January 16, 2012
the last reflection we noted that we ourselves may be obstacles
to spiritual presence.
The “self” that hinders our full presence to reality is
an accumulation of experiences that lead us to develop
depreciative habits and dispositions.
Depreciative habits and dispositions inhibit our capacity
for simple appreciation.
For example, when we step back in gentle reflection on
our relationships with others, we can begin to appraise the
quality of our presence to them in our ordinary moment to moment
reflection may reveal to us how “cautious” we are in relating to
others; that is how we limit our presence to what feels to be a
safe distance from the life and experience of others.
We may then recognize how busy we are under the surface
of our “meeting” to keep the encounter with the other safely
is valid to some degree to protect what is most vulnerable and
unique in us. But
we are concerned here with the effect on our presence
of being overly cautious, of moving away from the unique life
and experience of others when we could be moving more in tune
with them. Our
reflection might also indicate that we tend to move toward the
other too much, losing ourselves by fusing (and confusing) our
identity with theirs.
Or, we might discover that we limit our presence by most
often moving against others, aggressively trying to control or
manipulate others into the
service of our project or agenda.
As we become, again through gentle reflection, aware of
the ways we delimit our true presence to others, we may ask
ourselves to imagine what it would be like to be present to
others in a different way, how we would behave and experience
our lives if we allowed ourselves to be more fully present to
self, others, and God.
Recently a friend died who was a creative and gifted pastor of a
local church. Near the
end of his life, he wrote a touching and sincere letter to his
parishioners in which he apologized to any whom his shyness,
which could have been interpreted as aloofness, might have
hurt. As we consider our lives and our ways of being in the
world, of the habits of mind and heart that we live by, we
become aware of the ways that our presence is
with gentleness and compassion on the quality of our own
presence helps us recognize how it is limited by those “security
directives” that manifest themselves in our careful measuring
out of our time, our availability, and our simple openness to
others. We begin to see
how our unique ways of being present and relating to others are
also ways of keeping a safe distance from them.
The unconscious ways in which we keep our distance from
others and from the world contribute to our painful experiences
of loneliness and separation.
The contours of our unique ways of being present
constitute the limits we impose on our presence to and thus
intimacy with the Other in all of its forms: our own deeper
selves, the human other, the world in all its manifestations and
the omnipresent Divine Mystery