by Laurie Upchurch, a Doxa Counselor
Living in a world full of things trying to capture our attention can leave us overwhelmed, distracted and busy. In day to day moments, our minds are constantly drifting from what is happening in front of us. At this moment, where is your mind wandering? Maybe you are thinking about ‘what am I going to make for dinner?’, ‘did I water the plants?’, or ‘did I say too much when she asked my opinion?’ Our thoughts can go in varying directions – both inward and outward. It is in our human nature that we have difficulty staying present in the moment. Because of this, we often miss out on having meaningful connections with others.
In graduate school, a faculty member shared with our cohort a book called The Rabbit Listened, authored by Cori Doerrfeld. What I have gained from listening to and now sharing this book with clients is the power of presence. Being fully present with the person in the counseling room is a key ingredient to the connection created with my clients. For me, this practically looks like providing a space where I am not setting expectations, having an agenda, getting distracted, or adding pressure. I am leaning in, attentively listening, and being curious about the person in my office.
Maybe you are wondering – how can I practice being present in my own friendships, with my children, or with my spouse? Here are a few ideas to practice being present and foster meaningful connection in your own world:
- Reduce distractions as much as possible. This can look like placing your phone in another room, turning on the Do Not Disturb feature, or turning off the television.
- Notice your thoughts when you are alone, in conversation, or completing a task. Where is your mind drifting? Acknowledge those thoughts and return to the present moment.
- Take a breath – or ten. Inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. Engaging in a breathing exercise can help get oxygen to your brain which gives you the space to slow down, become regulated, and respond/act/think from your prefrontal cortex (our logical and rational decision making part of our brain). **For the parents who are reading this blog, here’s a tip. When you notice your child experiencing intensity of emotions, practice breathing with your kids. Here is my favorite exercise – Birthday Cake Breathing! As you breathe in – smell your favorite cake baking in the oven. As you breathe out – blow out all of the candles on the birthday cake.
- Be honest with others when you are struggling to focus and use eye-contact. Partof being present means being and bringing your full self to the relationship.
Download a mindfulness app (e.g. Calm, Headspace) on your phone to helpyou practice being present. You can take ten minutes each day to practice being aware of your breathing, your body, your thoughts, and emotions.The power of presence is a gift that we can give to others.
As a therapist, it is my goal to provide a space for my clients to feel cared for, seen, and known which I hope to provide through being present. In conclusion, I want to leave you with a quote from Shauna Niequist’s book, Present Over Perfect – “Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.” I would be honored to be able to come alongside you as you start the therapy process!
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