I absolutely love the Soulful Shout Out series here on Soul Speak! I get to highlight and introduce you to beautiful people and their wonderful offerings!
Today, I am happy to introduce you to my friend, Dave Rowley from Welcome Presence!
Dave is a member of my Soul Shakers’ community, and I’ve had the chance to get to know him over the last year. Like me, he is a sensitive, introverted soul, and I just love his energy and his spirit. I feel blessed to know him, and I’m glad you’ll get a chance to know him better, too!
Dave is a presence coach, which is something that I feel is so needed in our fast-paced world. He has a very calming and grounding personality, which you’ll get a sense of in our interview below. Keep reading to learn more about what presence coaching is, why it matters, and how you can benefit from it!
Dave has also created a wonderful free ebook for you, which we’ll share below as well!
Welcome to Soul Speak, Dave!
I would love to start by asking you to share more about what exactly presence coaching is, especially for those who are hearing about it for the first time.
Presence coaching is a kind of life coaching that uses presence as the starting point.
When I say ‘presence’ I mean something like ‘mindful,’ but I prefer the word presence. Sometimes, the word ‘mindful’ comes across to me as a little clinical and detached. I like the term presence because it seems to invite more of me into awareness than just my mind. And there’s a real emphasis in our coaching sessions on inviting awareness of the body, and including emotion as well as thought. There is even some exploration of our surroundings as we explore being in relationship to the world we live in.
Working with presence can:
- Encourage you to access your own inner wisdom.
- Create a sense of spaciousness around the issue you are working on.
- Help you disentangle from other people’s, or your own, misplaced expectations.
- Make it easier to recognize your own habitual responses.
- Make new and more skillful responses possible.
- Give you a sense of belonging.
What excites me most about working with presence is that once you get a taste of being with yourself in this way, it creates a desire to be even more present to your life. That’s what makes this such a beautiful way to work.
In a typical session we probably spend at least half of our time doing simple experiments or explorations based on paying attention to our present moment experience. (I say “We” because I’m doing this along with the client, as much as possible.) We do this by giving attention to our breath, guiding our awareness to different parts of the body, interacting with our surroundings, and feeling what’s there right now.
It doesn’t take long for the client (and coach!) to start feeling more connected, grounded, and calm within themselves. This gives us a great starting point for the the other element of the session – working on the issue, or issues, the client has chosen.
As we work through the client’s issue(s) we keep coming back and checking in with the body, noticing our inner responses to what we have been discussing. This process of moving between the discussion and getting quiet and paying attention to the body yields some really interesting and useful information.
I would love to hear more about what led you to becoming a presence coach.
On the personal side, I walked into a meditation centre in Sydney over twenty years ago, sat down, and had a very uncomfortable first-time experience of meditation. By the time the bell had rung to finish I had already decided this was not for me. Luckily, I stayed for a cup of tea and the teacher was so gracious and kind, and spoke with me about my experience. She assured me that this was something I would be able to do. Two weeks later I arrived at my first meditation retreat.
Since then I have practiced and studied meditation. At times I have been so pushy and hard on myself, meditating for long hours, working with teachers, and doing retreats, while at other times I have completely fallen away from my practice for long stretches.
Right now, presence is my practice. The idea of pushing to be more present seems a little funny to me now. I practice presence as a way of caring for myself and feeling my own life more. Hopefully, that helps me to respond to things that happen with a bit more intelligence and care. There is a place in my presence practice for sitting meditation, and I also like to fold presence into more ordinary activities like walking, eating, gardening, or just being in my body and noticing what that’s like.
On the professional side, I worked for nearly a decade as a drug and alcohol worker, mostly in community-development projects and working closely with local artists. I loved working in this way, and I got to see people make amazing changes in their lives though accessing their sense of creativity.
When I made the switch to coaching, I first trained as a creativity coach. After a while I started to realise the aspect of creativity that really excited me was that sense of deep presence and peace you get when you’re completely absorbed in your creative work.
Over a period of a few years I moved towards ‘creative presence’ as the focus in my coaching and completed more training in ways of coaching that included mindful awareness of the body. And then, last year I realised that ‘presence’ is the heart and soul of what I am meant to explore for myself and with other people. I decided that would be the guiding principle for my coaching.
I am currently rebuilding my business to reflect that commitment to working with presence. I became sure this was the right decision when I got quiet during a planning session and asked myself: if this doesn’t work out as my livelihood is it still something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life anyway? The answer was a clear and strong yes.
Would you like to share some tips on how to be more present?
I would love to. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in trying to be more present was that I always put so much pressure on myself. And I’ve learned over time to prioritize self kindness and to approach this work with a light touch. So, with that in mind, here are a few tips that can help make it easier to begin.
Start small, and start with pleasure
Sometimes it’s easy to think that to be more present or mindful we need to sign up for a meditation retreat or a four-week yoga immersion class. That kind of thinking is an easy way to get discouraged. It’s so much kinder and easier to start small and to start with something pleasurable.
Stop for a moment and drink a glass of water or juice. Feel the glass where it touches your fingers, notice the coolness of the fluid as it moves down your throat. You might go outside and stand on your lawn in bare feet. You could eat a single square of dark chocolate and notice all the sensations and thoughts that brings up. Whatever small action you can think of that gives you some kind of pleasure will do.
Taking this approach makes it easier to stay in awareness as you give yourself to the activity.
It really helps to be curious about what you might discover through being present. Whenever I am paying attention to something I like to wonder what will happen next.
If I stop writing right now and pick up my coffee, I might feel the warmth of the coffee through the mug. I might wonder at the difference between the temperature of the mug in my hands and the temperature of the coffee as I drink it. Do they feel the same? Is one warmer than the other? (Yes, I just tried it.) If I move my hand away from my mug, how long does my hand stay warm? Can I track that if I pay attention?
When we cultivate a sense of curiosity it often encourages a sense of playfulness. That sense of playfulness makes it easier and more fun to maintain a sense of presence.
And there is so much to be curious about. Every moment is fresh and new, and both our selves and the world around us are constantly shifting and changing in response to each other.
Use your hands
Your hands are highly sensitive. They are a great tool in helping you to be present.
My first move when I wish to be more present is to place one hand over the center of my chest. Through that simple act I can feel so many things: bone, skin, my breath moving through me, the warmth of my chest, I even get a sense of my emotional state. As soon as my hand makes contact I drop into a state of deeper presence.
Exploring different areas of your body with your hands can be a great exercise: cup them over your eyes, rest them on your head, place them over your belly, hold one of your feet. What do you notice? Because our hands are so sensitive, when we use them to check in on our body we get so much more information and that helps cultivate a sense of curiosity and the urge to explore.
Sure! Noticing is a writing meditation practice I’ve been developing for a few years that simply involves noticing sensations, our surroundings, anything that comes up in the moment, and writing all that down as we notice them.
It’s a simple practice, but it is so powerful. I use it a lot when I am feeling anxious about writing something as it gets me into my feeling body and helps me to feel grounded before I start on whatever writing project I’m working on. I’ve found it’s a really useful exercise to do for a few minutes if I’m feeling anxious before a writing session or if I’m about to make a difficult phone call. It’s also a wonderful practice for people who like to keep a journal — it’s like a writing prompt that never fails to get you started.
While the practice is very simple I have developed a few different approaches and guidelines which can help you to make the most of it. It gives you all the information you need to try your hand at ‘noticing’ and, hopefully, will inspire you to make it regular practice.
I love sharing this practice and hope those in your community will benefit from it.
What does your soul want you to know?
My soul wants me to know that going quiet and listening deeply to what is happening in my body will always give me the wisdom to determine the next step I need to take.
When I offer attention to my body, I find more spaciousness, ease, and quiet strength to deal with and appreciate whatever is happening for me in that moment.
When I am still and become present to my body and the circumstances of my life, it reminds me clearly how much I belong. And the more deeply I know that fact, the more deeply I sense it is true for everyone.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I am currently working on some exciting new courses that I will begin offering in the next few months. The first is a re-invigorated version of the self-care course I offered last year that was such a pleasure to work on. The second is an embodied writing e-course that will look at ways to access the wisdom of both our body and mind through the act of writing. (If you enjoy the noticing ebook you will love this!)
Thank you, Dave, for sharing your heart with us!
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