We often hear the suggestion to “be present” in our work. But what does that actually mean?
Presence is being here, now – meeting this moment without judgments, agendas, effort or ideas of what “should” be happening. It is being open, curious, aware and mindful. It is a simple state of being. And sometimes the simplest things are the most powerful. The simple practice of being present with someone can be the most transformative ingredient to a healing session or in your relationship with yourself.
Gay Hendricks and Kathlyn Hendricks make a powerful statement in their book At the Speed of Life: A New Approach to Personal Change Through Body-Centered Therapy,
“Problems persist to the extent that we fail to be present with them and with the feelings associated with them. When we can simply be with an issue (rather than judging it or trying to change it), the issue has room to transform in the desired direction.”
Gay Hendricks and Kathlyn Hendricks promote “presencing”: being deeply, mindfully, non-judgmentally present with yourself or another — as THE fundamental healing technique.
An important aspect of presence is being willing to be with “what is”. It takes courage to be with someone else’s or our own pain, fear, sadness, or anger. In the book Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen, Donald P. McNeill, and Douglas A. Morrison state
“Simply being with someone is difficult because it asks of us that we share in the other’s vulnerability, enter with him or her into the experience of weakness and powerlessness, become part of the uncertainty, and give up control and self-determination.”
When we have painful or sick areas of our bodies or lives, we tend to wall off these areas or dim the light of our essence. The shining light of presence reconnects us to those ailing, hurting parts that have been abandoned. Our spirit yearns for wholeness and all of those walled off parts are yearning for reconnection. Presence is a simple statement “I deeply see you and I am ok with you just the way you are.” That illumination and allowing brings a melting and a spaciousness to enter.
“Being present has a great deal of power in it: the power to alter irrevocably the structures and assumptions by which we live.” ~Gay Hendricks and Kathlyn Hendricks
Consider this… (without any judgment) How often do you approach something whether it is your client, your relationships, yourself, an illness, a pain, or an injury with no agenda? No agenda to fix, to change, to make different or wish it away. But to meet it exactly where it is, as it is, in this moment.
How often do we experience someone just willing to listen to us without trying to advise or guide us, lessen our pain, make helpful suggestions, etc.?
It is very common and natural in our work to want to help or heal our clients. After all, we feel called to serve. Yet, it is a common tendency for our desire to help to get in the way of truly seeing or hearing the deeper needs of our clients. It is hard to be a good listener if I have an agenda to heal or fix this client, or to prove myself, or to feel special with my healing capabilities. It is important in a session to put aside our agenda, be present and hold the intention for the highest good. We can still do our work, whether it is massage, craniosacral therapy, counseling, etc, but presence puts us in an open and receptive state where we more able to listen to what is needed.
I had a very affirming experience recently. I work with a very sweet man with multiple illnesses including a degenerative brain disease which manifests in many ways from emotional bouts, to tremors, full body contractions and overwhelm. I was moved to tears when he shared with me what impacted him most about our sessions together. He said, ”Nobody knows how to be with me with this disease. You are the only person who is willing to just BE with me in this condition.” I really got what a rare gift this was for him. And it is also a sweet gift for me.
The practice of presence begins “at home”. How would it be for you to meet your own sadness or anger with presence, kindness and compassion? Can you give yourself this rare and beautiful gift? I invite you to the Self-Healing Presence Meditation below. Remember that presence is an ever evolving, deepening practice. Begin where you are and ALWAYS be kind and gentle with yourself.
Self-Healing Presence Meditation
Take a few minutes to sit quietly. Take some time to get in touch with your breath. Just be willing to be here and now. Let yourself settle.
After several calming breaths, notice if there is any tension or pain your body or think of an area in your life where there is pain, discomfort or distress? Bring your compassionate Awareness and Presence to this area in your body or your life. Just meet it there without thoughts, without an agenda, without effort. Allow it to be exactly as it is. Notice the sensations in your body. Be aware, open, loving and curious. Open to it. Breathe. Don’t be attached to the outcome. Change or no change. Just be with it.
Notice what you notice. Notice if you become impatient, or a tendency to shy away from it, or if you have a hidden agenda under the guise of “no agenda”. And allow that too. With no judgment. When you are ready, come back gently to ordinary time, giving yourself a few moments to transition.
Take comfort in the fact that presence and consciousness are always healing and transformative.This simple meditation has brought you into a greater state of balance and harmony.
May the healing power of presence infuse all aspects of your life.
Infinite Love and Gratitude!
“I learned how to listen, to listen with a still heart, with a waiting, open soul, without passion, without desire, without judgment, without opinions.” ~ Herman Hesse