Having just returned from a holiday visit with family, I’m well aware of how unsettling it can be to break out of the routines that are part of the normal patterns of our day-to-day life. To help manage these kinds of disruptions, my yoga teacher this morning reminded us of the benefits of returning to what is familiar.
Activities that are familiar help to center us, to ground us, to bring us back to ourselves. For people who have a regular yoga practice, the familiar means to return to the yoga mat, over and over and over. It also means to return to an awareness of the breath as well as a gentle attention on physical sensations in the body.
For many of us, an important speaking event can create the same kind of internal chaos that often accompanies the disruption of routine that the holidays present. Our normal schedule is disrupted as we prepare for the talk, deal with all the accompanying anxiety, and then actually deliver a talk. So the question is, how do we return to what’s most familiar in the midst of this kind of pressure?
My clients are often surprised when I suggest that they will get the most out of our work together if they practice some simple relaxation/presencing tools in their ordinary non-stressful daily activities. They come to me expecting that we are going to do a lot of speaking (and they do have multiple opportunities to speak), but they don’t expect that we are first going to focus on simple breathing and body awareness techniques to help them get centered.
In my groups we first practice quieting the mind and becoming centered through attention to our breath. We repeat this practice frequently during the course of our time together. After a while, clients begin to do this automatically and don’t have to be reminded. It becomes a familiar routine that can then be accessed under highly stressful situations. The routine itself is relaxing as is the familiarity with the routine.
I then introduce a grounding practice: To feel their connection to the ground and find their “roots”. For more on how to do this, read this earlier post on this blog. This has the effect of bringing us back to the present moment and fully occupying our physical selves. We can engage this quality of awareness either sitting or standing and can practice it in any situation — talking on the phone, walking from one room to another, standing in line at the grocery store. By practicing this awareness frequently in ordinary life situations, it, again, becomes familiar and something that can be easily accessed under stress. And, again, simply returning to this familiar practice will create a sense of balance and presence.
And, I tell them that by practicing these techniques in their day-to-day activities, these vehicles for feeling centered and relaxed will become familiar, and, therefore, more accessible when they are standing in front of a group making an important presentation.
The benefit of a conscious, regular, but simple practice of presence is that it becomes so familiar that just the act of evoking that practice will help to create a sense that where there was disorder, there is now order. The simple practices described in this article have the added value of also being relaxing in and of themselves and so can serve as easy vehicles for creating a sense of order and balance whether you are speaking to one person or a thousand.