My extended family is in the middle of a stressful medical situation with my grandmother that is absorbing a lot of collective family energy lately. Such experiences always lend “perspective” to a variety of areas and I’ve felt a little blocked in the writing of blog posts because they feel frivolous or unnecessary or like they’re distracting me from where I could be spending my attention. I bought a short book for my Kindle yesterday called The Art of Being a Healing Presence, and finished reading it last night. I bought it specifically to help my mom who is going to visit my grandma and also hopefully to help me be there better for her (both my mom and grandma). It dovetails nicely with my current lesson at OSC, which is about speech and how we talk to others. So, for today’s post, I picked out some quotes from a book that I feel like fit well into any type of relationship requiring compassionate listening and attention, not solely end-of-life care, because these ideas could relate to listening to women talk about birth and motherhood as well.
Healing presence is everything life itself is: messy and mysterious, exasperating and exhilarating, wearying and wonderful. That’s what makes it so sacred.
(Kindle Locations 793-794)…
Yep. Sounds like giving birth and like birth listening too.
Healing presence is a spiritual practice or discipline as well…
…Healing presence is essentially a spiritual discipline in itself. As you begin, you may think of healing presence primarily as something you do for someone else. Eventually, however, you’ll realize that healing presence has become an integral and significant part of your own spiritual development. As you choose to keep opening yourself to this discipline, even when it’s difficult, even when you feel yourself rebelling, you necessarily mature spiritually. As you repeatedly ask yourself, “How can I be a healing presence in this particular situation?”, you expand your horizons and you make new and fruitful connections with all dimensions of life, especially life’s sacred foundation. The more you are a healing presence in the midst of everyday events, the more you come to appreciate that the common ground on which you stand with another is pulsing with all that is divine. You realize that holiness is at work as you consciously and compassionately accompany others. Then sometimes when you least expect it, a sense of awe overwhelms you—awe, perhaps strong assurance, or waves of gratitude, or an immense sense of peace. You cannot make any of this happen. You can only welcome it as it unfolds, revealing itself and making its presence known. It is The Sacred. (Kindle Locations 821-830)
Also, from the very beginning of the book, I saved this little quote:
“In every person there is royalty. Address the royalty and royalty will respond.” –Scandinavian Proverb
The relates to the idea of seeing one another that I explored in a prior post:
I often remind students in my human services classes that all people have a basic need to be both seen and heard. This doesn’t mean agreeing with everything someone else says and does, it means being present and witnessing them as they follow their own paths.
In a newsletter recently, I read an article called “I See You” by Sue Scott, a communication skills instructor. She explains that in South Africa, native peoples greet each other with an expression that literally means, “I see you.” The response is then, “I am here.” She observes, “what a powerful and beautiful gift it is to recognize another individuals in this way: ‘I see you.’ Acknowledgement, recognition, and respect all require focus on the other person…the word respect comes from the Latin word ‘respecere’ meaning ‘to look at again and again…’I see you’…seems to me to be the ultimate in respect.” Sue goes on to explain that when we truly SEE another mother—”when we truly hear her concerns—then we affirm her ability to mother her baby in her own best way.”
A little more than two years ago, I received the precious gift of being seen when a mother that I had previously helped with many breastfeeding questions called to ask me another question. We had become friends over the course of time since she’d had her first baby and I was in the process of my second miscarriage when she called with a question about her own pregnancy. I told her about the miscarriage, but said I felt like I could still talk with her about her question. We ended up then talking for a time about miscarriage and about cesarean birth, because we discover numerous surprising connections between the feelings and experiences of an unexpected outcome to our dreams for our pregnancies. She then said, “You know in that movie Avatar how they say, ‘I see you’?” I said yes, and she said, “I just wanted to let you know that I see you, Molly.” These words were such a gift to me. It was beautiful to hear them and I cried. I felt so seen. It was just what I needed and I hadn’t even known it. I will never forget that simple and yet extremely potent gift of acknowledgement from another woman.
via I See You
In my classes, I always try to explain that not only do you see someone, but they see you seeing them, and if what you see is valuable and worthy, that is what they rise to. So, that is why I liked this “royalty” proverb from the book.
And, later in the book, this concept is addressed as well:
As people experience healing presence, they change. This shift may be subtle or dramatic. They’re likely to open more—to themselves, to others, to the world, to the amazing mystery of life itself. Sensing another’s belief in them, and seeing that belief reflect-ed in life around them, they can begin to develop in completely unexpected ways, and to move in directions they have not gone before. Or perhaps they will return to their original path, but with new spirit, new vision, new hope. As they encounter the inevitable pains and diminishments that life will present, they can begin to understand that such adversities can be experienced as more than adversities—they can be known as opportunities for growth, as avenues for moving toward wholeness. Your authenticity and the compassion in your presence will fan out generously around you, always returning to envelop you again and again. As you become less driven by your own concerns and less given to your own needs, and as you forsake your need to help, you’ll become a more mature and helpful companion. (Kindle Locations 841-849).