The Gravity Technique: the quickest and easiest way to develop presence and be in your body.
We know the benefits of ‘being present’: A sense of peace, ability to connect with and affect others, mental clarity, access to ideas, etc.
Our attention always ‘present’ somewhere. When we’re daydreaming and someone asks “where are you?” the ‘where’ they are asking more specifically is “of the infinite things to think of, what is your attention on right now?
It’s interesting that we often use spatial terminology for our thoughts, our ‘mental space.’ Unlike our bodies, the ‘space’ that our minds exist in is an endless plane of multiple dimensions. To visualize a map of our potential thoughts could occupy us for an eternity. It’s tempting, but don’t try it!
Our ability to “leave our body” and consider scenarios and vantage points that differ from our immediate observation is the main thing that separates us from most other animals. (Supposedly dolphins and some whales can do it too.) The ability to project and reflect is both a power and a curse. We can plan various things, but we can also spin out and lose touch with immediacy.
Out of the infinite ‘places’ to have our attention on, only one place that counts as the present: the time and space that our bodies occupy in this moment.
To be present is to have our attention on the present. And our bodies are the key to that.
We can think of our body as the material aspect of our self as opposed to the immaterial aspects (mind and spirit if you think in those terms.)
There’s a distinct feeling when our minds and bodies occupy the same “space.” That feeling is not just personal to us, but extends to our interactions with others.
Presence is how much we can be felt by others.
It’s a trait highly sought after in performing arts because it feels good to pay attention to a present person. It’s highly valued in conversation because it feels good to listen to and speak to someone who is “fully there with us.”
When we are in the presence of a present person, we feel more present. So in many ways, the more aware you are of your physical body, the more good feeling you can spread in the world.
A lack of physical awareness is often the cause of many ailments. If we really attended to how our bodies were feeling, we wouldn’t let ourselves sit for the hours at a time that cause back problems later in life.
However when we’re disconnected, the command Feel your body! is about as effective as saying Just be confident! to a person who is feeling meek.
The long-term solution is to take on an embodiment practice like yoga, tai chi, or some form of dance. However even the most dedicated practitioners can fall out of the moment. I recently noted the habit of tensing my shoulders and butt when I see a lot of notifications on my phone. It’s like my attention is being pulled out of my body and out the moment in order to process the emails, texts, and reminders that don’t actually exist in space.
Here’s a short-cut I use now to bring me back into my body:
At any moment, you can put some attention on gravity. It’s a constant force on our bodies. Noticing your physical weight will put you right back in the present moment.
When I redirect my attention to gravity, not only will my mind clear, but I’ll often a way to interact with my environment (people and things) that feels better. That’s presence in a nutshell.
Here’s a 4 minute video of a quick attention exercise you can do right now to feel your body more.
Once have done it once, you can run through at any moment.
When I’m driving and I get distracted, I remember to feel gravity.
When I’m on the computer and my thoughts are spinning out of control, I remember to feel gravity.
When I’m having sex and disconnect from the sensation or my partner, I remember to feel gravity.
Feel gravity. Feel gravity. Feel gravity. I’m sorry for being redundant but it will help you remember later.