By Renee Renaud
I am one of those people who reads the last chapter of a book before the first, and with Michael Brown’s The Presence Process, I am so glad I did. At the end of the book he lists 43 possible positive consequences of doing his 10-week program, which sold me on doing it. My results were so life changing that I now use it in my private counseling practice with anyone willing to make the commitment.
It is not an easy process. Brown’s basic belief is that we are always running from or projecting onto others the suppressed emotional charges from childhood that keep resurfacing in our current situations. He gives specific instructions on how to uncover and then be with these feelings. His main tool is conscious connected breathing, which causes unconsciousness to surface along with more awareness of the present moment.
My first week of the process was a complete surprise. I found myself on the couch, curled up in a fetal position, crying my heart out for my mommy! She had abandoned me three times for short periods before I was nine years old. I thought I had handled all that years ago with my own therapist, but while I had talked about it I had not fully experienced all of my grief.
Another big insight came when my husband said something negative about my daughter, his stepdaughter. I reacted with rage, but after a few minutes of connected breathing was able to see that I was not angry at him but at my own stepfather, who used to criticize me when I was a little girl. Now I am able to perceive and appreciate my husband for who he is instead of projecting my past on him, and our love has blossomed. Brown says that every upset is a setup to alert us to unresolved emotional issues from the past and urges us not to “shoot the messenger.” He explains step by step how to respond instead of react.
Another experience I had while doing conscious connected breathing was feeling so much pain on the right side of my back that I almost quit the process and called a doctor. Only Brown’s assurance that such pain during this process was emotional in origin, and my memory of many childhood kidney infections in the same area, kept me breathing through it with compassion and acceptance. After a week it disappeared.
In the last week of the presence process, I received my best insight and consequence. I live at Valley Oaks Village, Chico cohousing, a planned neighborhood where clustered condos and common paths and meals make meeting with neighbors a constant happening. Strangely, I was never comfortable with this. I was right there if a neighbor needed anything and always did my volunteer community hours, but I thought I was too busy with my counseling practice and other activities that were more important than making “small talk.”
For week 10, Brown writes about closing the illusionary gap that separates us from our fellow human beings simply by being present with them without judgment. In not slowing down to be present with a neighbor, I was missing an opportunity to experience a holy encounter with the presence in both of us. Now I am more present with everyone and constantly grateful for my “rebirth” into a human being instead of a human “doing.”
Some of the other consequences of my doing the presence process include having more energy, greater focus, easier weight loss, less anxiety, and greater acceptance of whatever happens, more compassion but less desire to interfere in my children’s lives, less inclination to plan the future, more confidence that all my needs are being met, and more spontaneous laughter, playfulness, and creativity.
It is possible to do the process alone, but I am available at a sliding-scale fee if you would like a guide-and-support person. All of my clients who have done the process report transformations similar to mine and many buy the book for friends. But it is also worthwhile to just read the book. It is the best synthesis of basic psychology and spirituality I have ever had the joy of sharing.