Present-moment awareness

Tightrope Walker

Present-moment awareness is both the starting point and the end point of inner leadership.

In a world filled with political crises, demonstrations, caravans, wildfires, shootings, and floods it is easy to find ourselves churning inside, distracted from our priorities. So the first steps of Inner Leadership are to Centre, Ground, and Connect Deeply with what matters most to us. Once we have done this, then we can decide how to move forward.

The first step, Centring, is about letting go of any inner churning we might be experiencing. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is through present-moment awareness. This means stopping dwelling on the past, stopping worrying about the future, stopping imagining things that might or might not be happening hundreds or thousands of miles away, and focusing instead on what is actually happening, right here, right now, in this present moment.

To achieve this, pause for a second. Sit or stand still. Breathe in and hold your breath for a count of three. Then let it out slowly and do the same again.

Now bring your attention to what is happening around you in this present moment. What can you see, hear, feel, taste, or smell? Describe it to yourself as if you were describing it to another person.

Now shift your attention inside your body. Take another deep breath and let it out slowly. What are you feeling in your body, where? Describe it as if you were describing it to another person. Are you experiencing any recurrent thoughts? What are they? Describe them as if to another person. Take another deep breath and let it out slowly.

Now bring your attention back to your surroundings.

You can repeat this cycle as many times as you like. As you do so you are likely to notice three things:

— First, as we become a detached observer of our thoughts and feelings we are less likely to get caught up in them. We realise that whatever we are thinking or feeling now, it was different 12 days ago and it will be different again in 12 days time. Our thoughts and feelings are not who we are they are just experiences we have.

— Second, the more we notice the details of the reality around us the less we get caught up in the fantasies of our minds. This centres us and connects us to reality.

— And third, we begin realise that most of the churning we experience is not caused by events outside us but by how we interpret them: by the way we remember the past or imagine the future. And if we are causing our inner churning then we can change it. We might still take the same actions, but we will do so with a clearer head and a steadier hand.

Once we have centred, the rest of Inner Leadership is about finding more ways to move forward and inspiring ourselves and others to do what we most want to do.

Then, as any climber or tightrope walker knows, present moment awareness is the secret to peak performance. And ultimately it is all there is.

How much time do you spend in the present moment, worrying about the future, or dwelling on the past? What about the members of your team? Would it be useful to shift that to spend more time in the present moment?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By Noel Reynolds via

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