I know the Sufi wisdom tells us to watch with “presence,” to take the opportunity to view some person in our life with the clear compassionate gaze of love. This teaching holds a lot of truth with me. I believe that in a time of tragedy,when words usually fail to soothe or we are unable to even bring them forth, there is a simple healing power of presence. I am reminded of those final days of my mother in the hospital and her friends holding vigil in the waiting room. They didn’t need to see her, do anything, or say anything. They just knew and understood that simply “being with” another carries with it a silent power.
Presence is a noun, not a verb, it is a state of being, not doing. Our culture places a high value on doing. Yet, the power of presence — to bear witness to a passage, to help carry an emotional burden, or begin a healing process carries an immeasurable value to the recipient and the giver. In it, there is an intimate connection with another that is perhaps too seldom felt in a society that strives for ever-faster connectivity.
When we are faced with a tragedy or another’s illness we are pulled to do something, yet repeatedly we learn the healing power of connection created by full understanding of another. It is not only something we can always give to another, but we can give to ourselves for the better. Sufi wisdom advises us to be watchful, not necessarily so that something wrong doesn’t happen, but we are watchful so that we observe natural growth in tune with another’s purpose occurs.
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