Present-moment awareness

Tightrope Walker

The past few months have brought us crises around the world, in the form of hurricanes, shootings, wildfires, floods, political shouting matches, and nuclear insecurity.

Events like these can distract us from our own priorities and make us churn inside. So the first three steps of Inner Leadership are to make sure that, no matter what happens, we are able to Centre, Ground, and Connect Deeply with ourselves before deciding how to respond.

The first of these three steps, Centring, is about letting go of any inner churning we might be experiencing, calming ourselves, and regaining focus.

The simplest way to achieve this is by coming back to present-moment awareness.

Present-moment awareness means exactly what it says. It means stopping remembering the past, stopping imagining the future, and focusing instead on what is actually happening, right here and now, in us and around us.

To practice this, start by taking yourself away from the present-moment. Remember a recent time when you became upset about something and experienced inner churning. Recreate those feelings now and build them up as strongly as you can.

Now bring your attention to what is happening around you in this present moment. What can you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel around you? Describe this to yourself.

Now shift your attention back inside your body. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. What are you feeling? Where in your body? Describe this to yourself. Take another deep breath and let it out slowly. Are there any thoughts associated with your churning? What are they?

Now shift your attention back to what is happening around you. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Describe what is happening.

Now focus back inside you. Has the level of churning reduced?

You can repeat this cycle as many times as you like. As you do so you are likely to notice two things. The first is that by shifting your attention away from your churning and on to what is happening here and now, your level of churning will reduce. You can observe your churning instead of being part of it.

The second is that the churning we experience is usually not caused by something outside us but rather it is something we create for ourselves: either by remembering the past or imagining the future. This means that we can change it.

Present-moment awareness is one of three methods for Centring described in Chapter 1 of Inner Leadership. Having Centred, we are then ready to ‘Ground’ and reconnect strongly with who we are at our best before deciding how to move forward.

And as tightrope walkers and rock climbers everywhere know, the ability to remove distractions and bring ourselves into deep awareness of what is happening in the present moment is the first essential step to achieving success.

How much of your time do you spend in the present moment compared with worrying about the future or dwelling on the past? What about the members of your team? Would it be useful to practice getting better at bringing yourself/yourselves back into 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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