Browsing Tag


in the world

What Are You Called To Do Today?

How’s Your To-Do List Today?

Mine is jam-packed (bet yours is too) and everything feels urgent. The tasks crowding the top of my list are mostly things I’d rather not be doing and set against a backdrop of expectations and consequences for not getting them done. Which just adds to the sense of crisis and urgency.

Putting aside urgency for a moment, it can be useful to take a few minutes to pause for a bit and take stock.

You might notice feelings of agitation at the thought of having to do these things.

That sense of agitation probably comes from thoughts about these things that need doing. Often, tasks aren’t really that bad, it’s our thinking that can make us feel really antsy.

So. Imagine letting go of thinking about your To-Do list right now. You might feel some of that tension drain away immediately. They’re just actions that need doing. There’s still a slight sense of agitation, perhaps, but once the thinking is stripped away and you’re left with the tasks themselves, it doesn’t seem so bad.

Inside / Outside

One thing that stands out about most To-Do lists is the ‘outside’ nature of them. How so many tasks are generated by external needs–from other people, or from circumstances outside of ourselves that need fixing. It’s like your list is pulling you out from yourself.

When you move your focus from things that need doing ‘out there’ and look inside, sometimes a new list shows up.

By ‘look inside’ I mean shifting awareness out from your head and all the thoughts swimming inside it and allowing awareness to settle into your body. To be conscious of the physical sensations in your body. To feel your feet on the floor, the temperature in the room and how it feels on your skin, the movement of your chest as it breathes in and out. Then, moving deeper in, being aware what’s going on in your chest, your heart center.

There might be a slight sense of unease there, we have been talking about To-Do lists after all!

Maybe you’re feeling calmer than when you started reading, more present.

Whatever is going on for you now, going deeper you’re likely to find there’s something more underneath these sensations if you’re willing to check.

Something inside of you that wants to be heard. A desire for actions that come from a deeper place and that are infused with a sense of ease. Actions that come more from this place, inside, rather than from the outside. Actions that are both restful and productive. Tasks that are generated from a sense of purpose and are more closely aligned with who you are, and what you want to accomplish.

What might those tasks be? What are you called to do today?


stay present in tough times
in the world

You Can Stay Present When Things Get Tough

Steam rising from your morning cup of tea, birdsong in the garden, the soft warmth of a blanket thrown over your legs, a small child offering you a smile. Being present often means opening up to the beautiful things in life.

Other times, life presents tougher vistas to take in: sickness, emotional or physical pain, financial woes, getting caught in a storm, a tough crowd bearing down on you.

It’s important to take beauty and goodness in when that’s available. It nourishes and gives us strength. When life throws difficulties our way, it can seem like that’s not such a great time to be practicing presence. It can seem like a good time to be practicing not-presence.

And often, not-presence is what we go for: a click of the remote, a swipe of the phone, a rummage through the fridge, and we find something cool and delicious to distract us. But when we take this route we miss out on something.

Aligning With Truth

Being present means aligning ourselves with our truth, at least as best as we can. That doesn’t always feel so good in the moment. It’s certainly harder to see the beauty in moments when things go awry. But the beauty is there, just as much there as when everything is soft and inspiring.

Think about a time when you’ve suffered. Whether your suffering arrived through personal choices, through the actions of others, or from uncontrollable external forces, it doesn’t really matter. Think about this past version of you moving through that time, bringing all your resources to bear on a situation that may have seemed out of control. You may not have had the resources you have today, but you managed to find a way through.

When we look back on these times in our lives, we can often see the strength and beauty and courage that we were able to come up with in response to difficult circumstances. Even though we might not have seen it at the time, the beauty was always there.

Milk Crates And Scarves

I used to be a member of a Playback Theatre company. In Playback there are four actors, a musician, and a conductor. The actors each sit on a milk crate on stage as the conductor creates conversations with the audience and gets individual members up to tell stories from their lives. The audience member then assigns roles from their story to each of the four actors who then stand up and improvise a performance of that story, using only their milk crates and a few colored scarves as props.

Being a part of this group was such a life changing experience. Time after time we would see people get up and tell their stories. They were often tales of loss and adversity, of moving through great difficulties on the way to personal growth. As people told their story they often felt vulnerable, a little shy, and the conductor would help ease them through the telling of their story and sit with them as the actors played out these scenes.

Something magical was born from act of telling their story in front of a group of strangers and then watching the episode from their life played out in front of them.

Almost everyone I saw who watched their own story played out for them felt uplifted and inspired by their own journey, they all saw something in themselves that they had not seen so clearly or easily before. They saw their own strength and hope and inner resourcefulness played out in front of them, in a way that would have been difficult to access as they were caught up in the actual living out of their stories.

There’s beauty to be found in even the most difficult of times. It can just be very difficult to see that while events are unfolding. And maybe that’s not even the time to be looking for that beauty, sometimes it’s all we can do to apply ourselves to getting through our times of struggle.

The Eye Of The Storm

I’ve been writing this post for a few weeks now. A little here, a little there. Knowing there was something I wanted to say but not quite able to get there.

Then I came across this, from Matt Licata:

“In this moment, which is the only moment that is ever here, you can give yourself the gift of primordial rest. For this is the greatest act of self-love. Lay your hand on your heart. Replace the urgency of becoming with a moment of pure being. Create an inner temple in which your emotions, your sensations, and the longings of your heart can be held in sanctuary and provided safe passage.”

Those few short sentences, cover so much of what I wanted to say in this post. That even in the most difficult of times we can give ourselves the gift of presence. If we can stay present for just a moment in tough times we can access self love, sanctuary, and our desire for safe passage. And what makes this do-able is that it only requires a moment from us, “the only moment that is ever here” as Matt says.

It’s always possible to claim the smallest moments, here and there, for ourselves. We can touch base, be present for ourselves, acknowledge where we are as a way of re-orienting ourselves. The qualities that we usually discover only in hindsight are there, playing out in our story in this very moment, and accessible to us. All we need to do is to give ourselves that single moment to touch base, to rest in the eye of the storm, to become the eye of the storm.

in the world

What Does It Mean To Be Present?

How present are you in your own life?

Are you present to the world around you? How about the people around you? How present are you to your acquaintances, to your loved ones, to yourself?

We’re all capable of being present, at least some of the time.

Even before I started working at this stuff in a serious way, I was often able to be present when I needed to. But sometimes, even these days, I find myself drifting off or forgetting that I’m here.

Presence oscillates. Sometimes it’s here, sometimes it fades a little. I don’t even think we’re built to be present 100% of the time.

But to be present just a little more? We all have room for that. Actually, once you get into the habit of trying to be more present you’ll find your capacity is pretty great. To notice you’ve been absent and gently welcome yourself back is a nice start.

For me, being present means feeling grounded in your body. It means being receptive to the person, or people, in front of you. A big part of being present means being aware of what’s going on in your heart: do you feel tender right now? a little closed off? what are you noticing in there?

We all want to feel more whole, more sane. We all want to feel that we belong. In moments of presence and quiet I start to believe we are all more whole, more sane than we think we are. I certainly believe we all belong.

A Matter Of Kindness

I used to think being present was a matter of trying hard, and wrestling with countless, urgent thoughts. And if you’re thinking that too, I want you to know–it’s not about that.

I used to think no matter how much I meditated, or tried to be mindful, that I was never doing enough. That I wasn’t devoted enough, or smart enough to ever get it. These days I’m so much kinder towards myself because I know that’s all untrue. It’s not true about me, and it’s not true about you either.

Sometimes it’s simply enough to hear birdsong outside your window and remember, “Oh, it’s Spring.”

What does being present mean to you?

create your ritual
presence practices

Create Everyday Rituals That Will Lift Your Day

Your morning schedule for getting the kids off to school, lunch-breaks at your regular spot, an afternoon walk, journaling at night.

Activities like these are the bread and butter of being alive. We all have routines and schedules that help us move through our days, they give us a sense of grounded-ness and provide a rhythm that helps us keep track of where we are.

As helpful as these routines are to us, there is a way we can make them even more powerful and supportive. That way is to create rituals out of routines.

Rituals are one of the oldest and most powerful tools we have for creating meaning. There are two defining components of a ritual: there is an action that is being ‘ritualized’ and there is a sense of presence, or awareness, built into that activity.

For example, if you have a cup of coffee each morning, making a ritual of that routine would serve to direct your awareness more fully into that act. (More on how to do that later).

How Rituals Can Help You

Rituals can help you feel more connected to yourself, and others.

Because there is usually some sort of action involved, rituals encourage you to be physically present and aware, which helps you to be even more receptive to the meaning behind our ritual.

Rituals inspire you to appreciate what’s important in your life.

Rituals induce a sense of wonder, even through the smallest, most ordinary acts.

Before We Start

A few things:

Rituals don’t have to make sense to anybody but you

They can be playful, celebratory, small, bouncy, silent, wild, simple, flamboyant.

It’s your ritual, so it’s up to you how you run it.

Rituals are alive

They shift and develop, just like you, and over time your relationship to them will change. If you find that your ritual has become stale and less meaningful over time, it’s a sign that you need to re-enliven it and make it relevant to your daily life again.

Repetition, Repetition, Repeatedly

It can be useful to perform your ritual at regular intervals. Repetition creates rhythm. Rhythm creates a sense of comfort and safety. Once that rhythm is built up, your ritual can become a vibrant container for power and meaning.

Did you Get That Down?

As you go, record what happens to you as a result of doing your rituals. Over time you will notice some amazing things. It can be the small things that really make a big difference.

How To Create A Ritual

Set out below are a few simple ideas to help you to come up with your own rituals. You can think about them and get a feel for how they might work for you when you are designing your own rituals.

When you are ready to put together your own customized ritual, pick the ones that resonate for you and use them as building blocks.

Setting An Intention:

Rituals can help you to focus on a particular qualities you would like to bring into your life, or changes you would like to make.

What is something that you would like to focus on right now?

It could be a habit that you would like to begin, a quality (like courage or kindness) that you would like to bring into your life, maybe something you’d like to celebrate or remember. Once you have that thing you want to focus on, the next step is to write your intention.

What you would like to see change in your relation to that aspect of your life.

Once you have the thing you would like to focus on, the next step is to choose the change that you intend to bring about.

For example, if you picked kindness as something you would like to develop in yourself, the change could be broad: I want to become kinder. Or more specific: I want to be kinder to myself.

Setting an intention like this infuses it into our ritual and helps us to remember the bigger picture. It also encourages us to be more present and aware as we do the activity.


We’ve looked at the importance of rhythm, and choosing an appropriate time for your ritual is one way you can build that sense of rhythm in.

It’s useful to think about how often you want to do this ritual. Is it a daily thing? More than daily? Maybe it’s a ritual that wants to take place on a weekly basis, like a Sunday meal. Weekly, daily, hourly, however you space your rituals out, it’s going to build that sense of rhythm and repetition, like a pulse moving through your days.

It’s important that the timing of a ritual is suited to your own needs, and to your own mood or energy as well.

For example, early morning is a wonderful time to set up a meditation practice, but I’ve always had trouble maintaining that as a practice. I do my meditation in the evenings, and I find I’m more alert and dropped in then I am when I meditate in the mornings.


Paying attention to the space you will be performing your ritual in can make them even more powerful.

A useful first step is to select a quiet and private space to conduct your ritual in peace.

You can include and honor your physical self by selecting beautiful and meaningful objects that wake your senses up, like: candles, scented oils, flower arrangements, foods, water, tea, inspirational photos/figures, tactile objects stones/beads sounds-music, nature space with sounds.

You could think of this space as an altar, or simply a private sanctuary just for your use.

Having a dedicated space to return to can add a sense of power to your ritual.

Dedicating a space is a form of intention setting in itself, it’s a declaration that you’ll perform your rituals over time and that you’ll honor our rituals by giving them a home.

Having a place to regularly perform your rituals means the space will eventually start to change: churches, meditation halls, yoga studios all absorb the energy of the rituals and practices that take place in them, and you can often feel a power in these places that helps you  settle in and prepare.

Embodying An Action

A key element in most rituals is that they incorporate some sort of physical action.

The action of a ritual often serves as a metaphor and provides some sort of support as you move towards your intention. Performing the ritual helps to anchor the meaning as you act out the process of being transformed through the ritual. You get to include your whole self through this process.

What actions can you include in your ritual to ground it in your body, in your own life?

A nice place to start is by choosing actions you already do each day: making a cup of coffee in the morning; bathing; regular tasks; unwinding activities.

I love this post by Dana at Alchemist Eating (it inspired me to work on this post) where she talks about a brief ritual she and her partner share at their evening meal. It’s beautiful, simple, and tailored to them and their relationship. It’s a great example of using an everyday action as the starting point for a meaningful ritual.


It’s important to have a sense of closing the ritual. You’ve created a space where you get in touch with the intuitive and soulful aspects of your being, and it’s important to build a sense of completion before you return to your everyday activities.

Some ways you could do this:

Perform a simple, closing activity while noting that the ritual is over and you are moving onto the next thing.

Being attentive as you extinguish the candle, leave the room, stand up, close your journal–whatever your closing activity is, be in a mindful state and note to yourself:

“This ritual is complete, I am now heading into the next part of my day.”

Over To You

Do you have any important rituals in your life? Something that you’ve put together yourself, or rituals from a group you’re a part of? What makes them special and meaningful for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

photo by Amy Treasure via Unsplash
presence practices

Can I Meditate Lying Down?

Everybody settled onto the floor. We were swaddled by the sounds of shuffling limbs, the sighs of tired people arranging themselves, the rubbery sweat-smell of the yoga studio.

It was my first live yoga class and we’d finally arrived at the snoozy part.



शवासन !

Then came the instructor’s voice.

He started giving quiet instructions. Specific guidance on how to align our bodies, bit by bit, so that we were laid out on our mats as if we were resting. But really, we were doing a lot. He was directing us to hold our bodies in this precisely aligned way. He was asking us to hold our awareness in this precisely aligned way. And to not snooze.

It was way more work than I had expected it to be. I thought this was the resting bit, the bit where we got to blow off all the effort, and the attention, and just drift away a little. But, no.

This happened in my first live yoga class and I was being very obedient. I have since done Shavasana many times and have often occasionally drifted away. I’m much kinder to myself about that these days.

But I have never forgotten that slight sense of shock at learning that you could lie down on the floor like that and not let go into dreaminess, but have it be a very rigorous practice of paying attention.

Sit Upright, Cross Legs, Face Forward

When I took that first yoga class, I had been meditating for a while in the Zen tradition. And even though my earliest experience of meditation practice was through using guided meditation recordings, I had decided that real meditation involved sitting on a cushion in a formal posture.

I didn’t think about it much, but if you’d asked me I wouldn’t have thought of lying down to meditate as being very useful. The only time I’d seen it happen recently was on a retreat when someone had some kind of injury and couldn’t sit up straight. Otherwise, it seemed like an invitation for a nap.

The idea that meditation involved sitting upright, crosslegged, facing forward was very ingrained with me.

It’s not like my practice was going that well. Whenever I sat, my body became a battleground of stiff limbs, knots of unresolved traumas, and grinding jaws trying to clamp down on all of this as well as an unrelenting wave of useless, critical thinking.

Pushing hard made sense at the time. I thought that if I meditated hard enough, correctly enough, that some kind of awakening would wash away all my difficulties.

That experience of meditation as a fight did ease, and as my relationship with the practice softened I got a lot of benefit from it.

Then I came across yoga nidra, a guided meditation practice that you generally do while lying down.


When I began this daily practice of lying down to meditate I learned a whole lot.

The Gift Of Yoga Nidra

The reason I’ve been thinking so much about lying down to meditate is that my main daily practice for the last two years has been Yoga Nidra. In fact, a few months ago I became an I-Rest Yoga Nidra teacher in training.

Yoga Nidra is a form of awareness meditation you do (mostly) lying down, and after practicing for a while now, I’ve found that instead of lying down being a signal to my body to automatically fall asleep, it has now become a signal to wake up more.

That sounds weird, but it’s true. Hundreds of hours of Yoga Nidra has changed some set of neural pathways in my brain and now, whenever I lie down, my awareness starts scanning the body and noticing what’s going on in there automatically.

After laying down to sleep I nearly always launch into an informal body scan and often fall asleep that way. I often wake up that way too, my eyes open, I look around a little and then start noticing and following sensations in my body as the muscles wake up and I start moving around.

Yoga Nidra is about self kindness, and restoration. It’s also a very physical practice, and has completely changed my relationship to meditation. My meditation practice (sitting or lying) has become much gentler and kinder. That, alone, has been a great gift. There will definitely be plenty of Yoga Nidra inspired posts on this blog in the future, but for today let’s hang out with this idea of lying down to meditate, and what that can offer.

Some Things I learned While Lying Down To Meditate:

If you are exhausted at the end of a busy day and your mind is racing, lying down can be a great way to get grounded in the body and give your mind a chance to settle.


A great way to increase your chances of staying awake is lie down on the floor or on a yoga mat. Lying on the bed makes it more difficult to stay alert and awake.


Guided meditation is a great practice to do while lying down, and especially helpful if you are new to meditation. They were my first experience of meditation, way before I ever visited a meditation group. Think of the instructions as scaffolding for your practice. They help save mental energy that can then used to on simply maintain awareness, rather than worrying if you’re doing it right or if you should change your breathing, or your posture.


You can sense through your back! We spend so much time facing forward, concentrating all of our attention and life energy into the three feet of space in front of us, it’s as if our backs don’t even exist sometimes.


When you meditate lying down on the floor you get to feel how your back relates to the support underneath you. You can feel where your back has tensed up and lifts off the floor for no apparent reason, and the soft parts where it naturally sinks into the floor. And you notice after a while that all of this information is in flux. It’s a whole living system of tensing, and softening, and movement between. Through a regular practice of lying down meditation there is much more awareness of how you can sense things through your back, how this is a living, sensing part of you.


It doesn’t have to make you sleepy. Sometimes it will, but is that really a bad thing. Sometimes you just need to rest, and if you’re not rested enough your mediation is going to be a pretty difficult exercise in staying awake and focused. If your body needs to sleep, let it sleep a little. When it’s more refreshed, let it meditate.

Walking, Standing, Sitting, Lying Down

In Buddhism they talk about the four meditation postures as being walking, standing, sitting and lying down. So there doesn’t seem to be any problem there with lying down to meditate. Any opposition to lying down meditation has mostly been a thing in my own mind, and it’s been a great experience to get past that limiting idea.

The practice of meditation, of cultivating awareness, is more than an exercise in moulding yourself into any particular form. It’s about finding awareness wherever you can, in whatever state, posture, or circumstance you happen to find yourself.

in the world

The Murmuration In You

The video at the bottom of this post has well over 25 million visits.

It shows a close up view of a murmuration, an immense flock of starlings rippling through the sky in a series of complex swoops and turns.

Murmurations usually occur just before dusk sets in, and the shadowy movements of the starlings look striking against the dark sky. While the sight of a murmuration is impressive, the word itself comes  from the sounds made by the birds.

The Old Latin root for murmuration means: ‘humming, muttering, roaring, rustling’–and in Old Greek: “to roar, to boil”. (How great is the word–‘boil’? It really captures that rolling sense of movement.)

Watching the video, where the sounds are mostly blocked out by overlaid music, you get a sense of what it must be like to be close to the bustling and swooping movements of the birds, how thick the air is with their sound.

An elegant response

The movement of the starlings is an elegant group response to either a danger, say a peregrine falcon, or an opportunity, like a food source.

The patterns of flight emerge from each bird’s reaction to its neighbors.

If one bird sees a predator and shifts away, or another sees a food source and shifts towards it, that movement influences the whole flock.

While a murmuration is hauntingly beautiful there’s a sense of brute physicality to it as well.

One lone bird confronted by a falcon would also shift away, but when that movement is mirrored by thousands of other starlings it must be daunting to the predator, as this great shadowy beast rears up and away in the sky.

What are we responding to?

We’ve all seen variations on this movement before in schools of baitfish, blood cells under a microscope, the swirl of galaxies.

Something about those repeated patterns of motion strike a chord with us, and we find them mesmerizing. Maybe we see our own communal movements echoed in the flocking of starlings.
People are social animals, our range of responses may have more complexity but the similarities are there.

This is echoed in the complex movements of traffic through a city at peak hour, guests at a wedding shifting this way and that, an audience at a concert responding to the performers and the people around them, maybe the best human example is the way we interact on the internet.

The Murmuration In You

As well as the interactions we have outside of ourselves, there is also a rich unfolding taking place within us as sensations, emotions, and thoughts weave together, mingling, influencing each other as they meet.

These inner swirlings can be hard to perceive, occurring at the edge of our own dusky subconscious. And we have to settle in and really pay attention to recognize them. I think one reason murmurations are so compelling is that they mirror the unfolding movements of our inner life. We see a deep and hidden aspect of ourselves mirrored against the sky.

The Murmuration Exercise

When I run medium sized workshops I have a favorite exercise I often include that brings the participants together and, with a few simple rules,  mimics a murmuration.

It’s great fun and people are always fascinated by the experience of being inside a living system as it twists and turns through the room in seemingly random movements.

And when we do the murmuration exercise in a workshop and allow our own bodies to be moved in these patterns, we get to experience a small taste of something essential to the universe as it’s projected in us. We are making contact with the seeds of murmuration stirring in our own bodies. It never fails to generate intense discussions afterwards.

6 or 7 starlings

Each starling in a murmuration moves in response to 6 or 7 neighboring birds. These partners remain the same even though other birds may, at times, come closer to the individual bird. This ‘system’ is partly what allows the murmuration to create such elaborate movements and patterns.

Each bird instinctively attunes to to the birds around it, and through this becomes part of a larger ‘being’, a trade-off that gives the birds more safety and opportunity.

While people aren’t starlings, a murmuration is an interesting metaphor for looking at how we interact with the people around us. We certainly shape each others lives in some way as we interact with the people around us.

Thinking about the 6 or 7 people around me in any life situation–family, jobs I’ve worked in, friendship circles–is something I’ve been thinking about while writing this post. I can see how being part of any group influences my behavior as I try to balance my own needs to the needs of the group.

There are times when I’ve partially, or fully, switched out some of these half dozen relationships–through taking a new job, or moving, or entering new relationships–and each time I can clearly see the shifts that have occurred as a result.

So, here is the video. I’d love to see your comments on it: How does watching this video affect you? What did you feel in your body as you watched? Can you feel the movements mirrored in your own body?

presence practices

Your Body Of Belonging


“Our bodies know they belong; it is our minds that make our lives so homeless.”

John O’Donohue

Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong?

I’d be surprised if your answer was no. Human beings are social animals, finely tuned to seek belonging. We notice when we feel that sense of belonging, and notice the lack of it even more acutely.

At times in my life I’ve ached from not feeling I belonged: to places, to people, even in my own body. I’m sure we all have our own versions of these stories.

One of the most distressing cases of this ‘not belonging’ came when I began a meditation practice and found, almost every time I sat on my cushion, the experience of feeling sensations in my body was so intense I would jump straight up and walk away.

Years of diligently not paying attention to my body had created a sense of discomfort when I finally tried to be present to it. It was the worst feeling of not belonging–far worse than a sense of not belonging socially.

If you can’t belong in your body, where can you belong?

Luckily, the act that triggered these feelings–noticing that sense of alienation–was also the act that eventually allowed me to get in touch with the reality that I do belong in my body.

I belong.

Learning to sit and be comfortable in my own skin took some time, but now it is one of the greatest joys I have in life.

I love being in my body, I enjoy paying attention to the nuances of energy and sensation that continually flow through me and remind me of my aliveness.

Looking back on times where I have difficulty being present in my body, I can see that trying to avoid unpleasant or unfamiliar or strong sensations is often the heart of the problem.

Coming back to the body after being habitually immersed in thought for so long, makes us unprepared for the occasional intensity of feeling the energy in my body. This is the point where we habit kicks in and we find way to distract ourselves. In other words, we leave our bodies.

Eventually I realized these sensations were simply energy moving around, information flowing through my body, and it was going on whether I paid attention to it or not.

Welcome, welcome.

Welcoming the sensations helps you to let go of the resistance and judgement that can often attach to ordinary feelings.

When you do this the signals become clearer. You can listen to your body and better understand what it needs.

You learn to discriminate between a sensation that is just there doing its thing, and a sensation that is asking for something to change, telling you to shift your legs a bit, or breathe a little more deeply.

Whenever you have visitors in your home, it’s second nature to greet people as they arrive and welcome them. So they feel at home, so they feel they belong.

The same principle can help you to feel at home in your body.

Simple Cues To Invite Presence

A key principle I try to follow in my presence coaching is the use of gentle persistence to help change habits.

Small shifts, introduced slowly and mindfully, help to make change easier and also allow you to integrate these changes at the same time.

The mind is a very persuasive part of us. It makes a very loud and aggressive case as to why we should hang out with it. Exclusively.

And while there is a lot going on in the mind that is useful for us to pay attention to, bringing attention back down to the body is also very helpful.

Presence cues can really help as we learn to be more present in our bodies.

A presence cue is simply a reminder that you set to encourage yourself to be present in your body.

In the spirit of gentle persistence I like to pick everyday activities as my presence cues. The best activities are those you repeat often, and that are simple and non-threatening.

Sample presence cues might include–washing the dishes, walking to the bus, brushing your teeth.

Each of these activities can serve as a reminder to be present to your body and notice what is going on. Setting a presence cue also serves as a small commitment to yourself that you will follow through on a regular basis.

The regularity is important as it allows these small acts of presence to accumulate over time and become habits.

Each presence cue can be assigned a simple act of awareness.

For washing the dishes you might notice the temperature of the water on your hands, or how you hold your body as you stand at the sink.

For walking to the bus stop you might give attention to the smells from the gardens, or the traffic, as you walk by. Or feel the ground beneath your feet as you walk.

Below are three simple activities you can use to remind yourself to be aware of your body. at the top of each one I have included a simple presence cue.

Three simple ways to welcome yourself into your body

1. Follow the flow

Presence cue: Every time you drink a glass of water

Whenever you drink a glass of water make a point to slow down and follow the sensation of the water going down your throat.

Notice the changing sensations as the water goes down, I like to try to determine the point where I don’t feel it anymore.

This is a wonderful exercise in directing your attention, which is a necessary skill in learning to be more present in your body.

It’s also very time limited, and if you do this every time you drink water you are effortlessly building up the habit of returning to the body at least a few times a day.

2. Feel your feet

Presence cue: Every time you sit at the computer

This is a great and simple exercise to try whenever you remember.

Sit down at the computer is a time you’re likely to abandon your body for the world of thought.

Feeling your feet on the ground is very grounding, and it’s helpful to remember to make that connection when you’re doing this–”I feel my feet on the ground, I feel the support of the ground/floor beneath me.”

One thing I like about this activity is that our feet are the furthest physical point from the mind.

This creates a natural tension between awareness of your lower body and awareness of your mind at the top of your body.

It gives a nice sense of back and forth, of simultaneously being grounded in the body and reaching up through the mind in the quest for new ideas and thinking.

Holding both of these aspects in awareness engages your body and mind together in an inclusive and welcoming way.

3. Follow the flow II

Presence cue: Every time you enter the shower or bath

Having a shower, or bath, is a great opportunity to practice being present to your body. The flowing water is comforting and provides pleasant sensations to follow, this can make it easier to remain present and really notice what’s going on.

Bathing is naturally a very body centered activity, and so bringing our awareness in creates a great starting point for the practice of coming home to the body.

It’s also a regular activity (I hope!) and will help you build a little repetition to the practice.

These are some simple practices that help to create a sense of belonging in your own body, I hope one or two of them resonate with you.

If you try any of these practices, please leave a comment and let me know how it went. I’d love to hear about your experience.

Maybe you have your own ways of welcoming yourself into presence with your body, if you have any tips that have worked for you I’d love to hear from you as well.