Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Presidential presence: Are 2016 presidential candidates present?

This article originally appeared in the Viet Tide on Dec. 4, 2015. It was written by Ness white and has since been updated, edited accordingly.

It's become something of a catch phrase: being present.

Often the phrase is mentioned in spiritual circles that are focused on enlightenment, or even among people who are interested in health and wellness -- it usually means something along the lines of directing one's attention to whatever is happening in the moment. Rarely, if ever, is the phrase applied to conversations about politics and U.S. presidential candidates. Instead, mainstream news reports mention candidates' stage presence, pointing out which of them is commanding enough for voters to rally behind.

For example, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Texas gov. Rick Perry, who have dropped out of the Republican presidential race with low poll numbers, were reported to have weaker stage presence when compared to former business mogul Donald Trump and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina following the September presidential primary debate. Similarly, Democratic candidates U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton have both been credited with having tremendous stage presence and have experienced the gap closing between them in public opinion polls.

While having stage presence is considered a valuable resource, especially to voters, various writers and experts have revealed how invaluable being present is. For example, in a recent Huff Post blog, Karen Trepte, international businesses coach, wrote that being present has significant benefits -- among them is managing stress. After citing a few spiritual teachers, including Thich Nhat Hahn, she shared that it is wise to live in the present moment, as that is all we truly have.

"Getting carried away with thoughts of the past or the future only serves to stir up our emotions," Trepte shares. "Regardless of the nature of the emotion, thoughts like this remove us from the present moment and what is truly going on for us.

"When a negative emotion is triggered by them, these thoughts take us out of what is emotionally true for us in that moment, too.

Trepte's words might remind our readers of what we reported in a recent article, "A breath of fresh air? None of the presidential candidates are even close," where we explained that presidential candidates might not be relieving voters' stresses, but might instead be creating more stress for them by using fear-mongering tactics. When watching the presidential debates, our readers might notice that the candidates speak heavily about what they will do to tackle issues in the future and what they have done to solve problems in the past, usually mentioning the present moment only to discuss what is wrong with it -- again, something that will be fixed when they are elected … in the future

We have also made a connection between the importance of breathing -- particularly when it comes to easing stress -- and the fact that none of the mainstream presidential candidates discuss this necessary aspect of daily life on the campaign trail. It is interesting to note that Trepte relates being present with stress relief and breathing.

"So much of the time, especially when we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, we are wracked with worry or thinking ahead, which can create emotions that feed the stress," Trepte says. "If we would only pause, take a breath, and look out the window, we'd see we were actually feeling fine before those thoughts rolled in."

Our readers who have watched the debates, or who might have interacted with the candidates firsthand, can answer for themselves whether they believe the candidates are fully present on stage or in person. Further, do the candidates' words take us out of the present moment?

It might behoove us to be present ourselves as we witness the candidates talk and gesticulate during debates, rallies and news interviews. Then, we might determine for ourselves which ones are present, on stage or not.

We might also have a better understanding of whose presence matches our own.

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