Appendix A: Example Scripts of Pleasures of Presence (POP)

Pleasures of Presence Transcription Offered by Ben ‘Crow’ Page at Joshua Tree, January 2019

*Note: This entire script was expressed in 16 minutes. Each sentence should have ample pause between the next. In this transcription, pauses are inserted between sensory categories, but extra pauses should be inserted when there is more than one prompt per sense.  A pause can be as short as 15 seconds or as long as a minute.

“This first invitation is called Pleasures of Presence, and to start, I’m going to invite you to simply look around, noticing where we are. [Pause]

And now, I’m going to invite you to close your eyes. Let’s just take a few breaths, just normal breaths…Just noticing what the sensation of breathing feels like.  [Pause]

And noticing that, right now, that you are within this thing you call your own body. I wonder what it feels like to be in your body? And if your body is asking for something? Be generous and give your body whatever it is asking for in this moment.  [Pause]

Noticing that, right now, we’re doing this thing we call standing, or perhaps sitting. I wonder what it feels like to be doing this? Where can you feel this action in your body?  [Pause]

Perhaps gently shifting your weight from one foot to the other, or from your toes onto your heels…Just noticing how the sensation of the body shifts…  [Pause]

And awakening our imaginations, I’d like to invite you to see roots coming out from your body and sinking down into this Earth. As your roots sink in, maybe as if they have little eyeballs on them, I wonder what your roots are encountering beneath us? How many worlds are we standing on top of in this moment? How many beings have been in this exact place before us? And as your roots sink deeper in, simply acknowledging that, just like us, this land has taken a very long journey to be here today. It was not always here, not like this…So I wonder what it feels like, rooted into the Earth, to be meeting this place in this moment?  [Pause]

Shifting our attention to the skin, I wonder what sensations you can feel with your skin? Noticing the difference between the skin exposed to the air and the skin underneath your clothing? Perhaps holding your hands out in front of you and just holding the air in your hands…and letting the air hold you. Perhaps lightly bringing the hands together, I wonder what it feels like when skin touches itself? Perhaps using those hands to explore some of the textures you’re carrying with you today…maybe your hair, your jacket, a piece of jewelry you might be wearing…And if it feels comfortable, perhaps with your eyes still closed, bending down and touching the Earth, just noticing…Perhaps picking some of the Earth up and holding it your hand. What does it feel like to hold mountains in your hand? [Pause]

Shifting our attention to our noses, perhaps smelling the Earth that you are holding. I wonder where that smell might take you?  [Pause]

As our sense of smell is connected to our sense of taste, I wonder what you might be able to taste right now? Maybe it’s something you ate or drank earlier, maybe it’s simply the taste of your mouth? If you’re feeling a bit playful, you might try breathing as if you are sucking the air in through a straw or holding your tongue out and breathing over the palette. Can you taste the air here?  [Pause]

Now, shifting our attention to the ears, I wonder what this place sounds like? I wonder what the sound is that is farthest away from your body? And what the sound might be that is closest to your body right now? I wonder if there is music here? If there’s a rhythm or a melody to this place? And elevating the sound of your own breath, just enough so that only you can hear it, I’d like to invite you to add your own sound to this place. Just let it blend in with the music around us…  [Pause]

And for those of you sitting, I’d like to invite you to come back to standing. Maybe as you come, simply noticing your own body…  [Pause]

And with your eyes still closed, slowly and gently turning your body in a circle, noticing what the different directions feel like. And just keep turning yourself until your body says to you, “OK stop. This is the direction that I want right now.”   [Pause]

And when you find that direction, placing your hands over your heart, just feeling what it’s like to have a heart. I wonder what it’s like to have your heart? And I wonder, without needing our vision, what the heart might be reaching toward in that direction? Perhaps it’s something very close to us? Perhaps the heart is reaching across the continent or across the oceans, toward something very far away? I wonder what your heart will beat for?  [Pause]

Now I’m about to invite you to open your eyes, don't do it quite yet…But when I do, I’d like to invite you to open them very slowly, like it’s the first time you’re opening your eyes. And as you open them, I’d like to invite you to just consider that maybe everything you are seeing is seeing you as well. So now, whenever you’re ready, go ahead and slowly open your eyes…  [Pause]

And taking a look around us, noticing the directions, noticing up and down, and all around us…And now that our senses are awake, if there is something that this place is giving you that you find pleasurable, just invite that in…Just acknowledge and be with that sensation for a moment.   [Pause]

And let’s take one more breath, and come back to our Circle…”

Pleasures of Presence Transcription Written by M. Amos Clifford, July 2017

Invite participants to stand facing inward in a circle. Suggest that they may close their eyes if they are comfortable doing so.

“Take a few deep breaths… notice your body, how it feels to be supported by the earth below our feet…How the sky around us holds us in its way… how we are surrounded by other living things…how our thoughts arise and fall away…welcoming all of it.    [Pause]

Turning our attention to the sense of touch… hold your hands with your palms turned forward, letting your hands be sensors…noticing the sensations on our skin… the variety of sensations… on our bare skin and where we are clothed… what kinds of texture are in the experience of touch…… perhaps among these sensations we can find simple pleasures… and we can invite that pleasure in…  [Pause]

Now turning our attention to hearing… what sounds are around us?....noticing the variety of sounds… the distances, near and far… patterns… and I wonder if there are any rhythms in the sounds around us…and if they interact with each other… and how the individual sounds may combine, like chords or a symphony… and notice within the experience of sound that which is giving you pleasure… give hospitality to what feels right to you…now exaggerate the sound of your own breathing, just enough so you can hear it… so it blends in with the sounds around you… what is it like to be a part of the symphony of this place?”   [Pause] (allow a full minute or two here)

Breathing in through our mouths… what is the forest offering us in this air that surrounds us? … Breathing in deeply, exploring the air. How does the air taste? What is its texture? I wonder what the qualities are of the air, here, on this morning, in this place…   [Pause]

Breathing out…I wonder how the forest receives our breathing? Is there something we would like to offer to the forest, to invite our out-breath to carry to it?   [Pause]

Breathing through our nose…. What scents are being offered by the forest this morning? How do they appear? Do they change as we explore them? Perhaps move your head from side to side, the way a hound would sniff to track a scent… and up and down… just inviting, noticing.  [Pause]

And keeping our eyes closed, hold your hands out to your sides, near your hips, and turn the palms forward. I wonder if our entire body is its own kind of sense? Can we feel with our body? Feel the direction you are facing now. Does that direction have its own personality? Can you feel it nearby? Far away? What can you sense that seems to be an emanation from the direction you are facing? And is there something your body sends out in return, perhaps forming a sense of connection, or an experience of recognition?  [Pause]

With eyes still closed, slowly turn in a circle, pausing from time to time to become familiar with the sensation and presence of the direction. What changes? Turn until you are facing in a direction that just somehow feels right to you; the direction your body wants to face.    [Pause]
In a moment, but not until I say so… you will open your eyes…and when you do, I invite you to see what appears as if you are seeing for the first time… and now… open your eyes…   [Pause]  (give this a minute)”

And see if there is a gesture you want to make toward that which you are seeing…  [Pause]

When you are ready turn back into the circle.”

Always end Pleasures of Presence with a council circle, using the prompt, “What are you noticing?”

Additional Transcriptions and Recordings Available

The ANFT member Guide Gateway has a growing collection of Pleasures of Presence recordings by ANFT trainers and mentors.

Bare Bones of POP and Additional Elements

When facilitating POP, the guide is also working in partnership with the land. This means the guide should be drawing participants’ attention toward sensory elements of the environment as they are offered by the land instead of rigidly following a script. For example, if a bunch of birds begin calling, it might be a good time for drawing attention to the sense of hearing. Below are some essential elements that should always be included in POP:

  • Arrive in the place you will be guiding POP; ask participants to find a comfortable way of standing. This might include taking off their backpacks.
  • In preparation for closing their eyes, invite participants to look around and just notice where they are.  
  • Invite participants to close their eyes or hold a soft gaze towards the ground.
  • Breathing (just normal breathing).
  • Senses: touch, hearing, smell, taste
  • Pauses: The pauses are essential to allow participants time to really notice. Pauses are also the spaces where the guide is authentically participating in the invitation.
  • Turning and noticing what direction the body is drawn to.
  • Open eyes—sight.
  • Circle.

POP can include a lot of creativity. Sometimes, guides may bring in senses beyond the classic five. They may deepen into senses by asking open questions. Guides may even try different configurations of the group, such as doing POP where everyone is sitting on the ground or lying on their backs. Participants don’t even need to be in a circle. Everyone just needs to be able to hear you. The important thing to remember about POP (and all invitations) is to not tell people to do anything explicitly; make it easy and open, and don’t expect participants to do everything they are invited into. It helps if guides learn to close their eyes throughout the experience, to trust that their participants are doing it in whatever way feels right for them. Below are some ideas for additional elements that guides might use (and there are sure to be many more than are on this list).

Avoid the Phrase “I invite you to”

One caution is to avoid overusing the phrase “I invite you to”. It isn’t necessary and it is best practice to leave it out. Guides clearly explain the concept of invitation in the walk introduction and there is simply no need to keep saying “I invite you to”. Keep it out of your invitations.

Let these examples spark the imagination:

Hearing prompts:
  • I wonder what sound you can hear that is farthest from your body? Closest to your body?
  • I wonder what the quietest sound is that you can hear?
  • I wonder if there is a rhythm or a melody to this place?
  • I wonder how many different sounds are here?
  • Perhaps you’d like to add your own sound into this place, just loudly enough that only you can hear it?
Smell prompts:
  • Perhaps tilt your head back and see if you can catch the scent of the breeze?
  • I wonder if we bend to the Earth and touch the ground, what it might smell like on our fingertips?
  • (Before starting, the guide might hand out a fragrant flower and then invite the group to smell it during POP)
Taste prompts:  
  • You might try breathing as if you are sipping the air through a straw; I wonder if you can taste the air here?
  • (Sometimes, on a hot day, a guide might hand out some ice before POP. This can be felt and also finished with taste.)
Touch prompts:
  • I wonder what differences we can notice with the skin exposed to the air and the skin underneath our clothing?
  • Hold your hands out and feel the air running through your fingers. I wonder what that feels like?
  • Perhaps bringing the hands together, I wonder what it feels like when skin touches itself?
  • And using those fingers to explore some of the textures you are carrying with you today. Perhaps it’s your hair or jacket or a piece of jewelry you might have on?  
  • Perhaps bending down and laying our hands upon the Earth, I wonder what it feels like against our skin?
Sight prompts (after opening the eyes at the end of POP):
  • Take a look all around you; up to the sky and down to the Forest floor, what does this place look like?
Prompts for opening the eyes:
  • As you open your eyes, consider that maybe everything you are seeing is seeing you as well.  
  • As you open your eyes, imagine that what you are seeing was painted for you by someone who loves you very much.
  • Open your eyes slowly, as if it was the coming of dawn. Allow them to have a soft focus at first, and then come into full focus.  
Body prompts:
  • I wonder what it’s like to have your body right now? Perhaps if your body is asking you for something, maybe a little stretch or a little massage, go ahead and give your body whatever it is asking for.  
  • Noticing that right now we are standing; I wonder what it feels like to be standing? Where can you feel this action in your body?
  • Perhaps gently shifting your weight from one foot to the other and from your heels to your toes and back; what does it feel like?
  • I wonder how your body might want to move in this moment? Perhaps just let it move and stretch out into space? Perhaps it wants to make a gesture to this land?
Heart prompts:
  • Placing your hands over your heart, I wonder what it feels like to have your heart? I wonder what your heart beats for? I wonder what it might be reaching out toward?
Imaginal prompts:
  • Perhaps imagine roots coming out of your feet and sinking down into this Earth. As your roots go deeper, I wonder what they might encounter? What are we standing on top of right now, hidden from our vision?
  • I wonder what it would be like to be rooted in this spot?
  • Awakening our imaginations, I wonder what it might be like if we were the wind? As the wind moves by us, perhaps let it lift you high up into the air, so that you are seeing this whole forest?  
  • Listening to the water, I wonder if we might imagine being that water? I wonder how our bodies might move if we were the river?