As caring individuals, I believe we are always hoping that we can be kindly present to others. To listen well. To have compassion for them. This is part of being able to hold presence for others.
What is "presence"? I am sure there are plenty of definitions, but this is the one I like best: "... the condition of being consciously and compassionately in the present moment with another ... believing in and affirming their potential for wholeness." This beautiful explanation is offered by James E. Miller.
I imagine that if we really could be present in this way to others, our world would look and feel very different. Presence is a learned skill and one that we are not taught how to create for ourselves, and within the context of relationship.
And what about this holding of presence for oneself? For me, this is pivotal and a precursor to actually being able to offer presence to others. If we cannot be fully in the present moment with ourselves--just as we are, warts and all—providing self-compassion, in touch with our innate wholeness, even as we tenderly embrace our woundedness, how can we possibly do the same for others? We can't.
So, for me, the starting point to being more kindly present to others is to begin with ourselves. We turn our attention inward. We breathe. We transparently notice what is there. We tenderly acknowledge what we see and love all of it. Yes, all of it! Without ego or agenda, without small mindedness or mean-spiritedness. Loving ourselves just as we are, holding an intention to remove anything that keeps us from feeling whole, lovable and loving.
This is the starting place. As Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron advocates, you start where you are. And you do it with a loving glance and a tender touch, welcoming your whole self in.
With time, love, and tenderness (thank you Michael Bolton)—and plenty of actual practice—we will find that our ability to hold presence for ourselves has become a reality, and it actually feels natural to be present to others.
And might I add, not just being present, but whole-heartedly available to another without exhaustion, resentment, or self-diminishment. Without judgment or inner bias. Not holding to hope that this person will change because you think they should.
Genuine presence allows us to be purely there, heart in tact, compassionately holding space for each person, just as they are. Never forgetting that this entire process begins when we can do the same for ourselves first.
I've just returned home from a busy time of travel, interaction and care-giving. There is nothing I love more than being present to my dear ones. I sit. I listen. I care. I hold presence for. I physically hold when it is welcome. For what purpose are we here if not to love?
And yet, after periods like these, I find it is it is important for me to rest in solitude; to take time to catch up with myself. Yes, even to comfort myself and apply tenderness to any worn edges.
Some writing about this from one of my retreat times...
When was the last time you gave yourself permission
Today, may you give yourself permission
to be alone,
to savor the silence.
May you find respite in your soul and be well.
Journaling excerpt from Awakening the Spirit Within,
©Janice L. Lundy (2000)
In last week's post, I spoke about being present, and how one of my silent retreat times along the ocean helped me understand and experience the gift of the present moment in beautiful new ways.
Here's another "awakened moment" from that sacred "time-in."
One day as I was sitting on a stone bench, tucked away from the eyes of the tourists who visited the Gardens daily, I settled into a state of "looking deeply." Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has written much about looking deeply and how doing so opens up awareness of our interconnectedness. For me, looking deeply draws me into a world of wonder, awe, and Mystery. Stilling one's thoughts, really looking at something's uniqueness—watching it, being with it—thins the veils, and we become acutely aware of how we "inter-are", as TNH teaches.
Considering that I have a great deal of aversion to insects, it was surprising to me that it was a spider who invited me to look deeply. Rather than recoil when I noticed him/her in a flowering bush just behind my shoulder, I was naturally drawn into wonderment. So I simply sat and watched the scene unfold. As I did, the spider taught me about life, and these are the words that came forth:
The spider weaves his web with glistening silver thread.
"To meditate is to look deeply," offers Thich Nhat Hanh. In truth, anyone can meditate on anything, even the minuscule movements of a spider, and become aware that there is so much more to life than we had previously imagined.
Selection adapted from Awakening the Spirit Within by Janice (Forrest) Lundy. ©2000, Heart to Heart Press.
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we can best live—kindly and compassionately with ourselves and others.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.