I have seen this book called Presence for years. I never picked it up because I didn't understand the wooden doll on the cover (the doll was part of a sociological experiment she did). I also think I was a bit afraid of it, or perhaps not ready for it, because once I did start reading it I realized how powerful it was, and how I needed to be in the right place to really take it all in.
This book is partly about how you can use body language to make yourself feel more confident, capable, excited and in the moment. The title, Presence, comes from the idea that we generally spend our lives dreading high intensity moments, anguishing in them while they happen, and then regretting how we didn't live up to our own expectations afterwards. We are never actually present, but instead outside of ourselves in some way, judging, agonizing and so on. Amy Cuddy, the author, lists clear, practical and science backed ways to get more present, which makes you feel more confident.
This confidence ripples out in so many unexpected ways. Exploring this takes the reader on a much deeper journey. For example, people who feel confident are able to empathize with and see the world outside of their own point of view easier. This feels contradictory, as we often think of confident people as self-absorbed, but when you think about it, it makes sense. When you feel insecure and/or anxious you are only thinking about yourself. You're thinking of how others perceive you, if you're saying the right thing, if you can run away when no one is looking, and so on. You aren't thinking about what others are feeling. If you feel good, you don't need to obsess about yourself, but you can instead be present for others and truly hear them. This makes life feel so much better and more enriching, which is also part of why Amy wants everyone to learn to be present.
The book goes even deeper than this and investigates the mind-body connection. For reasons I don't relate to (sorry pragmatists) the mind-body connection has been considered woowoo placebo spiritual hoowah since it came to the West. Amy Cuddy, a psychologist, uses her own research and that of others to prove the mind-body connection is not only real, but understanding it can literally uplift and empower your life. So if you want some hard science on why yoga works, or why standing like Wonder Woman can calm your nerves, then this book is for you.
Even if you don't need science to know that the body affects the mind and vice versa, this book will almost undoubtedly share new information with you. In fact, she explained something about yoga in such a clear way that I have no idea what it's not on every yoga poster. Shall I spoil it? Okay, just this one, because the book is chock full of info.
Spoiler: Yoga makes you feel better because it raises your testosterone levels and lowers your cortisol. Yoga doesn't just stretch your body, get you breathing deep and bring you into the present moment. It actually changes your hormones and your chemistry in a way that makes you feel stronger, more empowered and less stressed. Ladies, don't worry, testosterone is a natural part of your makeup, and yoga creates small bursts of the hormone that are very slight, but still enough to strengthen your body and mind.
I got Presence from the local library, and you can find it on Amazon here.
"There's no denying that a great artist in the midst of a performance is spectacularly present, to the extent of creating an almost electric charge."
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