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

Cultivating the Experience of Therapeutic Presence

The following exercises reflect the model of therapeutic presence – particularly the four aspects of the experience of therapeutic presence: Grounding, Immersion, Expansion and Being With and For Another.


Grounding or feeling rooted is an extremely beneficial support for developing non-reactivity and to ride the difficult waves of emotion and suffering with greater ease. Grounding includes a bodily feeling of being steady and centered, amidst challenges or difficult experiences. A simple grounding exercise is to:

     • Pause and breathe slowly with long exhalations – being aware of the rhythm of

        your breath

     • Now rest your awareness on the soles of your feet. Notice the contact place where

        your feet meet the ground.

     • Extend your awareness to the force of gravity in the core of the earth

     • Breath deeply while being aware of your feet and your body held firmly to the ground

        by the gravitational pull at the core of the earth.

Immersion in the Moment

Immersion involves being intimately engaged with the moment. One aspect of immersion is absorption, which means being intimately engaged with life and with others. An exercise to heighten this absorption quality follows:


      • Notice an image, object, person or sound around you that you can focus on -
        allow that image or sound to be your focus of immersion
      • Pause and sit or stand in front of your focus of immersion.
      • Breath deeply and become aware of the rhythm of your breath.
      • Now use your senses (look, see, hear, smell, feel) to take in all of the qualities
        of this immersion focus. Absorb yourself in the details of the image or person
        in front of you.
      • Now close your eyes and visualize that image. Slowly open your eyes and sense
        the image as if it were the first time.
      • Breathe in the qualities of that image or person while staying in contact with your
        own rhythm of breath.


Expansion includes having a sense of spaciousness. While we may be immersed in the details of an experience or emotion, with expansion there can be a larger sense of flow, energy and calm. This expansion exercise can help to enhance right hemispheric activity, which helps to relax the body, expand awareness and ultimately sense the whole of a situation. With your eyes closed, allow yourself to pause and move your attention inwards to the breath.

     • Breathe naturally and see if you can be aware of the breath as a whole. Now move

        your attention to your body - allowing your attention to be aware of the body as
        a whole.

     • Now with your eyes open, expand your sensory awareness to notice (see, hear, feel,

        taste, smell) what is present in the direct vicinity around you in this moment. Taking
        in the details what you are sensing in each aspect of what is around you, and then

        experiencing the whole of what is around you.

     • You can keep expanding your awareness beyond the space that you are in to that of

        the building around you, the street, the community; the town; then the city; country,

        neighboring countries, the other side of the world, the whole of the earth and where

        it sits in the solar system.


Being with and for Another – Cultivating Self-Compassion

Being with and for the other, includes being fully present with someone else in their suffering and experience. In order to be fully present and compassionate with others, we need to be able to be compassionate to ourselves. With self-compassion, we can generate a greater capacity for staying present and compassionate with and for others. The following exercise is adapted from Kristen Neff’s work on self-compassion.

     • Take a moment to pause, breath, and go inward.

     • Allow yourself to become aware of situation or relationship in which you are currently

        struggling with.

     • Notice the difficult feelings and sensations that are present in your body as you think

        about this situation.

     • Take your hand and put it on your heart – offering kindness to the suffering your are


     • Become aware of the shared suffering that is a part of being human.

     • Find some gentle and kind words to offer to that suffering such as “I am here for
        you”, “I know how much pain is there” , “I understand” , “I love you”.

     • Continue to offer yourself and that inner suffering struggle compassion, care, and love

        through your words and gestures.


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.