Building presence: The aim of human existence

Presence is being able to do what best serves the situation in the here and now with your limitless resourcefulness, without letting any shadows of the past or worries about the future holding you back


Some time ago, I visited a popular hole-in-the-wall Konkani restaurant in Mumbai to gorge on its delicious THALI. On an adjoining table was a group of four— a well-built 50+ gentleman, a lady of similar age, and two younger adults. They were conversing animatedly, as were my husband, son, sister and I, as we dug into our respective plates —local style with our hands — relishing every bite. Suddenly, I sensed a lull at the neighbouring table. I saw the man’s face going blue and he started sinking in his chair. I instinctively jumped out of my chair and with a might like never before, grabbed the lady out of her seat with my dirty hands and yanked the man to lie on his side on the empty bench. While thumping his back, I shouted instructions to everyone to move away and give him air. Within a few unsettling seconds the man coughed and came back to his senses. Heaving a sigh of relief, we got back to our meal after urging them to take him to the hospital.

On another instance, I was in a cramped room in a dingy lodge, in a settlement called Gorakshep, 5164 meters above sea level. My head was splitting, my breath was short, and I could not stop coughing. The bone-chilling temperature of -3 degrees, accompanied by heavy rains made my experience even more uncomfortable. My body felt limp. The oximeter reading said 58!

Panic broke within the lodge and vehement instructions started pouring in from my guide and fellow trekkers – I was to leave for Lobuche at a lower altitude, immediately. But I did not feel safe traveling in that horrid weather in the middle of the night. I feared I would die amongst strangers and in the middle of the wilderness. I insisted on speaking with the insurance company and requested them to help me evacuate as the oxygen level had dropped to 48. Their doctor said I’d developed hypoxemia, caused due to low oxygen in the blood, 85+ being normal at high altitude. He advised that I drink ginger and garlic soup and stay awake or I would slip into a coma, which could be fatal. The helicopter would come for me at 6 a.m. I had to survive the night. There I was, with tears in my eyes, with no working oxygen cylinder, no medication, and feeling alone.

My life seemed to be approaching its end. And then, I thought of my children. Would I let them give up? NO. I would want them to do the best they could and save themselves. So, I took a deep breath, decided to stay put and instructed my guide to get me a quilt and keep the soup and hot water bottles coming. At no cost were they to allow me to sleep. As they scurried around to follow my instructions, I knew that my survival depended on my own vigilance. So, I sat up straight, gently shut my eyes, smiled and took deep slow breaths, releasing them slowly. I focused on every breath going in and out of my body until 6 a.m. I survived.

These two incidents happened over the past two years. I often wonder what gave me the strength, to help another man save his life, and also survive myself?

In my humble opinion, it was nothing but PRESENCE that made me focus on my energy source — the SHAKTI or Innate Power that I chose to dig deep into. I connected to it without self-judgement or doubt. I didn’t think I don’t know. I didn’t leave room to think I can’t do this. I chose instinctively to submit to my inner strength. I trusted myself and took complete responsibility to save him and save myself – and sure enough I just knew what to get done and what to do myself, and above all, who to be. I became the owner of the outcome I wished to see.

But what stops me from being so in every situation of my life?My limiting beliefs of failure and self-doubt and my ego hold me back. I allow my mind to be taken over by thoughts of scarcity, stereotype and sloth. I find immense safety in my comfort zone and I procrastinate or get into a loop of mediocrity. In other words, I choose inaction or wrong action that invariably makes me show up shorter than what I truly am. This is being in a state of ABSENCE.

The dictionary meaning of PRESENCE is the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present. I would like to add —Presence is being able to do what best serves the situation in the here and now with your limitless resourcefulness, without letting any shadows of the past or worries about the future holding you back.

As a practising professional coach, my belief is that presence is the strongest and the toughest tenet of coaching. As a coach, I am fully conscious and present with my client, employing a style that is open, flexible, grounded and confident.

As the coach, I …

Remain focused, observant, empathetic and responsive to the client
Demonstrate curiosity during the coaching process
Manage my emotions to stay present with the client
Demonstrate confidence in working with strong client emotions during the coaching process
Am comfortable working in a space of not knowing
Create or allow space for silence, pause or reflection

A professional coach that engages with a client in a formal coaching relationship, aims to be completely present in the coaching session. In doing so, she also gives permission to the client to become present to their resourcefulness.

While holding presence, the Coach creates an environment of trust, listens and observes without judgement, and asks the client open-ended questions that help them to think of solutions that could help their situation move forward.

As the session unfolds, the Coach questions the client about any preconceived biases or beliefs that seem to be cluttering their mind. The Coach watches the client closely for any indications of discomfort or hesitation or reflection and demonstrates a curiosity about these signs such that the client is able to delve deeper into facing questions like WHAT they are feeling, WHAT makes them have certain beliefs, HOW would they rather be, WHERE they are now, WHY this resolution is so important to them, and so on.

The clients often reach areas in their lives that they have avoided before. And when they do face those truths or unveil those facades, an AHA moment happens– it is a moment of relief, a moment of vulnerability, a moment of truth, a moment of trust — a moment of unison of themselves with their limitless resourcefulness.

This experience of them being in that special moment is true PRESENCE. And once they have been there, they know they can do it again and again, and in any walk of their life, whether personal, professional, or societal. A coach can creatively help clients get there and find that sweet spot so that they are then able to think of solutions and be accountable to themselves.

Human resources managers and business heads can use COACHING as an organisational development tool of choice to build executive presence within their teams, so that they can make mindful choices that create holistic benefits and growth for all stakeholders.

I would like to close by saying that PRESENCE is the eternal tryst of human existence. When we achieve presence, we can bring our complete resourcefulness to any situation life puts us in and emerge with outcomes that best serve the situation.
A professional coach can help clients experience that feeling, of confidently being themselves, believing in themselves and building for themselves a fulfilled life thereon.

Thanks to coaching, people from around the world have been able to surpass their limitations and achieve their personal and professional goals. Get ready to be inspired by true stories of profound change at

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the world’s largest organisation leading the global advancement of the coaching profession and fostering coaching’s role as an integral part of a thriving society. Founded in 1995, its 35,000-plus members located in more than 140 countries and territories work towards the common goals of enhancing awareness of coaching and upholding the integrity of the profession through lifelong learning and upholding the highest ethical standards. Through the work of its six unique family organisations, ICF empowers professional coaches, coaching clients, organisations, communities and the world through coaching. Visit for more information.

In India, ICF is represented by six vibrant chapters, all led by volunteers — ICF Bengaluru, ICF Chennai, ICF Delhi, ICF Mumbai, ICF Pune and ICF Hyderabad.

The author, Priya Sharma Shaikh is an ICF Professional Certified Coach using communication, leadership &life coaching to help people and businesses discover their innate awesomeness, build executive presence, connect better, grow from good to great and live a fulfilled life. Priya is a mentor, author and speaker who has held C-suite positions, over 30 years of work within Indian and global organisations, in financial services, media, FMCG and education industries. She is also the president of the ICF Mumbai chapter. Our need after food, clothing and shelter is CONNECTION. Good communication builds connection. Like a catalyst, Priya enhances the process of change, by helping clients make meaningful connections.

Comment on the Article

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

five × 3 =