Stage presence: the magical, mystery phrase, elusive to many. (Except for the lucky few who just "have it.") It's one of those terms like "charisma" that we all know but might have a hard time actually defining.
As I've written before, I don't think it needs to be such a mystery. What if I told you there was a key to unlocking the secret garden gates of presence? What if that key were so easy to use, we might forget to use it all together? I think, even for the most shy of us, the key to effective stage presence is readily available. Want to know what it is?
Unlike thoughts, which are constantly projecting forward into the future or back into the past (notice this in yourself right now), body sensations are neutral. They are felt in the current moment.
While an anxious thought - the kind that keeps us from a full engagement with presence - might spin out of control, there is a felt sensation in the body that correlates with this thought. Maybe it's a tightening of the chest. We are conditioned to experience this tightening of the chest as a sign of danger, which fuels our anxious thoughts telling us to get away.
Here's an example. "Oh no, I'm going to forget what to say." That's a future oriented thought. It's about something that might or might not happen. Now the chest tightens. We identify this as a fear response, and the thoughts try harder to keep us from forgetting. This intensifies the experience of fear that it will happen. It hasn't happened yet, but the possibility that it will tells our body to respond as if it IS happening.
An alternative to this response is to go straight to the sensation in the chest. When our awareness goes directly to the sensation, noticing the feeling, it disengages with the thinking mind. Now we can simply notice the sensation of tightening in the chest. Is it warm? Does it vibrate? Does it move?
The physical energy expended in the chest doesn't have a story. It's just physical energy. By putting attention on this during times of anxiety, we can actually use our natural body energy to facilitate presence. With awareness focused on places of physical body tension, the thoughts cannot reinforce the patterns.
Soon, the energy of contraction will move elsewhere in the body. With practice, it actually will relax and open outward. The intensity of contracted energy will shift into intense expanded energy.
People feel this expansion in us -- consciously or not. It's this expanded, relaxed energy that is associated with the term "stage presence." As we cultivate body awareness, we cultivate presence.
Thoughts? Agreements? Disagreements? Your comments are welcome.