Sometimes the greatest gift we can give someone is our presence. As I shared in this month’s newsletter, Recently, I came across a story about practicing being present in a book by Sandy Boucher, author of Opening the Lotus: A Woman's Guide to Buddhism. She wrote about the practice of being present from a Buddhist perspective. “The word 'practice' covers everything that Buddhists do in their efforts to achieve clear understanding and benefit other beings... Last week I spoke with a Buddhist friend who had just had a baby. ‘How is it caring for a little girl?' I asked. She replied without hesitation, 'It's twenty-four hours a day of practice.' She was being called upon to pay attention to, and to act with compassionate caring toward this tiny human being constantly throughout day and night. And she was attempting to do it, not by rote but, with full presence of mind and spirit. This is Buddhist practice."
This week I have had so many people share with me the healing power of presence. One person who I just recently met shared with me the difference her presence in her daughter’s hospital room made in her ability to heal and recover from her injuries. Another person shared with me what a difference it made to her to have people come sit with her while she was recovering from major surgery. I can remember all too many times when someone presented me with the healing power of his or her presence. Whether we are the ones who are being present for others or the one who is being offered the gift of presence, what we are being a part of is the experience of the presence of the Divine.
Naomi Levy in To Begin Again, talked about a Jewish tradition that teaches how a single visit to someone's sickbed takes away one sixtieth of the person's illness. "The ancient sages understood that just being in the presence of another human being can lift a person up." How often do we think about the powerful gift our presence can be? After being released from the hospital the last time, I told my nurse that I felt so tired. She told me that it takes 7 days of rest at home to recover from one day in the hospital. Since coming home, I have had so many people come sit and offer me the healing energy of their presence. Each visitor who came to see me during my 8-day stay in the hospital carried away one sixtieth of my illness. Each person contributed to my healing and well-being. Those who came to see after I came home, contributed to my recovery.
We can understand the gift of presence when it comes to caring for those who are in need, such as an infant, or are sick, such as the examples above). However, we have the ability to give the healing gift of our presence to every one we meet. Do we think about how the smile of caring and compassion we offer to the stranger in the store took away one sixtieth of the struggle they were carrying? A friend of mine, who has been going through a challenging time, tells me that the gift of my presence always leaves her feeling strong enough to make it through the challenge she is going through. Sometimes we just need to show up and be present. It is this gift of being, of being intentional about taking the time to be present, which contributes to the healing in people’s lives every day.
We have the potential to offer this gift of presence to our family members as well. What if we were as intentional about practicing being present with our family members as the woman I previously mentioned was with her infant? How different would our relationships be if we practiced being present for our spouses when they talk and not checking our cell phones? What if we gave each other the gift of listening and of practicing being in the present with our conversations with friends? As we move forward in our journeys may we be intentional about practicing the gift of being present for those who move in and through our lives. This is a gift we need to practice giving and receiving.