The Body is the space where we build trust and intimacy; we generate meaningful work and we connect with family, teams or a community. It is the vehicle that allows us to relate to others, feel belonged and also fulfill our aspirations. Yet, we often live cut off from our body – we are not in the ‘here and now’ present to our body and not in the experience of ‘now’.
Answer the questions below
– Do you at times experience guilt, anger or jealousy, but are not aware of it until much later?
– At times, are you physically tense, but become aware of it much later?
– Is your mind in a continuous chatter about people and happenings or telling you what you should or should not have done?
If your answer was yes to these, read on.
Breath is the key
When I work with the Body I see how a leader has shaped herself, how she breathes and moves in her body. An important aspect I work with is the breath.
I was coaching Rajan- a business leader, who was relating a disturbing and conflicting meeting he had with a peer. As he spoke, his body began to change- his shoulders raised, he moved ahead in his chair and I could see him breathing from his chest, with fast paced short breaths, as he spoke rapidly. Would you say this leader was in the present? Was he in the now?
No. He wasn’t; he had gone back into the past; fully reliving that instance of conflict.
Drawing his attention to his body responses and inviting him to relax, sit back and breathe slowly, brought him fully into the moment. This is when he began asking himself, “why am I discussing this with my coach?”, “what do I want from this conversation? Is something still bothering me?” Becoming present to himself helped him streamline the conversation to an effective one.
In a coaching session with Priya- a manger in Banking and Finance, I noticed she spoke at a rapid pace. She was describing a difficult conversation with her spouse. One of the issues she needed support on was marital conflict, owing to challenging career demands for her and her spouse. She was racing from one thought to another, relating one mean statement after another that she and her spouse had exchanged.
I said to her “Priya just get your feet on the ground, sit back please. Just take a deep breath and another and another”. As we sat there breathing together, slowly she relaxed and I saw the grimace on her face relax. In its place appeared moisture in her eyes. She was in pain- after all, she was discussing a deeply personal issue and a husband of 15 years!
Breathing allowed Priya to ‘feel’ and become aware of her fears and anxieties. That was a good place from where to explore what was important for her and how she can approach the issue differently. Breath allowed her access to her thinking and feeling.
Try this out
There is nothing mystical about ‘being present’. Our breath is the key to it. I invite you to these centering practices in the mood of curiosity.
– Stop, sit back and do belly breathing for a minute. Just watch the moment- What is happening? What do you feel? What do you hear? Do this as many times as you can through the day.
– At the start of meetings or a conversation take a deep breath asking yourself “What am I sitting with?”. Become present to what emotions, thoughts, needs you are carrying into the conversation.
– In the middle of a meeting, bring your focus to how you are sitting. Straighten your spine, feet on the ground, allow your breath to drop to your belly. Observe what happens as you become present.
Bringing awareness to our breath allows us to return to the ‘now’. Awareness puts us in Choice; choice to shift our world-view, choice to respond, choice to engage.
Our breath awareness allows us to become present to what we are feeling, what we are thinking, our tensions and our needs.
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