What Exactly is Presence?

Last week Lisa Machado, who runs a support group for people with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in Toronto, contacted me with some questions about presence and health. They were such wonderful questions that I thought I’d make them the topic for the next few days on this blog. Explaining about a subject as “fuzzy” as presence is challenging, so I reflect anew each time I am asked. Thanks Lisa, for asking your questions and stimulating my neuronal activity, hopefully further clarifying some things in the process.

LM: In your book, Full Body Presence, you write about the importance of listening to your body and being “present”. What does that mean?

SSD: I define being fully present as the capacity to feel – to be aware of – all parts of your body, with a good flow of healthy energy moving through you. It also includes a connection to inner and outer healthy resources, and a good sense of healthy boundaries.

LM: Explain how being “present” promotes health and healing.

Being “present” promotes health and can stimulate healing in several ways:

1)    By giving you the awareness of habits that are energy draining rather than life enhancing. All of us live with unconscious patterns that have been with us all our lives. When you come more into the present moment of how you are truly feeling inside yourself, the deep wisdom of the body starts to signal you more and more loudly about life enhancing directions that may help you break out of the old rut of habit. It then becomes much clearer how to make healthier choices.

2)    By making you a better advocate for yourself in any given health care situation. Being fully present helps you think more clearly, ask better questions, and be able to say “no” when necessary in healthcare decisions.

Example: In the March 26, 2013 Washington Post’s Health section there was an article about Daniel Ellsberg (author of the famous Pentagon Papers) preparing to have hip replacement.  Just days before the surgery he was told by a friend about a newer, better procedure (anterior vs. posterior entry to the hip joint). Having the level of presence that he has, he was able to say “no” to the first procedure (even though it was only days away!) and change all his plans to have the surgery that would give him better outcomes, less post-operative pain, less surgical invasion of the tissue, etc. He was an excellent advocate for himself in a healthcare system that is confusing at times, and, a true example of being fully present so that he could have the final say in his own healthcare decisions.

3)    By helping you to listen to all the different wisdom areas in your body. We know how our brains help us think, strategize and create. Most people know how important it is to listen to heart’s wisdom in matters having to do with deep feelings and relationships. Some even know about listening to the “gut brain” for wise hunches about issues that elude conventional understanding. But when we are fully present, all of these areas and more start to come on board to inform your decisions around your health and well being. The navigational system of the body is amazing, and most people are tapping into only a fraction of it.


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