Consider giving one of the greatest gifts you can share with those you love, especially yourself. The gift of presence – fully meeting the moment with inner stillness, inner silence, and open awareness. Indeed, with all of life's stresses, everyday distractions, and hurried "to-do's," practicing and cultivating presence is a rare and precious gift that allows us to awaken to and embrace the full potential of each moment.

To be present is to have a relaxed body, open heart, and peaceful mind. To be in your body, fully aware of your inner sensations and perceptions as you witness, with conscious compassion, your experience and the experience of another.

To be fully present is to be with things simply as they are, with clarity, mindfulness, and gentleness. It involves setting aside the past and the future so that there is no goal. To surrender, for now, your expectations, agendas, judgments, projections, and preferences. To show up with a "beginners mind" and a willingness to not know. Even to be surprised.

How do you know when you are not present? Think of non-presence as a veil, layering your consciousness and awareness with a lack of attention, reactivity, neglect, ignorance, distraction, rigidity, numbness, addictive behaviors, shame, etc. It's falling out of harmony and connection with yourself, and the world around you. It is a shadow blocking out the richness, brilliance, and texture of your life. Where instead, you may experience an inner chaos that can often manifest as disharmony, dysfunction, or dis-ease in your life and relationships.

Presence Practice

Here's a simple exercise. Stand up, take a deep breath, and assess your relative state of presence as your neutral starting point. Now, step to the left, and be as un-present as you can be. Notice how that feels. Then, step back to the right to neutral, noticing the difference. Now, step to the right and choose to be as present as you can possibly be. Notice how that feels. Finally, step back to neutral, noticing how it feels to step out of being fully present to how you normally are.

Practicing presence involves cultivating mindfulness within yourself and the world around you. It requires noticing with clarity and non-judgment when you are present and when you are not. Often when you practice, you'll notice your presence will blink on and off. Not a problem. As you notice, simply allow yourself to know that presence is your choice at any moment, and you can choose again in this moment to become more present.

You can also choose to enrich your presence, allowing yourself to become more fully filled and inspired with what arises. Simply invite your senses to be open, relaxed and receptive, so that you can truly see, hear, smell, taste, and feel this moment. Let each moment be an empty canvass upon which life paints its magic.

Being present is like riding the crest of the wave, open to the 10,000 joys and the 10,000 sorrows that can arise, and surrendering to not knowing what the next moment holds. As Swami Satchidananda once said, "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."


Marilynne Chöphel MFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has offered depth psychotherapy since 1990 and specializes in the treatment of trauma with mindfulness, somatic awareness, and compassionate presence. She is a Certified Advanced Practitioner of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for treatment of acute and developmental trauma, and has assisted their trainings for several years. She brings to her work a foundation in mindfulness meditation and yoga, both of which she taught for more than twenty-five years, as well as relationship workshops. She is co-author of Unfinished Conversation: Healing from Suicide and Loss – A Guided Journey.
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