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Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Power of Speaking From Presence

In my post last week, I shared some thoughts about the Power of Presence. I also invited everyone to join me in a presence practice. If you have not yet begun this practice, it’s not too late. You can begin today. This week, I want to share what I believe to be the next step in our process of practicing presence and being present.

Connecting with and honoring our ‘body’s energy’ which in his book, Radical Wholeness, Philip Shepherd defines as “everything you are feeling as your life right now. It is an umbrella term covering all the sensations that show up in the body: the energy of your emotions, ideas, muscles, libido, breath, and of your exchanges with the Present” is a vitally important first step. The next step is learning to express it.

Being willing and taking the risk to express our ‘body’s energy’ is the next level of practicing presence. The thought of sharing with another what we become aware of through our presence practice can stimulate fear and resistance. We all want to experience love and acceptance. When we believe that we might be rejected, criticized or abandoned by sharing our emotions, ideas, and experiences, we often retreat and deny ourselves the gift of being real. In his book, Say What You Mean, Oren Jay Sofer encourages us to learn and practice ways of communicating that foster connection and promote understanding.

Saying what we mean in a way that is honest and compassionate requires willingness, presence and practice. I recently had an opportunity to experience this first-hand. I wish I could tell you that I succeeded in communicating my ‘body’s energy’ effectively, but I would be lying. I did, however, learn from this experience and will make a conscious choice to do it differently next time to the best of my ability.

Last week, as I was participating in a meeting, I felt uncomfortable and agitated. I wanted to stand up and leave the meeting. Instead, I chose to stay. My body was present for the entire meeting, but I was not present for the meeting. I listened to what others were saying, but I was not connected to what they were saying. Rather, I was evaluating what they were saying and interpreting it through my lenses. I left the meeting feeling despondent and disconnected.

When I shared my experience with my life coach the following day, she helped me to recognize the story I was telling myself about myself during the meeting. It was a prime example of reacting, rather than practicing presence and being willing to speak to my experience in the moment.

Had I been practicing presence in the way that I wish to, I would have said to the group something like, “I’m feeling disconnected, would anyone not be agreeable to us taking a short break. I would like to have a moment to reconnect with myself so that I can connect with you.” Assuming the group was in agreement, I would have taken a few deep breaths, done my best to become the silent witness of my thoughts and feelings and give myself empathy. If the group had not been in agreement, I would have said, “Thank you. I feel the need for a break, so I am going to step out of the room for a few minutes. I will be back.”

After having had time to self-connect, I would have come back to the circle and said, “I’m feeling some fear around the thought of sharing what came up for me, but it will help me to be able to express it. Would anyone not be willing to hear what I have to say?” Again, assuming that the group was in agreement, I might have said, “At the beginning of this meeting, we agreed to share openly and honestly with each other. I am feeling uncomfortable because I have not done that, and I am sensing that there are things being hinted at by others but not being shared openly. I would like to know that we are free to express ourselves freely and that, to the best or our ability, we will be present for and with each other no matter what.”

My opportunity in doing that might have been to see how present I could be if someone in the group had challenged me, tried to fix it for me, or discounted me in some way. It might have also been an opportunity for me to be present with another’s displeasure about something I did or did not do. If either of those arose, I would have been well served to go back to step one and begin again. Ideally, my willingness to be vulnerably honest would have served connection and opened a way for others to share as well.

Practicing presence within ourselves is essential. We cannot be present with or for another unless and until we are willing and able to be present for ourselves. Had I been willing to take time to practice presence during the meeting, I am certain I would have had a different experience. Sharing our present awareness with another or with others is an important next step toward being fully present. Further, sharing ourselves with another is one of the most meaningful gifts we can give the other and ourselves. It enriches our lives and brings us closer to each other.

In Nonviolent Communication practice, we often encourage the use of “post-hearsal.” Rather than rehearsing what you are going to say or do in a situation, “post-hearsal” is reviewing a situation as I did above and connecting with how you might have done it differently. This practice helps to imprint upon our consciousness words or phrases that we can use in future situations. It also helps us build a consciousness of presence.

I encourage you to think of a situation from the past in which you were not willing or able to connect with and express your thoughts, feelings or desires in the moment. Take some time to imagine the setting and yourself in it. Take a few deep breaths. Practice self-connection and self-empathy. What were you feeling? What were you hoping to experience? What thoughts were running through your mind? Did you want to get up and walk out? Now, imagine that you are back in that situation, but this time you are fully present, completely self-connected and centered in your awareness. What might you have said or done differently?

Practicing presence is more that connecting with the ‘body’s energy.’ Practicing presence is having the freedom to express our thoughts, share our feelings and speak to our experience in the moment when we are alone and when we are with others. This takes courage, willingness and practice. I encourage you to practice alone first. Write it down. Describe the scenario and your response. Then, imagine and delineate your preferred response. Next, connect with someone you know who loves and values you and practice with them. Any form of practice will strengthen your presence consciousness and create new neural pathways that will begin to change your responses in the moment. How do we achieve presence consciousness and learn to speak from presence? Practice! Practice! Practice!


  1. David, your story brings up a lot of thoughts for me, but this quotation from Eckhart Tolle sums them up pretty well:
    "Here's a new spiritual practice for you: Don't take your thoughts too seriously."

  2. Yes for me it is learning to say what I mean in the moment even when I want to “hide” and not reveal unsettled feelings and thoughts. When I “hide”; the chance for understanding is lost and the problem is left unresolved. Thank you David for modeling presence and honesty during moments of discomfort. There is a truth trying to emerge:)

  3. My presence is the greatest present I can offer another. Blessings on your journey.