Cultivating Presence

Cultivating Presence

What is presence and why should I cultivate it?

For me, presence is a state of being in which I’ve taken care of myself sufficiently enough that I feel relaxed and a natural curiosity toward others.

Given that cultivating presence has been an essential part of my day for many years, I was pleasantly surprised to find a chapter titled “Master Yourself” in Lyssa Adkins’ book “Coaching Agile Teams“, and sub-sections titled: “Start with Self-Awareness”, “Daily Practice”, “Are you listening?” and “Cultivate Presence.”

My daily practice is a combination of journaling, prayer/meditation, Tai Chi or Yoga — inspired by books, workshops, and various groups. Through experience, I have found that my days go better when I create time for my morning practice; in fact, when big things are about to happen, I need my practice even more.

For example, when I facilitate workshops, they tend to go better and I have more energy afterward when I start with my morning practice.  My practice is also especially important on days that I have coaching clients, or if I’m expected to coach teams of developers.

From a practical perspective, I find that without presence, my own stuff gets in the way of my ability to listen clearly and empathize with the experience of others — i.e. my own thoughts, pain or judgments get more of my attention than what is going on around me. I also find that I am stimulated into “fight, flight or freeze” reactions when I’m not present.

Through my studies of collaborative communication (aka. NVC) I’ve discovered the practice of self-empathy, which I now include in my daily practice as an essential element to cultivating presence. During my self-empathy practice, I list the thoughts or judgments that are taking up brain space and identify the feelings/needs most closely associated with them — this brings my mind and heart closer together. For example, I might notice that I’m already planning my day at work, which I translate into feeling some anxiety around using my time efficiently. Or perhaps, I have some judgments about people that stimulated pain in the past: I tell myself “she’s crazy”, and through self-empathy, I realize that I’m disappointed because I’d enjoy more connection and ease.

As I was learning how to give myself empathy, my challenge was that I didn’t have a good vocabulary/lexicon of feelings and needs, thus I found it essential to have lists of feelings and needs to support the identification process. Most of the lists I was finding online and in my trainings were ordered alphabetically, which were of some use, yet frustrating because I didn’t know the words I was searching for in the first place.

As a result of my challenges, I came up with a spatially distributed design to make feeling/need word identification easier.  First, I sorted the feelings by increasing intensity.  Then I grouped the needs geometrically into a potted flower (inspired by Jim & Jori Manske’s needs mandala). I like the potted flower metaphor because it groups physical needs on the bottom, personal needs on the left, inter-personal needs on the right, and transcendent needs on the top.

Here’s a link to a FREE PDF for this rendition to be printed on paper. I suggest using crayons or colored pencils to circle and group associated feelings and needs together (feelings tell us how our needs are being satisfied, or not satisfied – and thus are paired together). After going through lots of paper, I designed a reusable system called “Heart-Canvas” which uses colored glass gems on a vinyl canvas for the pairing of feelings and needs.

I’m inspired to know that business is evolving to include these self-care strategies, and that movements like Agile are showing that more needs can be met by them – including efficiency, well-being, long-term value and higher profit.

I’d enjoy hearing how any of this lands for you. Would you post a reply?

1 Comment

  1. Ian Jones

    Thanks for the article James.

    I am a relationship systems coach.
    My connection to agile, is that my son is a Scrummaster.

    From him I learn that many of the challenges for agile
    teams arise from relationship issues within the team.
    and with the team and the larger organisation.

    In researching some of these challenges, and attempting to formulate appropriate responses, your thoughts on aligning the
    mind and emotions through self awareness and awareness of others,resonate strongly

    I am curious about how to link the evolving experience
    many of us are having, to the “hard” world of “efficiency…
    long term value and higher profit”

    I would be interested to examine this topic with you,
    if you have a similar interest.

    Go well !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This