The longer we are on the planet the more frequently we get the opportunity to face the things hiding in the closet that scare us. The hard things in life… Illness, accidents, death and other major stressors. The shadows. We can invite them to come out into the daylight or on occasion, they bust out… Uninvited.
I have faced many personal shadows in my life and I have faced the difficulties of those I love. In some respects it is easier to face our own challenges, when our only choice is how we deal with them, not if we deal with them. Being present with the life challenges of those I love has a different shadow. This shadow asks the question: ‘How can I help, how can I serve?’ Often we feel like nothing we do or say can possibly help. This can have us retreating from the person in a sense of uncomfortable confusion that ‘doing nothing is better than doing the wrong thing’.
I invite you to consider that ‘doing nothing’ is a profoundly valuable offering to those in pain. ‘Doing’ no ‘thing’ is the first expression of what I call ‘The Art of Presence’. BEing fully Present is the best gift we can offer. The deepest help. A clear expression of service.
What is ‘Presence’? If you examine and pull back the layers of your own fears, pain or places of wounding, a root fear/loss we all carry is ‘not being seen’. The fear of death is the fear of ‘not existing’, the ultimate sense of not being seen. The number one complaint about health care professionals is that ‘I was not heard’. Same thing.
Offering Presence to another person is not about ‘doing’ anything, it is simply being fully Present. Offering generous listening. Saying, not with words, but even more powerfully with intent ‘I see you’… ‘I hear you’. I am a compassionate witness to your Journey. Right here, right now.
In being present with the people in our life who are walking difficult paths, we add the powerful dynamic of Heart-Open-Wide Love… The rest is simply the details. In other words, all the tasks we can ‘do’ for another, if we are not Present, will never equal the profound impact of simple Presence. Combine Presence with the necessary tasks inherent in difficult life situations… Invites Healing Grace.
I write this sitting next to my Beloved friend after her double mastectomy yesterday. (At this time she prefers to remain anonymous) I spent last night in her room, reflecting on all the years of our friendship and how much I love her. Remembering all the times she was at my side through my difficulties and fears. She wrote the prayer below and I placed it on the photo of Harmony Hill Retreat Center. Her beautiful Heart sending prayers to others as she faced this major surgery and life change… She sent her Heart, Wisdom and Grace out to others. A lovely demonstration of Presence. She is sleeping right now and had a very peaceful night. I have to think some of the peace around her, rises out of her prayers for others.
As a health care professional myself, it is interesting to observe the caregivers as they come and go from her room. In the first few minutes, I can feel how present they are or are not. I taught 'The Art of Presence for Health Professionals' for over 15 years. In the future, I will be writing more about all of this, including exploring the features or qualities of Presence and how to cultivate it. For now let me close with one powerful aspect of The Art of Presence. I invite you to consider that Presence is not only a dynamic way to be of service to others… It is also the healthiest way to walk difficult paths ourselves. Ours or for those we love or work with. It is how we stay healthy in the face of pain. The way to make the scary things in the closet our allies. The way to dance with our shadows.
Endless Gratitude to my Beloved friend for walking next to me in this lifetime.
I see you. I hear you. I love you.