A while back when I was going through a period of personal challenge, a good friend, who happens to be a psychotherapist, gave me some great advice. She said, “Just stay where your feet are.” It was a great reminder of the core coaching practice of “be in the moment.” When we are fully present in the current moment, we tend to be calmer, more centered, and more appreciative of what life has to offer.
Often, when I am working with clients who are stressed out, unhappy, frustrated, and confused about what is going on in their lives, they tend to exhibit two states of awareness: 1) constantly re-hashing things that have occurred in the past, or 2) nervously playing out what bad things are going to happen in the future. When they are reminded to breathe deeply and remain focused in the present moment, a sense of calm returns and perspectives shift. Here is an exercise I call the 5-5 that often helps clients shift perspective:
- Sit in a relaxed posture with both feet on the floor, right hand on your diaphragm, and eyes closed.
- Take a deep breath and exhale slowly to the count of 5. Do this 5 times
When they have finished I ask them what they are noticing. They usually describe a sense of calm. What I notice in them is a more relaxed demeanor, a slower rate of speech, and greater eye contact. Then I ask them to think about the tumultuous situation they had previously described and answer the following questions:
- What is really most important in this situation or challenge?
- What are you grateful for in this situation (I often have to probe a little bit here)?
- How do you most want to show up in this situation?
Once fully present with the challenge, clients often see a deeper meaning in the situation or a more meaningful way forward. This does not necessarily help them work through the solution, but it does help them focus on what is most important.
Another benefit of being fully present: Being open to new ideas. If we can focus on breathing and being keenly aware of the present through our five senses (what are we hearing, tactically feeling, smelling, seeing, tasting), new insights emerge. Through the process of breathing and being present we engage our right brains and we are more open to new insights and new ways of thinking about an old problem.