Holding, Offering & Being Presence
... within Yourself & for Others
I was digging through some files today and found a series of videos I created a few years back on "Peaceful Transitions." Ironically, perhaps this work is even more valuable today for we are all living in a time of profound transition.
What is familiar is gone. What is new is unfamiliar and uncomfortable, likely unwanted. The future is not unforeseeable with things as they are and everything feels uncertain. Transitions can be rough.
In times of transition, I believe our contemplative (spiritual) practices can hold us. They can provide comfort and insight. Staying faithful to them can feel as if we are holding on to the tiller of our boat as we navigate the stormy seas of life just a little more firmly. These practices keep us steady. They are also a powerful way to hold presence for ourselves.
Today, I'd like to share one of the videos from this series. I introduce a favorite contemplative practice--Lectio Divina (modified version). In this video, I use a poem for our reflection, and one that can bring an invitation to look deeply into the nature of any personal transition we might be experiencing. I hope you find this practice meaningful.
(The poem cited is featured below.)
Poem by Juan Ramon Jimenez - "Oceans"
I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
--Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?
I don't know anyone who doesn't wish to be more loving. A loving attitude is difficult to access, however, if we are being assailed by other emotions, especially those that we might deem negative.
Today, I share a Guided Practice with you that can help you turn your attention away from difficult emotions to refocus on the love that lives in you and can be transmitted through you. I call it "Leaning into Love." Attending well to our emotional selves is an attribute of Presence. Taking good care of ourselves—our moods, thoughts and feelings—ultimately enables us to be more present and loving toward others.
I hope you find it helpful. (Mp3 is 5 min. long.)
Sometime, if you’re fortunate, you’ll come across a string of well-intentioned words that not only turn your head, but have the power to turn your life around. In 2007, I ran into one such strand.
I was reading, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Path of Happiness, by meditation teacher, Sharon Salzberg. I was keen on learning more about a blessing practice called metta, a Pali word, for “unconditional friendliness.” It is sourced in Buddhist tradition, yet versions of it are found in many spiritual traditions, including Judaism and Celtic Christianity. It is an inter-spiritual practice that supports all theologies. One of the chapters opened with a portion of a poem by Galway Kinnell:
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing.
As I read it, a chord of recognition quivered in my throat. I was much in need of self-blessing! You see, as a born nurturer, someone prone to give and give, I rarely took time to turn goodwill toward myself. As a result, I often felt parched and depleted, my own fault, of course. Reading about the notion of self-blessing was like finding a cool pool from which to drink in the middle of a desert. I knew immediately I must dedicate myself to the practice of metta. It would be healing. I would flower. I also knew that the love I so desperately needed to show myself would flow out to others when my own well was suitably replenished. There was no sense of selfishness, only self-awareness that would allow me to be more present to others by being present to myself.
In time, self-blessing became my oasis. Placing my hand upon my heart, I breathed slowly and rhythmically, pacing my breath with the phrases of metta, offering them to myself first:
May I be safe.
May I be strong.
May I be happy.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
The phrases served me well over the next few months. I repeated them several times a day at pivotal moments. They were quite the prescription: calming my too-busy mind and reducing heart-racing anxiety. Repeating the phrases also softened my emotions, expanded my feelings toward myself, and gave me permission to be with myself in a kind, nonjudgmental way. This is one of the miracles of metta: as we say the phrases to ourselves, we get to notice all of our stories and excuses, the way we fool ourselves, shedding light on our wounds, and, ultimately, engaging in self-forgiveness and healing.
This generous act of blessing organically opened the doors of my heart toward others too. I began to feel softer towards them, more understanding, patient and kind. I could more clearly see how we all struggle with a Pandora’s box of inner ailments and outward challenges. Self-compassion and compassion grew in me like a well-tended flower.
When we adopt the whole of this contemplative practice, extending the phrases of goodwill to five categories of others (benefactors, loved ones, strangers, difficult people, all beings and creatures), goodwill begins to flow like a river. With ongoing metta practice, our judgments and expectations of others are illuminated. Metta is a powerful tool for undoing anything that has limited our ability to love.
In the end, when we offer the phrases of blessing to sentient beings everywhere, we realize that we are all connected in a great web of being-ness. We are all trying to be happy. We are all trying to find our way "home." We are more alike than dissimilar. We are actually one body.
What Galway Kinnell wrote was true: “everything flowers from within, of self-blessing.” Indeed, a universal garden of compassionate humans can bloom, one tender bud at a time. Blessing ourselves and others is a supremely kind (and healing) thing to do.
A Self-Blessing Practice:
Place your hand on your heart. See if you can receive your own goodwill right now. How does this feel? Are you experiencing any resistance blessing yourself in this way? Do thoughts of selfishness arise? Rest assured that blessing yourself is not an act of self- absorption, but a way to calm and soothe your overworked mind and heart.
©2018, Janice L. Lundy
Excerpted from Living Gently with Myself: A 30-Day Guidebook by Janice L. Lundy. Heart to Heart Press, 2018.
The other day my daughter shared with me an exercise that was given to her in a healing group she was attending. The question was: "What is your Super Power and can you draw it?"
I loved this question and I was curious what her Super Power would be. She sent me her drawing in response.
Of course, I was so touched by her drawing. It felt precious to me and deeply tender. But instead of interpreting it for myself, I asked her to tell me what her Super Power was.
"Compassion" was her answer. My heart skipped a bit because I felt genuinely happy that this is how she perceives herself; as someone who is skilled at not only feeling compassionate, but able to offer compassion to others. Needless to say, this was a Proud Mama moment.
When it comes to Presence, what would you say your Super Power is? Is it Patience, Humility, Loving-Kindness, Deep Listening, or some other Virtue of the Spirit? Perhaps it's Compassion like my daughter. I am still pondering mine. Right now I think it's Equanimity—staying steady in these times of global challenge.
Whatever your answer, may your Super Power continue to rise and shine so all your interactions with others are of the healing kind.
Friends, at the turning of a new year, I continue to listen deeply to the voice of my spirit, on the lookout for the Divine Nudge that always helps me discern how to Be within myself, with others, and in the world. And especially how to continue to live more deeply into Boundless Love. I wish the same for you.
One of the messages I've received the last few winters is to hibernate; to hole up and allow a healing passage to open. This happened naturally in 2019 and 2020 because each January I had surgery, and was given the gift of a 6-week recovery. This year, no surgery (Praise Be!), yet the call was still there to enter a period of holy hibernation. Not one to squander Grace, there is where I find myself these days: cozied up to the Divine and loving every moment of it.
To honor this sacred space of being with Presence, I've stepped away from social media. This decision was not made lightly. In fact, a sweet online friend of mine mentioned that she could feel me moving away from it for a while now—a slow wean. It's true. The discernment process I used to listen deeply to my inner being about this was not easy and didn't happen overnight. This is true of most important discernments. They take time. They can be difficult. They can illuminate all the ways we are still not living truthfully with ourselves, or how we hide behind personas, or remain stuck in old stories--false stories—about how we think we "should" be to feel loved and accepted (or respected) by others.
Social media was just one of the places this showed up for me. I did not love it. I didn't feel nourished by it on the deepest level. In fact, for me, it was a significant distraction from silence, taking time away from my contemplation and reflection, which are so vital to my well-being. I fully understand that social media for some is just the opposite and I am so glad that others (perhaps you?) find it helpful, informative, perhaps even a lifeline to meaningful relationships and communication. I celebrate this for you.
Each of us, because our life and time here are so very precious, must listen deeply to discern the best ways to spend our time and energy. Each of us has different needs, varying bandwidths for interaction, noise, and activity. How vital it is that we honor these needs! It is through this self-honoring process that we are able to hold gentle presence for ourselves. It is also how we can open ourselves to the Divine which I fully believe requires time and space--periods of inactivity, of solitude, silence and stillness—to be known.
As 2021 calls you forth, may you listen to what the Sacred is inviting you to be, do or not do so that you can live from the genuine depths of your Being. And in Love ...
I bring myself to this moment just past.
In 2021, I continue to work with individuals 1-on-1 to help them cultivate Presence for themselves and others. If this is a desire of your heart this year, my "Pure Presence Practitioner" training is available for you to begin any time.
It's mid-December and we find ourselves still struggling through pandemic times. The nature of our casual encounters like those we might have at the grocery store have changed. To me, they feel less connective. We are not only distanced from one another physically, but emotionally as well. I wonder if this is how we truly want to experience one another going forth for as long as the pandemic lasts.
A few years ago, I shared a practice I call "Grocery Store Smile." This was something I always tried to do while in the grocery story. I'd put a little smile on my face and make eye contact with a perfect stranger, or with someone who worked in the store. With a slight smile I could convey, "I see you," and send them a simple blessing. With someone who looked stressed, I might smile and silently say, "May you be at ease in your life today." Sometimes people would smile back, or at least offer a little twinkle through their eyes, as if they had received my subtle kindness.
Today, with masks on, with tension running high, many of us move in and out of stores as quickly as we can, and smiles are hidden. Eyes, however, are still the windows to the soul, as Shakespeare said, and even in pandemic times, we can convey goodwill with our eyes. Our eyes can smile, twinkle, shine a little brighter when we see someone. Our eyes can convey what's in our hearts—fear or friendliness, anxiety or appreciation. The choice is ours.
This holiday season, I invite you to try my Grocery Store Smile practice now and then. It's one easy way to convey Presence to people—and lovingkindness, too. During these times, we can all use a little more kindness.
Tis' is the season of giving. May we never forget how sweet it can be to offer someone the simple gift of a blessing.
Another post based on "these times" in which we are living. With ongoing tension around political views and concern about the state of the world, our ability to hold presence and listen well to others may be seriously stretched, even non-existent. Today, I present a few thoughts about this with a tiny practice that can help.
Sometimes it's difficult to listen. As we engage with someone, intending to receive and honor their sharing, our listening may falter. We may grow weary or impatient; our attention may wander, or we outright lose interest. Depending on the situation, there are a number of ways to respond to this dilemma. Today, let's explore two of the solutions together.
1. Take an energizing breath to heighten your senses: a deep inhale (to the count of 8) and a shorter exhale (to the count of 6.) This can enliven you. It can help you re-focus.
2. Practice prayerful listening. Ask for assistance for what you need to be more present in the moment; to listen more purely, unconditionally. Sometimes, when I am sitting with someone, listening to them in a deeper way, I need help. Instead of continuing to struggle with being attentive, I turn my heart toward the Sacred and open it to receive assistance with this matter.
Sometimes it's a very simple bequest, "Open me." Or, "Help me to listen." Or, "Help me not want to talk so much!" Prayer is our reaching down and in, or out and beyond ourselves for courage and guidance when we need it the most. Let us make good use of this in our listening as well. Ask for what you need and trust it will be given.
Adapted from Pure Presence: A Workbook and Journal
©2017, Janice L. Lundy
We continue to live in uncertain times. There is not a single community in the world that is untouched by the choices being made by human beings today. In the U. S. where I live, we are faced with decisions about direct governance. As I listen to the rhetoric of politicians and views offered by various organizations, one potent question keeps coming up for me, "How shall we live?"
I've asked this question of myself ever since a radical awakening in 1994, "How shall I live?" What are my deepest values? What are the truths I hold dear? What choices do I need to make to ensure that I am living these values?
Perhaps it all comes down to self-governance. Knowing that, even though we live in a society that dictates much about how we live, ultimately, the final decision about how is up to each of us. Governing ourselves, in my view anyway, has to do with the thoughts that occupy my mind and the feelings that rule my heart. I can't control everything I think or feel, but I can govern wisely and make healthy and sustainable choices that foster my well-being—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. No one can tell me what to think or feel. I get to choose these for myself.
Holding presence for oneself has everything to do with self-governance. Being present for oneself you bear witness to what is stirring inside you; you acknowledge and tend to it well. You take care of yourself from the inside out, being non-judgmentally and compassionately present to everything that's there. Welcoming. Open-hearted and curious. Warm and kind.
Wise self-governance helps us be someone who can participate in the world with a heart that bears witness to it all—the pain and suffering, the blessings and joys. Presence for self leads to an increased ability to be purely present for others just as they are—just as the world is—because we have done so for ourselves first.
A Little Gift
Enjoy this 90-Second Blessing I created for
self-governance through self-care.
On any given day I may receive several emails from family, friends and colleagues which speak to their level of stress or worry given the times we are living in. My response is often something like, "Please take good care of yourself. These ARE challenging times." An act of self-care, of self-compassion, is an act of presence.
Today, I'm culling a video from my archives that offers a bit of sage advice about how to kindly take care of ourselves in a moment of difficulty, a moment of suffering. Suffering is experienced anytime we are disconnected from our calm, clear, wise self. I hope this message with a practice helps restore your equanimity as you tenderly care for yourself in the midst of any challenge you might be facing.
Watch the video on Vimeo here:
Life being what it is these days, these thoughts live in my heart. I hope you are continuing to make good and wise choices for yourself because, ultimately, they inform your capacity to be present to yourself, as well as to patiently and kindly hold presence for others.
Vast amounts of negative media, television, video games and unsavory language weaken the mind's resilience. They tire and desensitize us.
Make a lovingly kind choice for yourself today by reducing the noise level in your life. Turn off the television and radio. Allow yourself more quiet time. Grant yourself “peaceful pauses” throughout the day: periods of stopping to access your peaceful center. There is comfort and security to be found there. Periods of stillness and solitude rebuild inner strength and can revitalize you.
Our center is our Source, and our Source is peace.
©2020, JLL, This Sacred Moment
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Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin, MPC
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.