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  • Peg Hunt

A Simple Technique to Develop Greater Presence

I sometimes begin my coaching sessions with a few minutes of mindfulness meditation. I am practicing with my clients how to tune into the sensations that are present in the body (e.g., hot/cold, pressure, how breathing moves our body, etc.). When we direct our attention to what is going on in the body, we bring our attention back from where it often likes to go—thinking about things like what was happening before our meeting, what I need to do next or what I am worried about. Consciously attending to the sensations in the body is a very concrete way to develop “presence,” which is simply the ability to be aware and available in the moment. Presence lays the groundwork for the coaching session (or any engagement) to be more meaningful.

This mindfulness technique is also good practice for “real life” because we are all plagued to one degree or another by ruminating on things that happened in the past, on things that might or might not ever happen based on past events or worrying about the future. There can be times when these thoughts are productive, for example when something did not go well, and you try to determine what you can do now to make the situation better or what you could do in the future to avoid the same mistake. Thinking through a worry you have about the future, similarly, can be productive if the goal is to plan for navigating anticipated challenges. However, there are times when we let our thoughts go unchecked and rehearse imagined scenarios that are unhelpful. For example, dwelling on all the things we imagined could have gone wrong but actually didn’t or getting worked up about future worst-case scenarios that haven’t actually happened. I doubt it’s helpful to our neural network to rehearse negative events that never happened!

Practicing some form of mindfulness meditation can interrupt these unhelpful thought patterns. Once we notice ourselves rehearsing or working ourselves up over things that have not happened, we can gently stop it.

  1. Notice and acknowledge the worry—recognize that you are worrying.

  2. Remind yourself that what you are worrying about did not actually happen (or is in the future and may never happen). The worry is just a thought.

  3. Bring yourself back to the present by focusing on what is happening in your body in the current moment—what sensations do you feel?

    • If your worry focuses on a past event that could have gone wrong but didn’t, remind yourself what did happen. What did you do that contributed to that successful outcome?

    • If your worry focuses on some event in the future, ask yourself if there is anything you can do to prepare for a better outcome.

4. Come back to the present moment by asking yourself what sensations you feel in your body when you pay attention to actual events.

I imagine most of us need more practice in staying in the here and now. I know I am grateful for the small practices with my clients and am also surprised by the new things I can notice. Exercising “presence” can seem vague and amorphous, but it is easily and profoundly available to us, through practice. Like any skill, the more we practice presence the more accessible it is to us. The goal isn’t perfect presence, we develop presence by noticing when we are not present and bringing ourselves back to sensations in the body.

If you enjoy this blog, please subscribe and share. If you are looking to develop greater presence, coaching can help! Please contact me at

© Anne E. Garing, PhD and Peg Hunt, MS

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