You know someone has presence when you feel the effect of their presence in the room or as they walk by. I am not talking about charisma, though that is equally tangible. Presence is different. It is quieter, less electric, and yet equally dynamic. Presence doesn’t attract so much as create space and possibility. True presence has the power to heal and unite, not because of anything the person with presence does, but because of what is possible in the space of pure possibility, peace and love that becomes tangible in the light of presence. What happens in presence is up to you.
Presence is often confused with charisma, and sometimes with status. Bill Clinton has a sort of charisma. Bill Gates has power and status. The Dalai Lama has presence. Such presence is possible for all.
Amy Cuddy, whose TED talk on 'faking it till you make it' is one of the top 25 TED talks of all time, states that presence “is the ability to access your best skills, your knowledge, your expertise, your core values and bring them forth when you need to in high pressure situations.” Although she calls it presence, she is speaking about true self confidence—something that is surprisingly rare. True presence, which is rarer still, requires knowing yourself at a deeper level: knowing your true self, not as the person you believe yourself to be, or not the person you have become with all the personality aspects and masks developed to enable you to survive and succeed in the world. True presence requires connecting to your inner being, the stillness and wider wisdom within you. True presence emanates from your essence when it is unencumbered by ego.
In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes that presence is "a higher dimension of consciousness". It is a state where "everything feels alive, radiates energy, emanates Being." In A New Earth, he writes that “presence is a state of inner spaciousness.” He goes on to speak of awareness, another word for presence, as conscious connection with universal intelligence. It is very difficult to describe. It must be experienced to be known. Once experienced, you will have your own words for it.
Our physical bodies can be a vehicle for getting in touch with our deeper presence. Breath meditation is particularly good for creating space between thoughts, and bringing awareness to the difference between doing and being. Taking time to sense the aliveness in your physical body is another key element. Spending time in nature also helps. In time these elements come together to deepen your sense of presence. With practice you can strengthen your ability to be present in your day to day life and activities, and bring presence powerfully to group endeavours unleashing potential and creativity.
Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers also speak to presence in their 2014 book, Presence - Human Purpose and the Field of the Future. They are touching on true presence as it pertains to groups.
“We’ve come to believe that the core capacity needed to access 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 [Jonas] Salk [discoverer of the polio vaccine] said, making choices 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 move from re-creating the past to manifesting or realising an emerging future.”