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?