What is it about some people that has you feel immediately at ease in their presence?
What has you trust one person and not feel safe with another?
Who do you trust to share your depth of emotion, feeling, yearning, concern, hope, dreams and visions with?
These questions are not easily answered, as there are factors in each of our life history, culture, circumstances and beliefs that contribute to a feeling of trust and safety when in the physical (or even virtual) presence of another.
It’s easy for some people to dazzle others with their knowledge and expertise. Yet without a fully embodied presence, there might not be enough “Substance of Being” to allow others to shine in their presence.
Someone who is constantly telling others what to do or how to solve their problems, might not have another person feel trusting enough to share their deeper thoughts and feelings with.
My observation is the pandemic is calling forth an opportunity for all of us to grow in our ability to be present with other people, and especially those who are feeling sadness, loss and a lot of unpleasant change.
I also recognize the many people who are becoming aware of new ways of living and working and have hope and excitement for new opportunities and possibilities on the horizon.
Coaching is a beautiful profession in the human development field.
Professional Coaches have the unique opportunity to be present with other human beings while they examine themselves in their personal and professional contexts, including their current circumstances (Now), possibilities for where they might want to be next (There), and how to navigate the gap between Now and There until where they want to be next, is now. This process can be a short, medium, or long term depending on the client context.
Because we are developing other humans, it is our responsibility to constantly evolve ourselves so we can be the most Present person we can be. ICF Core Competency, Embodies a Coaching Mindset, articulates this ongoing evolutionary development process that a Professional Coach constantly engages with.
No matter the current coaching skill level of any coach, every coach can be evolving their Presence. By the time you are at MCC mastery coaching skill level, Fully Embodied Presence or the lack thereof, becomes most obvious.
Every Coaching Session is a new opportunity for the Coach to Be Fully Present. The ICF Core Competency, Maintains Presence, articulates key characteristics required to maintain presence, and define as, “Is fully conscious and present with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible, grounded and confident.”
For me to be “fully conscious and present with the client,” I engage with various “Presence Practices” that support me to be fully in my body, not just in my mind. Some of these practices occur before a coaching session, while some practices are easily done while in each coaching session.
I know myself well enough as a recovering Type A / Perfectionist personality type who creates internal anxiety and churn (yup, I’m continually working on that), to have a lot of practices that I engage with regularly. Perhaps you don’t need as many Presence Practices as I do. I meditate every morning. I’ve had a regular Bikram Yoga practice since 2008, as well as daily walking around my neighborhood 1 – 3 times per day. I’ve had other exercise routines too, yet Meditation, Bikram and Walking are my sustainable and very supportive physical practices that support my well being on many levels.
Our Presence is what often says more to others than the words we speak.
Our Presence can be transformational for others. Clients will often learn as much or even more from a coach by how the coach is behaving. Coaches are experts in knowledge of and ability to use coaching skills for maximum impact, to support the client to express, examine and determine what they already know about themselves and their situations.
Daily Presence Practices
Here are some of my current daily Presence Practices that support me to center myself to be fully present during a coaching session. Many of these can be done in seconds or a minute. These are my current Practices, based on what works best for my mental, emotional and physical well being. I am not suggesting you do it “my way.” I’ve made some of these up from different things I’ve learned. Please experiment and find your own best practices that support you to be at your best through every coaching session.
We all have this incredible built-in stress relieving and Presence enhancing capability. It’s how we breathe! So many of us hold our breath, or have shallow breathing, which can cause fast, mind-based thinking. When you breathe more deeply and consciously, you are aerating your body and brain, and creating more groundedness in your Presence. You are literally more fully present.
Conscious breathing is simple, yet not easy to remember to do. I recommend you consciously become aware of how you breathe. Just me writing this is having you become aware of how you breathe!
This is the simple technique I use every day, when I first wake up. And before I start my next zoom meeting, or coaching session.
One. Conscious. Breath.
- Breathe in very slowly through your nose, puffing out your rib cage so the air is going deeper into your body, and even feels like it’s in your belly.
- Then hold your breath for a few seconds.
- Then even more slowly release the breath through your mouth, which is filling your lungs, brain and body with oxygen.
Whenever you breath out more slowly than you breathe in, you are relaxing and calming your body, including the Vagus Nerve which is a critical nerve that extends from the brain to the digestive system and organs.
If all I have time for is One Conscious Breath, I know I’m present for my next client or meeting. If I can do 3, or 6 conscious breaths, even better!
Stack the Senses
Take a deep breath, close your eyes. Say to yourself as you put attention on each sense:
Hear what I’m Hearing – Feel what I’m Feeling – See what I’m Seeing – Smell what I’m Smelling – Taste what I’m Tasting.
Then say all of this again, a little faster, until it seems as if you are present to all five senses almost simultaneously.
This can take about 1 minute, or longer if you want to and can be done eyes open while in a coaching session too. For “feeling,” I notice my sit bones and body weight. For “seeing” I see whatever I see with my eyes closed.
Pranayama Deep Breathing
In the morning, I do more repetitions than One Conscious Breath as a way create aliveness, alertness and energize my brain and body. In fact, here is a video of me demonstrating Pranayama Deep Breathing, which I do 3 sets of every morning. You can visually see what I’m doing, although may need to search for how to do this properly. This is also the opening breathing exercise every time in the Bikram Yoga Series.
This video is 37 seconds in length.
Ground in Your Body
Simply feel your body where it touches your chair, or your feet touching the ground. Feel “heavy” in those touch points, so you really feel your bottom, or your feet. While I don’t have a Pilates ball, I sit in a gaming chair, I have a wobble stool I sometimes use, and my desk is fully customized that allows me to stand or sit.
Stay Hydrated. Fuel your Body.
I drink warm water, or herbal teas, for a total of around 80 ounces per day. If I need a “grounding” snack, I eat a few dry roasted, unsalted whole cashews or something protein. I’ve learned that food choices are very important for my Presence. I find I’m most grounded with no or low sugar foods, and high protein/good fat food combinations, and no/low baked or flour based products. I rarely drink coffee/caffeine during the week. I’m currently enjoying a Saturday Cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso. I do love a good strong coffee, yet it’s not the best fuel for my body as something to drink every day.
Cross brain hemisphere activities.
These are what I do every morning when I first get up, and prepare me for my short meditation. I also use anytime during the day to energize my body.
A simple activity that takes 20-30 seconds is to march in place raising your knees high, and touching the raised knee with your opposite hand. I repeat 20 times, which means I’ve alternated between touching my knees 10 times each. This is also a quick, energizing activity to do between meetings or coaching sessions. Here is a video of me demonstrating Cross Walking.
This video is 12 seconds in length.
Cross Brain Hemispheres Activity #1
Another activity is standing with feet no wider than hip distance apart. Rub your palms together while breathing in. Then breath out slowly while raising one hand as high above your head as possible, while lowering the opposite hand to your side, creating a gentle stretch. I also look up as I’m doing this. Then return to normal position, head straight. Rub palms again, and alternate. I do this 2 – 4 full sets of this.
This video is 24 seconds in length.
Cross Brain Hemispheres Activity #2
This is a combination of a gentle stretch and cross brain hemisphere activity. Take a deep breath in, then gentle fold forward while breathing out. Hang head while holding arms below your head, crossed. Gently rock back and forth or gently wiggle hips rocking from one foot to the other foot. To stand back up, bring hands together, and make a wavy side to side motion as you stand up, with hands above head. Take a deep breath in, then breath out while bringing hands to sides.
This video is 37 seconds in length.
There is a lot of information on Tapping, and I’ve previously been a student in a course on Tapping. This is a quick energizing exercise. With the tips of your fingers, gently tap all over head, neck, face and chest.
This video is 26 seconds in length.
Walk a “circuit” in my Neighborhood
If I have 15 or 30 minutes in between coaching sessions, I’ll take a slow or brisk walk, depending on what feels best. I breath in the fresh air, look at the trees, and the sky. I might see a squirrel or a rabbit. I have 8 minute and 12 minute “circuits” of different streets around my home. If I only have 10 minutes, I’ll walk 4 minutes down one street, then turn around and come back.
Often during the middle of the day, I build in time on my Sofa, which might include watching some sport I’ve recorded. I’ll have lunch, and take a short nap, which I call Sofa Snoozing!
I hope this article inspires you to create your own Presence Practices, so you can remain fully embodied as you coach, and as you live your life.
Written by Carly Anderson, MCC
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