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Cultivating Presence

By Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg,
Richard Michaels & Sharon Brown

Coaching for Transformation
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Presence is a rare quality in a world of 20-second sound bites, nonstop stimulation, and gnawing anxiety. What underlies presence? …People with presence have an ineffable quality about them; they are “present,” surprisingly attentive, and undistracted. A fullness, a centeredness, a wholeness radiates from them. We enjoy being “in their presence.” You can build presence. It is the natural radiance of heart security. — Doc Childre and Bruce Cryer

Imagine you are an artist preparing yourself to create a masterpiece. How do you engage with your environment? What is your mental and emotional state? Where do you go within yourself to prepare? What is your attitude toward the paints, brushes and canvas in front of you?

How do you shift your focus from your daily responsibilities and tune into your inner resources? How do you fully use your senses to awaken a spontaneous outpouring of your heart?

The focus of this chapter is similar—preparing you to create eff ective coaching relationships, to tap all of your inner resources, and to care for yourself as a coach so that you are fully responsive to the challenges and possibilities of the moment. So… relax, take a few deep breaths and get ready to explore the ways you can cultivate presence.


We’ve come to believe that the core capacity needed for accessing the field of the future is presence. We first thought of presence as being fully conscious and aware in the present moment. Then we began to appreciate presence as deep listening, of being open beyond one’s preconceptions and historical ways of making sense. We came to see the importance of letting go of old identities and the need to control and, as Salk said, making voices to serve the evolution of life. Ultimately, we came to see all these aspects of presence as leading to a state of “letting come,” of consciously participating in a larger field for change. When this happens, the field shifts, and the forces shaping a situation can shift from re-creating the past to manifesting or realizing an emerging future. — Peter Senge

Awareness involves the flow of our whole organism: emotions, thoughts, energy and physical sensations. Many of us rely on thinking most of the time, but as coaches we continuously attune to the whole symphony of awareness. Fritz Perls, the father of Gestalt therapy said, “It’s the awareness, the full experience of how you are stuck, that makes you recover.” Perls said that learning equals discovery and what you are discovering is yourself. Awareness is a means to discovery. As a coach, you’ll use awareness to help people tap their inner knowing, including the wisdom of the body, mind, emotion, soul and spirit.

Coming into awareness; coming into the moment, creates a clear mind. People become freer emotionally, giving them access to creativity and inner resourcefulness. When we create the space for awareness, clients do the work themselves, and they create solutions that neither of us would have imagined.

Four simple steps for developing awareness

We have access to our awareness in every moment and we can develop deeper awareness through practice. We would not expect our muscles to be strong without practice. These techniques deepen our ability to be aware of our self, our clients and the environment. We can deepen our contact with the here and now by simply noticing, without judging. Allow whatever is occurring to happen without forcing change. Notice thoughts that arise without engaging with them.

1. Notice the breath

Sit, close your eyes and focus your attention on your breath without trying to change it. Notice how your body expands and contracts as you breathe. Pay attention to the subtle sensations of the air flowing in and out of your nose.

What effect does focusing on the breath have on your body, emotions and energy?

2. Notice physical sensations

Now turn your focus to whatever sensations you are aware of in your body. You may notice tingling, tension, coolness or relaxation. Do not try to change the sensations, judge them or create a story about what the sensations mean. Simply notice.

What effect does focusing your attention on physical sensations have on your breath, emotions and energy?

3. Notice your emotions

Now shift your attention to whatever emotions are present. Accept whatever emotions are present without judging, changing or engaging in inner dialogue about them. You may notice contentment or restlessness, joy or sadness, fear or love, or numbness.

What effect does focusing your attention on your emotions have on your breath, body and energy in this moment?

4. Notice your energy

Now shift your attention to whatever energy lives in you. Accept whatever energy flows through you without trying to change it or engage in inner dialogue about your energy. You may notice desire or blockages, intensity or flow.

What effect does focusing your attention on your energy have on your breath, body and emotions in this moment?

We can use focused attention to notice what is happening in nature, the environment or in communication with other people. The practice of simply noticing, engages our awareness and brings us into the moment. When we notice our clients are entangled in thought, we can guide them into awareness. This provides access to a clear mind and intuition and opens our creativity, resourcefulness and wisdom.

Excerpt from the book Coaching for Transformation: Pathways to Ignite Personal & Social Change by Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg, Richard Michaels and Sharon Brown. As faculty at Leadership that Works, they certify coaches who offer personal, organization and community transformation. Check out the free Power of Coaching teleclass.

Coaching is life-changing, world-changing work. The coaching programs at Leadership that Works go beyond theories and models and work with clients on a deeper level. You learn how to coach the whole person: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Whole person Transformation.

Leadership that Works

Transforming the world.
One heart at a time.

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