I discovered this book about charisma when I was waiting in line at Fedex…
I’ve always wanted to be more charismatic, so I decided to give it a try. Her premise is that the ability to command the attention of a room and to be likable in that charismatic way is not something one is either born with or not. It is a skill that can be learned. According to her, charisma is made up of three things: Presence, Power, and Warmth.
She spends an awful lot of time in the book working with presence. In fact, the practical exercises she gives are all things I was already familiar with…from SES!
I hadn’t realized just how special some of the things I grew up with really are. It is becoming more and more clear to me through this book and other sources that the kind of control that I have over my mind and thoughts is unusual. And mine isn’t all that great! I know people with far better control, yet I have a fair amount of ability to direct and manage my thoughts. I can’t imagine how chaotic it would be to live without that ability, yet this book suggests that thousands of CEOs and powerful business people do not have this skill.
It never occurred to me to use my ability to be fully present and in the moment as a way to draw people’s attention, but I’ll have to give it a try! Presence is definitely something I know how to do. Of those three skills, the only one I think I lack is power. Yet the book has so far spent very little time on that one. Of the six exercises she has outlined so far, all of them are familiar from my religious practices. Every single one! The tone of the book has started to irritate me, as though she thinks she’s making some huge breakthrough with this stuff. I guess for many people she is. It seems like kindergarten work to me. :-/
Presence is very much created by mindfulness, which is a concept that seems to be getting people excited these days. Everywhere I look I’m seeing people talking about mindfulness (possibly a result of the kinds of circles I hang out in!)
Here’s a post about how it helps relationships from HuffPost Weddings. The author references her own post about the many benefits of mindfulness. This might be why Brad and I don’t fight. It never occurred to me not to use presence and mindfulness when dealing with relationship issues.
Another place where I was reminded of this was in watching Eat Pray Love again when it was playing on TV during my vacation. In NY and again at the ashram in India there are scenes where it’s clearly supposed to show the profoundly different world of chanting in Sanskrit and singing bhajans. Like that’s something wacky and outside of people’s comfort zones. It’s hard for me to relate to that. Scenes like that feel like the norm for me.(This is not the scene I was thinking of, but it does talk about the importance of presence and controlling one’s mind)
I’m feeling pretty lucky right now that I was given these techniques young, from meditation to exercises for becoming present. There’s been issues with that too sometimes, just feeling a lot of pressure to be perfect. I remember adults telling me when I was a kid that I was so lucky I would be spared from making their mistakes. It made me very frightened to do anything wrong. I’ve since learned that I do need to try things out for myself and make mistakes in order to figure life out, but at the same time I’m so glad that I have tools like meditation that have allowed me to cultivate my mind and have some amount of mastery over it. It’s a foundation that simplifies all the rest of my life. I’m only just starting to realize how few people have any control over their thoughts at all. I’m feeling very blessed right now.
It reminds me of when I went to an Insight retreat as a teen. My two best friends had done it and they raved about it, but part of the program was they weren’t allowed to talk about any details of the experience with someone who hadn’t done it. So they were having all these private discussions excluding me (and with a topic that has always been of great interest to me!). I signed up to do it so I wouldn’t feel left out anymore. My dad and I went to the info session beforehand and the guy doing the presentation talked about how most people rarely go below the surface of their consciousness. He drew a diagram as though this were fishing and most people only cast down a foot into the water, but at Insight you would be casting way down (he drew the fishing line down at the bottom of the water). Sounded great to me. So I went to do the retreat and I found it very…well, surface level. If they thought this was going deep, they had no idea what deep was.
I’d been deeper into my consciousness by far. Coincidentally, I happened to meet there a woman who had taken the first class of SES and she completely agreed that this was not very deep at all. One class of SES dived much deeper than this retreat! But I still didn’t really realize how few people were even dipping their toes in the water.
I may have some issues with aspects of how I was raised, but my childhood did give me the ability to dig deep into my consciousness, to exercise some control over my mind, and to be fully present at any time. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I am grateful beyond words.