the time. When we’re up in our heads thinking about the past and worrying about the future, we’re missing out on what’s happening now. Plus we can’t think clearly and often are experiencing fears, limiting beliefs and stories that aren’t really true.
“In you, as in each human being, there is a dimension of consciousness far deeper than thought. It is the very essence of who you are. We may call it presence, awareness, the unconditioned consciousness.” — Eckhart Tolle
A Few of the Benefits of Being Present
We project passion and confidence, which people see and it makes them trust us.
We’re aware and can access our intuition and guidance.
We experience clarity and focus so can make better decisions.
We’re calmer and less stressed, which is ultimately good for our health.
We feel more powerful and courageous.
We worry less about what others think of us.
We’re in a flow state or “the zone,” where we feel more open, playful, creative and appreciative—we lose sense of time and everything feels effortless. Athletes, musicians, and artists often describe being in this state.
Presence is good for our relationships. When we’re in Presence, we’re fully present to people and engaged and actively listening, which helps them feel connected to us.
We’re being our best, authentic selves. When you’re present, you experience your true self. It stems from trusting and believing in yourself.
How Do We Become Present?
Presence is a resource that we can access in a number of ways, but ultimately practicing mindfulness is how we become present—it’s basically focusing where we place our attention.
There’s a ton of research on the many benefits of mindfulness. In fact many companies, such as Google, Apple, and Starbucks, have implemented in-house training courses for their employees, since studies show that mindfulness can help us manage stress and be more productive.
Mindfulness has definitely helped me. I have to admit I wasn’t always the most present person, especially at work. I was always overwhelmed and stressed out, ate lunch at my desk while working, cut people off while they were talking to me, typed at the computer while in meetings, juggled a bunch of stuff at once instead of focusing on one thing, and would rather have been somewhere else than there most of the time.
Tips to Become Present
Meditation helps us become more mindful and leads us into Presence (see my recent mindfulness post). Meditation is essentially the same as mindfulness, but it differs in that it’s time we put aside everyday, such as 10-20 minutes, to be in a state of stillness, but mindfulness can be practiced anytime–you can just practice focusing your attention for a few minutes here and there throughout the day while doing daily tasks. Instead of multitasking, do one thing at a time, which is actually more productive.
Focusing on your breathing is perhaps the quickest way to become present as it gets you out of your head and in tune with your body, and you can do it anywhere at any time. Pay attention to the the breath flowing in and out of your nose and you will start feeling calmer. You can extend this by breathing deeply into heart area or the lower belly. The gut and heart have wisdom as they have neurons just like the brain, and they all communicate with each other. Try breathing into your heart area when you want to tap into your intuition and your lower belly when you want to feel grounded or need extra courage.
Heart Rate Variability training leads you into Presence, which is when your heart and brain are in sync. You do this by breathing into your heart area for the count of 5 and out for the count of 5 for a few minutes. I use a phone app called Innerbalance™ by HeartMath 2—3 times a day (it comes with an attachment with it that costs around $100). There’s a ton of research on Heartmath’s website about the benefits of heart coherence.
Spending time in nature can lead you into Presence.
Focus on any of your 5 senses (tasting, smelling, hearing, feeling, seeing). For example, focus on an object, the sounds of stillness around you, feel the fabric of your clothes next to your skin, or slow down and really taste your food when eating.
Some people find that paying attention to their feet helps ground them to the earth and feel present.
Use powerful body language, such as Amy Cuddy’s power poses: “starfish up” or the Wonder Woman pose before challenging situations like a job interview or sales pitch (obviously you would probably want to do this somewhere private before entering the room). This tricks the body into thinking we’re powerful even if we aren’t feeling it at the time. Even just thinking we’re doing it can have an effect. Basically we can’t be present when we feel powerless; power expands our minds and bodies. Amy backs all this up with research in her excellent book Presence or watch her TED Talk.
Try this ABC technique when you’re stressed: (A) Acknowledge you’re stressed, (B) breathe (in for 4 breaths and out for 7 breaths a couple of times), and (C) choose how you’re going to respond. From a place of presence, you can make healthier decisions.
Any time you find yourself resisting reality, judging yourself or others, come back to Presence.
If you’re ever not sure of how to proceed with anything, return to Presence, then act from Presence.
Obviously, it’s not possible to be present all the time, but it’s a great state to be in. You may find, like me, that ultimately you just feel better when you’re present.
Leave a comment. Did you try any of these techniques and did they work for you? What are some ways you become present? How has being present helped you?
Cuddy, A. (2015). Presence. New York, NY: Little Brown.
Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D. T. (2010). A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy Mind. Science, 330(6006), 932-932.