Shari Geller's CD Relational Presence Cultivating Therapeutic Presence Tips for Cultivating Presence

Tips for Cultivating Presence

Presence is accessible to all of us. To allow for a deepening into presence however takes intention and practice.  Intention and practice primes our brain and our body towards the experience that we are intending (i.e. being present).  Presence can be cultivated through pausing and opening to whatever is being experienced in the moment - with acceptance and non-judgment. Mindfulness practices help to open to presence through paying attention to the moment on purpose, with compassion and understanding. Engaging in activities that promote moment-to-moment awareness, such as art, creativity, music or being in nature, helps to release the natural presence within.

Below are some tips for cultivating presence:


Taking a moment to pause, whether it be in the midst of a difficult situation or at a moment of being in beauty, is one of the most powerful ways to open to presence. Pausing helps to slow down and create space around an experience – so that we can notice what we are experiencing or what is blocking our ability to be fully here with ourselves or with someone else. Frequent pauses throughout the day, accompanied by intentional and conscious breathing, can help to slow down our internal busyness and create a deeper awareness of our experience.

Daily Slowing Down Practice

A way to include pausing to enhance awareness and presence is to integrate a daily ‘slowing down’ practice into your life. Choose an activity that you do every day (that is, walking to the office or class, washing the dishes) and slow it down to half its normal pace, and you will begin to notice more of the subtle aspects of that experience. You can also choose a common daily sight, such as a stop sign or approaching the door knob at your home or work, to be a reminder to pause. Stopping and taking a breath each time you approach that object or reminder to pause will also create a space for presence to begin to emerge.

Walking Slowly and without a Cell Phone

A powerful way to incorporate presence into your daily life is to slow your pace to half on a typical walk you do every day – and to walk without looking at a cell phone or device. Even on short walks, such as from the car or bus stop to your home, slowing down the pace of your walk can help to open to what is present inside of you and to notice what is present in your environment. Allow yourself to open your senses on this slow walk - seeing, listening, smelling all of the intricate details of what is around you. Also be aware of your feet as they rise and fall with each step - noticing the rhythm of your gait and how it aligns with the rhythm of your breath. Enjoy the many dimensions of the moment!

Breathing deeply into the moment

Taking deep and slow breaths is a powerful way to prepare the body to open to the moment. Taking longer and slower breaths allows for a calming of the sympathetic nervous system and an activation of the calming parasympathetic nervous system. This allows for a healthier environment in the body for presence to emerge. Invite yourself to explore whether attuning and slowing the rhythm of breath can help to evoke a calmer and more alert and attuned state of being in the moment:

     1. Take a few breaths, counting to three on the in-breath, and four on the out- breath.

     2. Lengthen the time of the inhalation and exhalation, for example inhaling for

         5 seconds, pausing briefly and exhaling for slightly longer than the inhalation (that is,

         perhaps 8 seconds).

Intention for Presence

Setting an intention for presence is a powerful way to prime the brain towards the experience of being fully in the moment. An intention for presence can be set upon waking in the morning, or perhaps before an important meeting or engagement with a task or person. The following is a series of steps that are adapted from my therapeutic presence book, to invite your intention for presence:

     • In your mind set an intention for presence by inviting yourself to be present,

        compassionate and aware throughout this exercise and the day to come.

     • Bring your awareness to your body, starting from your awareness of your feet on the

        ground and then moving up through your legs, abdomen, torso, mid-body, upper body,

        shoulders, neck and head. Be aware of your facial muscles, softening your eyes
        and facial expression. Breath deeply as you become aware of each body part.

     • Take 4-5 full breaths repeating quietly to yourself on the inhale “I arrive into the

        present moment” and on the exhale “I let go of the busyness.” (Note: try using briefer

        words to reflect intentions such as “arriving” on the inhale and “letting go” on the

     • Become aware of the feeling in your body now, as you invite yourself deeper into

        the present moment, bringing this feeling into your day.

For more tips on cultivating presence or to experience music and meditation to enhance presence, please see our Therapeutic Presence Book or Cultivating Presence CD