Somatic Presence


In my mind the second decade of this century will be forever defined as an age of growing distraction. A time of ever louder demands, that persistently draw us out of present. Disconnecting us from those we live with, learn with and work with. And from ourselves.

This is reflected in the growth of moment-based wellbeing and alternative health solutions. We are all crying out to find that which we have lost, or should I say allowed to be taken from us. We are in love with being connected to the world, yet find ever less time for “where we are”.

The alternative - if we seek one - is to regain the connection, the how, why and where of our being; what I define of as presence.

In the mix of my own experience I have become convinced that the key to individual effectiveness is social. What do I mean? To put it simply we are at our most productive when we work together – and I don’t just mean in the workplace. We are social beings and are hardwired to cooperate (at least within our tribe!), but this is not just in words and conversation.

Social connection is just as much a physical interaction, rapport is often established when our bodies and movements are congruent. When both beings are fully present for each other, it is embodied, it is mind and body. The interaction is built on a foundation of the physical and sensual information of experience, and this engages the whole being, the somatic, from the Greek soma meaning “body”.

The somatics of presence and social interaction are generally somewhere at the penumbra of awareness. But they do not need to be. Developing genuine awareness of self, and the impact of self on others, can bring things back into view.

Paul Linden coined the term embodied peace-making to describe the subtle unconscious positioning which occurs between interacting individuals. A slow and intuitive embodied dance which seeks to create and sustain social harmony.

We need to connect with our dance.


Defining the challenge

Real presence is in practice a constant transformation. Every moment of every day is a dance whose steps reflect the ever changing responses to situation and social interaction. Presence is a two way exchange between our authentic self and our circumstances.

I like to think of this interaction as a cycle. A cycle which is about developing and sustaining our personal presence as a foundation to managing behaviour or specific change. Not only knowing where we are, what we are doing and why we are doing it, but an understanding of what is needed in a situation or in response to specific circumstances. And to then establish and embody the state and actions there required.

And so we create an authentic presence, one which grows from within, shaped by our observation of what is going on in the moment, within us or without – whether alone, with friends or in the workplace.

There are three steps which we follow, that we pass through and cycle around, restart and continue. Forever calibrating how we are, what we are doing and how we are sharing ourselves. I call this The Cycle of Somatic Presence




We need to develop the skills from which we can establish a non-judgemental awareness of how we are, how others are and of the situational challenges that we face.

We start by developing a personal state of quiet, a state from which to observe without interpretation. To see ourselves, others and situations as they are. We need to be able to facilitate this observation – the easiest way is through our breath or by centring within our body.

And as we are still and quiet, allowing ourselves to be aware of what is within and around, not striving to change, to fix or resolve. Just to see what is as it is. Checking in with what is happening. Checking with our bodies, to see how we are in context.

Where there are others involved – family, friends or colleagues, we might where appropriate further our observations via open questions and clean language. Being curious. Looking beneath the surface. Challenging our own first impressions, or perhaps I should say letting go of them.

Allowing an intuitive understanding to coalesce, not by framing, leading or directing it.


To become we need a safe place.

A place where we can be still. Somewhere that it is ok to be silent. Here we can find neutral. This can a sensation of calm within, a place in nature, a room or a just a “held” space. Here we can feel safe and comfortable to explore becoming at one with the experience or situation.

Now accepting our sensational understanding of the situation (holding stillness rather than reacting). Allowing ourselves to settle into how things are, as long as it is safe or appropriate to do so. Then permitting ourselves to shift into the space, to become one part of it.

We are now embedded within what we had observed, and it is embodied within us. We are one. We let ourselves experience the felt sense of the situation, and so enabling a balanced situational empathy to form.

We then can explore our somatic responses accompanying that merging. What are we experiencing as we are with that moment. What does it mean for us and how does it then manifest in arising thoughts or behaviours – enacted or just “a need to act felt”.

What do our senses tell us. We give ourselves time to reflect and consider what is required in the moment by that situation. What arises within awareness and connection.



What action should we take; what calling arises from stillness.

How does that calling ask us to be. What is the shift that we need to embody now. Setting the right intention and focussing our attention. Embodying the change or state that is required to facilitate what is required.

Gently moving but with clear purpose, from simply being within the experience to active interaction. Where possible ensuring that we do not let our “heads” get in the way or divert us.

We now embody that which is required to lead the change. We follow it through with focus. We enact the behaviour and or action, delivered in the appropriate state, and supported by constructive and positive intention.

Checking in with others or circumstances (or just with ourselves) as we act. Remaining present. Sustaining an emotional physical and social connection with what is around us, or with those with whom we are sharing the journey.

Keeping an eye on alignment to intention at all times. Being fully present in our action, and enacting with an appropriately embodied purpose throughout.


Living within the continuing shift

And so as the moment moves on so does the cycle. As the moment shifts then so must we if we are to remain present. The subtle transformation continues; and our presence manifests as a constant embodiment of the appropriate response.

Nature is no absolute; neither are we. Presence is the authentic response to circumstances. Self  awareness can[L1]  recognise distraction. Thus aware we note that our attention is no longer where we intended it to be. When we perceive this then the choice to return is ours.

And so aware we shift, our behaviour an embodied response, calibrated in a cycle of somatic presence.

We are social beings and presence is the foundation of that social connection. It is a living connection to the here and now, rather than the undirected wandering between the loudest calls of distraction which surround us. The cycle of somatic presence establishes the necessary awareness and so invites us to reconnect.