We hear a lot about “Presence” these days. Depending on who we listen to, presence is knowing who you are, where you fit in the world, and being “in” the moment. Presence is being fully attuned to the person or situation around you without distraction. It is more than just showing up and being conscious. It is acknowledging the unique energy that you bring with you into every encounter, being fully aware of your energy and how it feels, and being able to harass that energy intentionally for the purpose of interchange with the environment or with another individual or group. Sounds amazing, right?
The difficulty with “presence” is that people don’t know where to start! How can I tell if I’m “present?” How can I practice “presence?” It seems so nebulous it is easy to discount and back burner the concept for a retreat or the next corporate offisite.
I invite you to consider that the beginning practice of presence in a powerful way is as simple as making a very conscious effort to smile as much as you possibly can.
In wisdom literature, presence is interestingly often connected with “face” in various ways. In numerous examples, when one’s face is turned toward another, the energy between the parties flows; when the face is turned away, it is very close to being absent all together. From this, I think we can infer there is great power in the expression of the face.
Some examples from the Bible (and there are many more:)
“Cain was very angry and his face fell” (Gen 4.5)
But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ (Gen 43.3)
So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” (Gen 40.7)
And [G-d] said, “My presence (face) will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exod 33.14)
In our English language many idioms using the word “face” describe an emotional state (see table below).
According to social scientists, our physical bodily expressions (call it non-verbal signals) convey how we’re feeling. If we hunch over and make ourselves small, we are “hiding”, in a position of disempowerment, perhaps feeling sad, anxious, or depressed. A person who is feeling confident, passionate, expansive, optimistic, assertive - they will have an open body, take up a lot of space. Body language is perhaps underrated in terms of its importance in communication. Others can see it, we can feel it. I think most of us understand that this is true.
What is most fascinating to me is the idea that we actually can change our mood on the basis of our body’s posture and position. The wisdom literature hints at this - so much is revealed by the face. It is our presence. And we are in complete control of what shows up on our face.
Dr. Amy Cuddy gave a great TedTalk on this subject. She makes the point that our body language does not only reflect how we feel, it reflects who we are. We can change our beliefs about ourself through small changes in our physiology: opening up our shoulders, lifting our heads, straightening our back and… smiling! Try smiling - even when you don’t feel like it. You’ll find it is harder to stay “small” and your connection to others will open up as your presence is seen… and felt.
I think this is such an important step that I made a SoulCollage® card to help me remember the importantce of a smile. It isn't just an outward expression of how I feel, it changes my outlook, my disposition, the way I communicate, and who I believe that I am.
I’d love to hear how this works for you. Leave a comment!
SoulCollage® is a creative and satisfying collage process. You make your own deck of cards - each collage card representing one aspect of your personality or Soul. Use the cards intuitively to answer life's questions and participate in self-discovery. Joyfully deepen your understanding of the relationships between your personality parts, you and your family/community/world, and you and your dreams, symbols, and Spirit. The book, SoulCollage® Evolving, by the birthmother of SoulCollage®, Seena Frost, tells how to make and use the SoulCollage® cards individually and in groups.
I facilitate SoulCollage® locally in the Gig Harbor, Washington area with several introductory workshops available in coming months. I invite you to consider coming to one of them and learn what this fun and creative process holds for you! We collage images borrowed from various sources for our personal use only. SoulCollage® cards are not to be sold, traded, or bartered; they are to be reproduced only for the personal use of the maker of the card. SoulCollage® cards may be shared as examples to illustrate the SoulCollage® process, but it is a principle of SoulCollage® that cards are not for sale, trade, or barter. (SoulCollage® principles)
I've enjoyed making my own cards, and find that it brings me back into touch with parts of myself, some of which have been silent for so long I nearly forgot them. For the first few weeks, I was compelled to make cards (cutting, combining, and pasting images) and often had no idea what they meant to me. As you will discover in class, SoulCollage® cards have a Neter, a central voice, and we find that voice (it's really our inner voice speaking to us) by the prompt: "I am one who..." To give you some ideas, I'm sharing a few of my dozens of cards here to give you some idea of how they emerge. These images, for me, are deeply personal reminders of the importance of perspective-taking, the power of community, how much "what comes out of the mouth" matters to relationships, and the beauty of the created world. These images speak deeply to me, just as I'm sure yours will for you.
You can connect to SoulCollage® workshops and find one near you through http://www.soulcollage.com/workshops.
I did not just wake up one day and decide to pursue my personal passion to full-time coach and help others connect to their inner wisdom. It took a crisis to help me make an "exodus" so to speak.
I was a technology director in a global financial services company in Seattle. In May that year, my sister was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, in November I unexpectedly lost my job in a management restructure, and one day later my mother died after a 12 year battle with Alzheimer's Disease.
Yes, I was grieving. I felt incapacitated by it. It was a lot to handle.
I had had family crises before, and I figured this would be no different. I would take some time off from business as usual, then get "back to work," find my next technology gig, and keep on going.
It did not work.
A month went by, then two, then six. I was embarrassed, then ashamed of my inability to overcome my emotions. A concerned colleague kept calling and I found myself unable to even bring myself to meet her for coffee. It was like I had fallen though a missing plank in the pier, was in deep water, with no ladder. I felt like I was just drifting, treading water, flowing with the current, unable to get back to shore. After a while, that become the problem - my inner skeptic was delighted to hold my own inaction and sense of emotional paralysis in front of me daily as proof of what SHE would call my "personal incompetence."
It was a pivotal period. I came to recognize the conspiracy of my inner wisdom and the Divine, inviting me to transform, to allow something completely new to arise from my being in terms of focus and vocation. It was amazing to say "yes" to that invitation. I'd invite you to ask yourself if that is what is happening for you.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are some suggestions for giving yourself the permission to hear the message that grief may hold for you.