We have all experienced it.
A person walks into the room and they feel magnetic. You instantly feel safe, heard, and seen by them. Somehow being in their presence always seems to get you activated and more connected to yourself. They uplift everyone around them. You can sit and listen to them for hours, transfixed. Sometimes they don’t even have to say anything to create a shift in you.
That person embodies presence.
A few days ago I was in a session with a client and she expressed to me that she wanted assistance with her “word of the year.” The word she had picked was Presence, and she wanted to know how she could truly embody presence in the year to come.
So, first, we got down to defining what presence really is.
Presence is a buzz word in the spiritual community. It’s spoken about often in leadership training. In meditation. Programs and books have the word “presence” in their title. But do we really know what presence actually is?
It’s not, as I told my client, “just being present” or “just being there,” which is how I see a lot of people using it. In my experience, presence has an even more profound meaning than that. And in my opinion, mastering and embodying the true definition of presence is one of the most important things you can learn in life.
Presence is about bringing your full self to the table in every moment before you. It’s about bringing your full awareness to the moment, the nuances that are happening around you, and responding to those nuances without losing your connection to yourself.
A truly present person is allowing the entire moment before her to be what it is. She is truly serving the moment & transmuting the energy around her by fully feeling the subtlety of that moment in her environment, and contributing her whole self to that moment.
But wait, there’s something deeper to this.
You might ask: How do I bring my full self to the moment? That can be scary! What if I get rejected? What if that hurts?
In order to bring your full self to the moment, you have to be willing to feel ALL of your feelings fully. Even the unpleasant ones. You also have to be okay with everyone around you having the feelings they are having.
Being present means you meet your emotions and the emotions around you in every moment with your full awareness. You don’t repress them, you don’t shove them down and shame them. You allow yourself to fully feel them.
A lot of times when I speak with clients who feel they have a really hard time being present in their lives or in important moments, they are running away from presence by doing other things to distract themselves. Eating… Watching Netflix… Picking at a scab… Jumping from one relationship into the next… Not doing the work they know they should be doing to get their calling out there in the world.
We run away or distract ourselves from being fully present because we fear fully feeling our feelings.
On some level your ego thinks you might die if you truly allow yourself to feel what is present in the moment — your feelings and the feelings of others around you. If you are a highly sensitive person, this can feel especially daunting and overwhelming. So in order to control the situation and not “die” from feeling everything that is present in the moment, we run away from them.
The only problem is that as an outsider, whenever you do this, I never get to experience YOU fully. The FULL YOU is what the world needs right now. You came to this earth to fulfill an important mission, to add to the evolution of our world with your full presence. Every time you distract, run away, or sabotage, you are removing most of your true self from the world around you and we don’t get to benefit from what you are here to offer through your presence.
Truth is, true mastery of presence is not for the faint of heart.
Feeling all your feelings and being okay with others’ strong feelings is for the soul warriors.
When you stop distracting yourself from and you bring your full self to the moment, when you allow the emotions that come up for you in the moment to fully be, you are doing two things:
You are expanding your capacity to feel and handle emotions; and you’re transforming the space around you.
Our natural tendency when it comes to emotions is to try to shield ourselves from them. If you’re a highly sensitive person, you’ve probably read books that tell you to shield yourself from the outside world. I think when you’re first learning how to calibrate your internal world and your sensitivity, creating a shield can be valuable. We need time to hear ourselves, after all. But after a while, this shield becomes a crutch. We become emotionally weaker because the shield has made it so that we are so protected from any feelings outside of us that we lose the ability to deal with strong emotions in our environment.
The answer is not to run away or create a little bubble for yourself. You’ll never really be able to experience life if you do that. You’ll become more and more unable to handle emotions and strong feelings.
The answer is to work your emotion muscles. Expand your capacity to feel. The more you expand your capacity to feel, the more you can handle emotionally speaking. The more you can handle your own emotions, the more you are comfortable when other people have strong emotions.
Why should we care about this? Well, because this is what a really good leader, the kind that shifts the space around her, does. She doesn’t shame the people around her for having the feelings they are having, or judge them. She has expanded her capacity to feel and so she doesn’t feel like she’s going to die if someone around her is having a strong emotion or reaction. She also doesn’t feel like she’s going to die if she gets triggered and has strong emotions in reaction to the strong emotions in her environment.
She is simply present with what is in the moment. She can allow what is present in the moment to be. Does she get triggered by people’s emotions around her? Not as often. And when she does, she can fully feel her own feelings and then respond from a grounded place that is aligned with her soul (not aligned with her trigger).
When you can begin to expand your emotional capacity, you begin to respond from your authentic self, in service to healing; instead of responding from your trigger, which can cause more destruction.
I’ll give you a perfect example. A while ago, I had a client copy something I wrote word for word and present it as her own. Was this hurtful? You bet it was. Was it awkward? Hell yeah. I was working with her when this happened.
But I knew my job was to elevate the space around us and to make sure she was honoring her authentic voice, not copying someone else’s. So I allowed myself to feel the betrayal, the incredulity and the awkwardness. I allowed myself to feel the fear of having to lovingly confront her about this, unsure about how she would react. I had to feel it all and be okay with whatever reaction she was going to have to my confronting this head on with love.
What ended up happening is that when the time came to confront her about it, I was able to speak with love and in alignment with my values of transformation. We had a healing conversation, she had a huge breakthrough and thanked me for confronting her about it. A few weeks later, she had a massive shift in her creativity and started creating her most authentic aligned work ever.
That’s the power of presence.
So here’s a way you can begin to practice presence today:
The next time a strong emotion comes up, practice presence with it. Don’t run away.
Set a timer for 5 minutes and feel it all. Breathe through it.
You’ll notice as the minutes tick by that the more you dive into the intensity of the feeling, the more it dissipates. By the end you will be back to your true self, instead of being in your trigger.
And from that place, you can truly shift the space around you.
I’d love to know how this post helped you today. Did you try the exercise? How did it go for you? What resonated with you the most?
PS: I want to thank my longtime client, Gena Shingle Jaffe who inspired this blog post through a great conversation we had in one of our sessions.