Sensitive people feel things deeply. There’s no way around it: it comes with your temperament.
Feeling deeply all the time can get overwhelming. But it is entirely possible to enjoy this aspect of yourself once you develop the ability to move into that “bigger you” that Focusers call Presence.
What exactly is Presence?
This beautiful photograph, taken by my friend Kaitlyn Wyenberg,* shows why a picture is worth a thousand words. If you click here you can open a larger version to keep on your desktop as a reminder of Presence. (You’ll see more of Kaitlyn’s work here in weeks to come.)
Presence is a lived experience. But between this photo and the words below, you’ll begin to get a sense of it:
Presence is spacious
A feeling of room for anything and everything that is here in you now. Don’t be hard on yourself, though, If the “room for anything” you are able to muster feels more like a broom closet than a vast blue sky. When I’m really “up against it,” I count myself lucky if my sense of Presence is a single molecule thick. But that’s enough: any air is better than none. I think of it as a tiny oxygen suit that keeps me from drowning in sadness or anger.
Presence has a quality of stillness
In Presence, I am aware of being here in this moment. This can manifest as subtle quality of inner quiet, even in the midst of action. Think of the space shuttle, orbiting outside our atmosphere. It moves silently through space, without apparent hurry, yet in reality it is moving 17,500 miles an hour.
Presence feels accepting
The space shuttle moves in its calm, unhurried way even if the astronauts inside are arguing or dealing with a crisis. The trick is to hold awareness of both: I am the shuttle, and this inner argument is going on. Acceptance does not mean agreement: I don’t have to like the argument to keep my “molecule suit” of awareness around it. From Presence, I can hold “what is.”
Presence feels like fresh air and flowing water
It feels refreshing, relieving, and renewing. It is the opposite of stuck, hopeless, confused, or overwhelmed. The next time you are upset, try scanning your body to see if you sense any places that feel good. It might be just your right hand, or your left foot, but that’s all you need to create a “molecule suit” of Presence.
Presence feels open to possibility
From here, you can see a long way. Your horizon is expanded. This expansion energizes you and makes you curious: “I wonder what is behind that island over there…I wonder how far does the water stretch before it reaches the open sea…”
Presence brings perspective
You could say Presence IS perspective. From Presence, you recover your sense of the right relation to things, people, and events in your life. You can use language to help you accomplish this. First, describe what you are experiencing. Then preface it with, “I’m sensing…” or “I’m aware of…” or “I’m noticing…..” : “I’m sensing my stomach is tense.”
Presence is a paradigm shift
You don’t have to wait until the floodwaters rise to try this. Just notice whatever is going on in you now. And notice any place in yourself where you feel any kind of space, stillness, acceptance, fresh air or flow, possibility or perspective. Even the fact you remembered to do this is a level of Presence.
Then notice how everything feels different. From this place in yourself, you no longer fear your emotions. You can truly appreciate them as messengers bringing insight. That’s the gift of Presence.
*You can find Kaitlyn at email@example.com.
Kim, thank you! Is there any particular way this was helpful to you?
Yes, Emily. I like the way the headings, “Presence is…” provide a road map for the qualities of Presence. As I skim down the headings, and since I have some previous experience with Presence, I have a strong inner sense of agreement and recognition when I read them: “Ah yes, that’s what Presence is like.” It’s a good feeling 🙂
This looks more like Buddhist meditation practice.In fact all meditation varieties stress on being present.
Dear Bhasker, you are quite right that in this article I stressed the aspects of Presence that reflectthe mindfulness of Buddhist practice, which is part of my background. What I did not talk about so much here is that in the context of Focusing, Presence is a more interactive kind of active state. Rather than just observing and allow things to pass by, you come into a relationship with them. You interact with them from a place of deep it acceptance.
Thanks,Emily , for pointing out the difference between Buddhist meditation and Presence, viz, developing relationship with the THINGS that we observe.
Opening paras of the article helped me understand the difficulties my son (now aged 37 yrs) is experiencing. He is diagnized schizophrenic(!).your opening para ” sensitive introverts get overwhelmed a lot” is aptly fitting his situation. This gives me the clue why he gets mad (!) facing many day to day situations, even ones which may give lot of happiness to a normal person.
It was a pleasant surprise to get idea of the remedy- prescription / line of treatment to recover.In fact I have already started the experiment on him with good results and am hopeful of getting him normal in days to come.
I wish parents of schizophrenics and their “therapists” see this article and go deeper in to this way of approach.
Thank,Emily your blog has confirmed my line of treatment for my son.
Bhasker, I am hearing how much you want to understand and support your son. I am not trained or qualified to work with schizophrenics but am glad if what I have written has offered you support in some way. I wish you the best with your son.
Emily, nice to know you took interest in my situation.As I go deeper into understanding what must be going on in the mind of my son(who docs say is sizophrenic!), I realize more and more that lot of people are having difficulties in adjusting to the social interactions due to anxiety and other such related emotions. Developing presence in the true sense, especially through yogic meditation ( like Kriya yoga ) helps not only understand my mind but those of people around me ( friends,family & staff members etc). This in turn helps me in dealing with them in a peaceful and joyful way.
Yes Bhasker, I agree, meditation is key…