Several weeks ago I gave a workshop on this topic with the intention of, for the first time, beginning to clarify what I mean by the phrase “embodied presence”. Here is some of the thinking that went into the workshop.
Where we put our attention, that’s where energy goes. This is probably the core principle of embodied presence. When we are anxious all our attention is focused on the thoughts that are fueling the fires of the anxiety. All our energy is concentrated in our minds, and we end up having an “out of body” experience. This is especially true when the fear of public speaking flares up.
If we can divert our attention, even for a moment, away from all that thinking, we can then lessen the experience of anxiety. The best way that I know of to change the direction of energy is to fully occupy ourselves, to be more aware of all of our experience as physical beings, not just thinking beings. This means to drop our awareness down into our physical experience: feeling our feet on the ground, coming into our center of energy in our bellies, staying loose and easy, noticing physical sensations. All these practices serve to divert energy away from anxious thoughts and bring us more fully present in the moment.
There is a difference between self-consciousness and consciousness of self. When we are self-conscious, all our attention is focused on our concerns about how we look and how people will respond to us. When we are conscious of ourselves, our focus has dropped into a more holistic sense of self which, paradoxically, frees us up to be more available to others. When we speak, then, we can focus more on how we can be of service to our audience, rather focusing entirely on how we will be of service to ourselves.
I have found that yoga, tai chi, authentic movement and meditation are all practices that help me stay present in my body. And, I use these practices to help the people in my courses speak “with both feet on the ground”.