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.
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.