This week I had the privilege of speaking to an older man who has lived much his long life. In conversation, he shared some of his experiences and some of his losses. As tears gently paid homage to his heart’s loves, this dear soul recounted the names and lives of those he has been with as they took their final breaths. At the side of his friends, parents, family members, child and wife, this man has sat, holding the hands of loved ones as they transitioned through death.
What do you say to someone whose heart is breaking as he realises in that moment he hasn’t got the strength to sit with another close friend who is dying; and that his own death is imminent?
I said nothing. Only held his hand for a moment, and listened.
And when his tears still fell but his words had ceased, we just hugged.
He thanked me for hearing him then, said that no one would. And I was pleased to have remained quietly present for him.
I think it was Tara Brach, the Buddhist psychologist, who spoke about authentic presence – being truly in the moment of relating.
We are conditioned to respond in ways often that negate our feelings and our true experience of situations. So too, we have habitual ways of being that can talk over people, say what we think they want to hear or simply reflect our own beliefs, fears, stances, minimising or vanishing the other’s voice, and heart.
Authentic presence mean pausing, feeling, listening to your inner response in the moment and moving from that place of genuine beingness rather than reactivity or habit.
It takes practice and cultivation. And getting to know yourself and how you react, respond and relate, as well as learning to feel and communicate from a place of open heartedness.
The pause is often the hardest part to remember, but like any old habit, it can be learnt and part of our new way of being. Mindfulness practice is a fabulous beginning.
At the end of our talk, blue eyes glistening and a gentle smile, this gentle man reflected…
‘Your world is the people around you.’
Having just returned from a celebration for the autumn equinox with companions on the magical path with me, his words resonate soundly.
The people in our life make it what it is. Let us gravitate towards those people who make our world rich and loving.
And let us love those people in turn with our rich, authentic presence.