Appreciative Presence

Posted: March 20, 2023


In recent years many within the fields of psychology and mindfulness have put the spotlight on “presence”: a state of awareness of the present moment that is connected, spacious and open. The recognition of how presence informs our being and our lives is relevant to us as Appreciative Inquiry practitioners, since AI is more than a methodology, or even a philosophy: it begins with a type of presence.

I experience presence as

an attuned,

embodied awareness

of what is happening while it is happening

at a physical, emotional, mental and relational level.

There are many layers to this awareness and multiple factors influence it. One way we can bring our awareness into the present moment is by tuning in to our breath, physical body and its five senses. Then, by tuning in to our emotional body and present feelings. Followed by, noticing our mind states and transitory thoughts, forever coming and going like clouds across an infinite sky. When we tune into and align our gut, heart and mind listening centres – or as a friend of mine likes to say, the hip-heart-head connection – a kind of resonance or alignment starts to fall into place. We come into relation with ourselves, appreciating our own inner eco-system. And this state of presence generates a frequency of awareness that – like a tuning fork – allows us to tune into another’s presence. A deep sense of seeing, and of being seen, reverberates through us and in the space between us, rippling into a field of presence. Appreciative Inquiry – at its best – awakens and amplifies this field.

The ability to wake up to what is in our awareness is something we can train in and become better at with regular practice.  And as we can develop presence, so we can furthermore develop Appreciative Presence.

What is Appreciative Presence?

“Appreciative” refers to a capability: the capability to sense, feel and understand how valuable something is, and the ability to show or express this understanding.

When we put these two – presence and appreciative – together; we tap into a state of embodied, resonant awareness in the present moment with the enhanced capability of discerning and communicating what is (or holds the potential to be) valuable.

Appreciative Presence does not deny any sensation, feeling, thought or experience. (We only deny what we do not yet see the value of facing nor have the capability to integrate as learning.) It requires first and foremost an embodied awareness – that “hip-heart-head” aligned listening – of what is happening while it is happening. Followed closely by the subtle tuning in to what is valuable about whatever is being revealed in awareness. Appreciative Presence brings the highest potential from the past into the present moment and connects us to the future – also in the present moment. It is being able to tap into a sense of appreciation for whence we’ve come, gratitude for what we have and looking forward to where we’re going, even when – and perhaps especially when – we come to face life’s challenges.

For more on related topics and what Appreciative Presence looks like when the going gets tough, browse Appreciating Mindfully and Acknowledging Loss and Honoring the Departed

Ezelle Theunissen is a community psychologist and coach supporting individuals, teams and organisations align their values, strengths and unique lived experiences towards making a meaningful difference in the world. Social and environmental justice are close to her heart and she favours whole systems and person-centred approaches.

Appreciative Presence

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