The Center for Mind-Body Medicine

The Magic of Presence

I never miss watching Jim Gordon, Center Founder & Director, lead the fishbowl exercise at our Advanced Mind-Body Medicine training program. In a fishbowl, for those of you who haven’t experienced it, chairs are arranged in concentric circles, with those seated in the large outer circles acting as witnesses to the activity in the smaller circle within.

In this case, Dr. Gordon invites trainees to volunteer to be part of a Mind-Body Skills Group– something that is usually quite private, among a group of 10 to 12 people including the facilitator– but in this instance is quite public. It takes a great deal of courage for volunteers to raise their hands.  One physician said during the process last week when asked why she wanted to participate, “Well, 3 minutes ago I didn’t even know I did!” She felt moved, in the moment, to join in the experiment.

8 open chairs were filled with people who described a variety of things they wanted to work on that morning. There were unique aspects of each narrative, and some common threads that created a gentle bond.

And then the magic happened, like it does every time– a magic that comes from people being fully present for themselves and each other. Those of us in the outer circle observed as the people within shifted– from pain to relief, from constriction to greater freedom, from stress to ease, from self-consciousness to self-awareness. Utilizing some powerful questions and some mind-body exercises, Dr. Gordon helped guide the members of the group in a remarkably short period of time to greater self-awareness, greater grace.

Read about our Mind-Body Medicine Professional Trainings and Certification

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Jo Cooper

About Jo Cooper

Jo Cooper, Online Communications Editor, is the editor of the Centering blog. She posts on and tweets @MindBodyMed and about marketing, design and photography on @JoCooperStudio. Questions about the blog? Contact her at

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