Saying For Today: Presence moves between helping and not-helping. Helping, indeed, is most pure when there is no prior intent to help. I mean here, not an absence of intent, but intent not formulated by the ego, rather for intent to arise spontaneously and without any sense of need, or ought to, or must help, as well as any attachment to result.
*Brian Wilcox. 'Autumn Majesty'. Flickr
In May 2005 I was serving as a Christian pastor in Gainesville, Florida, USA. I had met with a young man on different occasions, and we had shared on the topic of faith. The following I wrote after a phone conversation with him later. He had been distressed about his religious faith, had been struggling with questions he had no answer to. Like so many, he did not find encouragement from others in his faith group to engage his spiritual doubts honestly.
He calls. I have several things to get done, already other unexpected visits have put me behind schedule. Each visit has been a joy, but now is the third. I listen over the phone. I choose to relax, to give a gift of more time. I, after a while of sharing, hear the relief in his voice. He breathes a relaxing sigh, as though a burden has lifted, while he says, "I think I see what you meant the first time we talked at the café." He had sought peace. He was given time and words, to open a way that can help him relax, trust, and know what is distracting him can never be figured out, nor need he have the answers trust does not need to know to thrive ~ all trust finally needs is Love. I assure him there are many who claim to have the answers. I reassure him he need not be distracted by such show of certainty, even by those who get uneasy or angry at him, for deep down they are covering up a doubt they must hide from themselves by appearing so certain. He, being a Christian, I remind him he can relax into his loving Jesus, grow in that relationship, and give up trying to understand the Mystery of the Holy. He begins to see, truly feel, what leads to the peace he had sought, what led him to find safe refuge in our sharing together. He says, "I can see that God brought you to me." He continues, "You are more than a pastor to me, you are a friend." Then, crying and voice breaking, he speaks three precious words, "I love you."
Possibly, your sharing a safe refuge for honesty, totally, is the most precious gift you may share with someone. Many persons have never known such a welcome spaciousness, free of criticism, of judgment. Healing arises from the simply being heard, for Being is listening through your being-with together.
We provide refuge for others?
I often heard when a chaplain that we were to provide a safe space for others. This is untrue, unless you see yourself as an ego, such as a professional ego, providing for an ego, such as an ego needing your expertise. In this graceful sharing, of which I speak, the refuge is not something you provide the other. The refuge arises from the Presence embracing you each in unconditional welcome. Your role is to allow the embrace to arise, to get out of the way. The one Presence provides safe space for the other and you. This is inter-subjective. If I provide the safe space, I am still behaving as in a position of power-over, not being-with. The welcome is one welcome, enveloping you both, or all. This is reflected in the words of Jesus to his followers, near the end of his earthy life, "I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you," and "I will be with you to the end of time." So, later, Jesus becomes the power-over Emperor, modeled on the Roman Emperor. He becomes over, subordinating with to an inferior position.
Why this change?
Internally, seems this change is a way of distancing ourselves from being-with, of intimacy. We have all done this. At times, this distancing is actually good, as we may not be able to integrate the degree of intimacy being offered us. Pushing oneself into an intimacy too quickly, one that one is not ready for, can be counter-productive. Often relationships fall apart as closeness, or intimacy, becomes strong. This is an invitation to see the resistance, and respond wisely. Likewise, humans often prefer power to love. Intimacy is in love, separation in power. How many persons adore so-called powerful leaders that they have no intimacy with, do not even truly know, and might not even like if they knew the person? That is safe. That is facile adoration, a projection of what would like to be onto the other ~ a powerful being, a godlike one. Yet, the historical process of this subordination of with to over in Christianity is more complicated than we could begin to explore here. On the other hand, many Christians have turned Jesus into a sentimental friend. This compromises the with, as well, including confusing the Christ with the man Jesus.
Here, as to power over, I think of politics.
When a living body becomes an institution, authentic closeness and trust is lost. See, however, there is a loving power, or power of love, and this is more powerful than any other power.
It seems the role of helper could hinder the provision of a safe space, a refuge.
Any role-playing can hinder this. Yet, one can fulfill the role and not identify with the role. I could be pastor to this man, without allowing that to be something I approached him as primarily. More strictly, I was pastoring, not being a pastor. Pastor was only a means that allowed this sharing to emerge. So, we can wear a role, like a costume, nothing wrong with that, and the role, as well as our honoring that role we are responsible to honor, can provide a context for mutual welcoming. Certainly, for example, when I see my doctor, I do not want her or him not to fulfill the role doctor; yet, also, I do not want doctor to be a barrier so that hinders authentic sharing.
Here, is what you mean when you say there is one Presence?
Yes, two persons appear, the man and I, yet one Presence was present. Love is this one Presence. His "I love you" is the natural outflow of the one Presence in which we shared together, in which we shared as ourselves and as Presence Itself. We were Presence presenceing.
Then, he's really saying as this Presence, whether he is aware, "I love you"?
He is Presence saying, "I love you." And he is Presence saying to Presence, "I love you." His "I love you" is, then, personal, to me-with-him in Presence, and impersonal, in response to Presence. The fruition of love is ultimately beyond personal, or is transpersonal.
Many say this Presence is impersonal.
Presence is Presence, manifesting in diverse ways, including impersonal and personal. No such qualifications can apply to Presence. The best I can say is that Presence is neither, while including the potential of either. Or, just, again, "Presence is Presence," like, "The Sun is the Sun." I cannot say that the Sun is impersonal or personal. I can, however, be with the Sun as the Sun. Partly, Presence becomes for one what he or she expects Presence to become for him or her. If you are prone to seek a personal relationship with God, that is what you will receive; if you are prone to experience God more abstractly, that is what God will become for you. Few persons integrate and, so, experience both personal and abstract in a unified, harmonious manner.
Is Presence always seeking connection with another?
No. Presence moves between sharing and solitude. Presence has no need to complete Itself through connection, for Presence is already complete in Itself. Presence has no need to resort to solitude to protect its solitude, for aloneness and togetherness are united in Grace.
Does Presence always seek to help others?
No. Presence moves between helping and not-helping. Helping, indeed, is most pure when there is no prior intent to help. I mean here, not an absence of intent, but intent not formulated by the ego, rather for intent to arise spontaneously and without any sense of need, or ought to, or must help, as well as any attachment to result. Presence is pure invitation, benevolent welcome. Presence is more an invitation, "May I help you?," than an assertion, "I'm going to help you." When we impose help, that is egoic. Love offers Itself, through what we offer. We see this, again, in the Gospels of Jesus: he never imposes himself or help on anyone. He offers himself, offers help.
From whence comes the urge to help anyone, if not from identifying with our role, such as your being a pastor, kinship, or simply human goodwill?
There is no logical explanation for the urge to help, not help without self-interest. We cannot locate disinterested love, meaning love free of self-interest, in the person. There is no logical explanation for love, really. We can theorize why we would do good for our own survival or that of our species, based on evolutionary theory, but pure love has no theory to account for it, unless it derives from a Source beyond person or species.
I've read your writing on the difference between looking at someone and seeing someone. This applies here, doesn't it?
Absolutely. Looking at someone is treating the other as an object, this is our usual ego way of relating ego with ego, really ego to, or at, ego. Seeing someone is seeing into the other, meaning seeing through the person to the essence. This arises, really, more like the presence of the other shining through the person, or personality. Often you sense a shining. Essence meets essence. Sometimes this is accompanied with a profound sense of subtle, unemotional, love. There is nothing sentimental about this.
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*Brian Wilcox. 'promises of new beginnngs'. Flickr
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*The theme of "Lotus of the Heart" is 'Living in Love beyond Beliefs.' This work is presented by Brian K. Wilcox, of Maine, USA. You can order Brian's book An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, through major online booksellers.