Whenever I feel restless, as though I am doing battle within myself, author Dr. Caroline Myss would suggest I pay attention to it. Develop a curiosity around it. Question, “What’s this about?” “Where does it reside in my body?” She would say, imagine my disease being similar to a pebble being dropped into a deep well. Its disturbance stirs the waters, as a shift occurs to make room for it.
Recently, I was privileged to witness two young women caring compassionately for a homeless elderly man. They invited him into a deli restaurant to choose what he wanted to eat. They paid for his meal and accompanied him, staying with him as he ate. Vicariously, I was stirred by their caring presence with him.
I still ponder the implications of my witnessing this encounter. These young women went beyond feeding the hungry. They gave of their time and presence. Jesus did that.
Richard Rhor says, “True presence to someone or something allows them or it to change me and influence me.” — before I try to change them or it! In other words, before I label, exclude, judge, minimize, control or let my monkey mind take charge. This kind of presence leaves space for me to be changed by what or who I am present to.
As a chaplain and spiritual counselor, I have been taught the value of listening deeply — of being present without an agenda going on in my mind. I continue to learn how being present — really present — changes everything. I’m talking about the kind of presence that bypasses thought. It cannot be easily defined. It can only be experienced.
Maybe that’s what Jesus means when he speaks about little children already being in the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:3-4). Little children don’t think so much; they just experience the moment — joyful or traumatic; children embrace life!
Fifty days after Easter, Christians celebrate Pentecost Sunday. Scripture tells us the Holy Spirit descended in tongues of fire on each of the disciples gathered at Pentecost. I like to think of this imagery as the fire of love and compassion that resides within each of us. It can be fanned when we are truly present to life, as it unfolds
The two disciples on the road to Emmaus spoke of this fire and presence, “Did not our hearts burn within us as we listened?” (Luke 24:32). They had been broken open, diseased, by their sense of loss and abandonment. And yet, in their brokenness, they were made whole — changed by Jesus’ presence with them.
I invite you to consider developing a curiosity around the everyday encounters of your life in order to create space to be present to where spirit may be influencing you. I wonder what the ripple effect in our communities would be if we all choose to live this way?