1-Sentence-Summary: The Presence Process is an actionable 10-week program to become more present and consciously respond to situations based on breathing practice, insightful text, and observing your day-to-day experience.
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In 1989, Michael Brown was diagnosed with an acute health condition: Horton Syndrome. As a result, he experienced unbearable headaches multiple times a day. The doctors told him there was no known cure for this illness – and so Michael embarked on a personal journey, looking for ways to heal himself.
After a 9-year odyssey of experimenting with various healing and spiritual techniques, he found a solution. He discovered that his pain and suffering subsided every time he entered a state of what he now calls “present moment awareness.”
The Presence Process walks you through the 10-week-procedure Michael used to reconnect with his present moment awareness. With this book, you can guide yourself through this journey, regardless of your health and life circumstances. The core idea is that as long as you are truly engaged in what is happening in the present moment, you are by default living a life of purpose, meaning, and connection.
Here are 3 lessons I’ve learned that now help me find purpose in every moment of my life:
- All uncomfortable emotions are opportunities for growth.
- We are responsible for the quality of our life’s experience.
- Becoming more present may well be the greatest service we can do to ourselves and the rest of humanity.
To pull off a big transformation, we must challenge our beliefs and habits. If you’re up for it, let’s see how Brown’s story can help us make a deep change!
Lesson 1: Whenever you feel uncomfortable, there’s a lesson you can learn in that moment.
This notion is as comforting as it can be scary. Comforting because, once you accept it, you’ll start valuing all emotional difficulties as opportunities for growth. Scary because, all of a sudden, you have no incentive to run away and distract yourself from your feelings.
Michael Brown often emphasizes that this work on our emotions is not about “feeling better” but about “getting better at feeling.” By embracing all feelings that arise in your life, you practice the attitude of equanimity – a central concept from Buddhist tradition. Brown rarely refers to it explicitly, but many of his ideas fit Eastern spiritual tradition.
Another one is recognizing our present experience as a result of past conditioning, also known as the concept of karma. From this perspective, any emotional discomfort we feel today is a mere reflection, a memory of something hurtful that happened to us in the past.
Seeing difficult emotions from this point of view allows you to stop identifying with them. You can now see them simply as temporary experiences you happen to have. You can consider your feelings as “messengers” that help you unravel the aspects of yourself which you got used to turning your back on. Sounds a lot healthier, doesn’t it?
Lesson 2: What happens to you is not your fault, but it is your responsibility what you do with it.
A basic skill Brown teaches is to respond to your experiences instead of reacting to them. What’s the difference?
A reaction is an unconscious behavior we act out based on patterns we’ve established in the past. Reactive behavior we display in a moment of emotional discomfort is usually an attempt to defend ourselves or attack another, even if we don’t realize it. The themes of reactive behavior are “automation” and “drama.”
A response is a conscious behavior, chosen based on what we perceive in the present moment. It arises when we are consciously aware of our emotional state, but choose not to project this state onto someone else. The themes of responsive (aka responsible) behavior are “awareness” and “choice.”
Being aware of these two possible modes of operating will radically change the way you approach each emotionally challenging situation. You’ll cease blaming anyone for what is happening, including yourself. Instead, you’ll deal with reality as it happens and choose responsible actions.
This realization is nothing else but accepting the natural law of cause and effect. But it’s an important one, because we’ll finally understand that our behavior in any given situation plants the seeds for our future circumstances.
Lesson 3: Being present in each moment naturally transforms all areas of your life.
If you’re confused, start by focusing on simply being present. Mindfulness may be the single most important quality you can cultivate in your life. An awareness of what’s going on right here, right now, naturally fosters positive change in virtually all areas of your life.
The benefits of mindfulness, which is the more popular synonym for “present moment awareness,” have been demonstrated and studied by scientists in such areas as physical and mental health, longevity, relationships, leadership, work performance, and many more. One of the leading academics specializing in mindfulness, Ellen J. Langer, even went as far as saying:
“Virtually all the world’s ills boil down to mindlessness.”
Being mindless is our mass predicament in a fast-paced, result-oriented world. It’s easy to see why we have difficulties in being present. But if much of our illness, distress, and suffering could be addressed by simply practicing present moment awareness, shouldn’t we give it a go?
Living more mindfully is something that benefits not just yourself. As you transform internally, anyone around you can pick up on this. Conscious or not, they’ll thrive in your presence. Practicing present moment awareness might be the greatest service you can do for the sake of our collective wellbeing
The Presence Process Review
In a sea of self-help and spiritual books, The Presence Process stands out because of its truly universal message, authenticity, and actionability. With all the insights it offers this book is not so much intent on improving some parts of your life’s experience, but all of it. Thanks to its experiential procedure, it addresses the way you live your life as a whole.
Who would I recommend The Presence Process summary to?
The 24-year-old introvert college graduate who is still looking for their place in the world; the 40-year-old high-achiever who, despite their external successes, feels the need for a deep internal change, and anyone who lacks a sense of purpose in their life.