Cultivating a Spiritual Presence
What Wondrous Love (2nd verse)
When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down
Beneath my sorrows ground,
Friends to me gather’d round O my soul O my soul
I recently completed a course on Choice Theory, which was developed by a psychiatrist named, William Glasser. He claims that people have five basic needs, survival, love & belonging, Power, freedom, and fun. Each of us has different priorities as to what area is more important. Of all the forces that affect our lives, I believe that the needs to love and beloved are the greatest of all. As we move forward with our lay ministry pastoral care team, our focus on healing and providing compassionate support. A tool we hope to use it to be truly present to others when we are with them. I’d like to talk about on how we can cultivate a spiritual presence within your self and then for others.
What does it mean to be spiritually present for another? That’s not an easy thing to explain but I’m going to try. I think of it as being there to listen to someone who may be lonely, or in pain, and help them to feel like everything will be okay, even if it’s only for the brief time that you are together. It’s like having someone who is with you that who understands where you’re coming from and really cares. This is the kind of presence that you may have around family or friends that you are close to. This is quality that can be found in many teachers, counselor, and ministers.
Receiving the healing of Sacred Space
As I composed this sermon, I remember an incident about 6 years ago when I felt the spiritual presence, of Reverend Ana. It was early on a Sunday morning and I had had a terrible argument at home. I came into the sanctuary here at church where Reverend Anna was preparing for the service. She saw that I was upset, stopped what she was doing and came over to talk with me. I told her what was going on with me as I began to cry. She stayed there with me while I wept. Her presence comforted me and I didn’t feel so alone in my pain. I was able release some of sadness. After that experience, I began to think how wonderful it would be to offer that kind of presence to others.
Why is it important to be present and to help others in the context of our church community? This is a place where we can find healing in community and a place where we can help others. I wonder how many people find our church after some transition or difficulty in their lives. Some families look for a church after having children and looking for a community to be a part of. Others, may come to the church after the loss of a loved one or broken relationship. Perhaps you found yourself here simply because you wanted to be with others who value some of the same things that you do. This is a place where you can be accepted for who you are. Hopefully, when you started here, members of the congregation made you to feel welcome. Maybe their presence made you feel like you were part of the group. Now that you are part of the congregation, it’s your turn to help the newcomers feel welcome be being present for them.
Mindfulness & Prayer
In order to be spiritually present for others, you must find a way to clear your own mind and become centered. Buddhism talks about the notion of mindfulness. This is where you become aware of your body and physical surroundings and cease thinking about the past or future. Practicing meditation or yoga are two ways of freeing ones mind. For others prayer may offer a way to center oneself and find some inner-peace. It doesn’t matter whether you pray to a Christian god, allah, the universe or your high self. What matters is that you find what works for you.
Sometimes it visiting a certain place can help you feel a greater sense of spirit and connection to the universe. There are many weekswhen my life seems hectic juggling work, parenting, and school. Coming to Sunday services her at UUCCoffers me a place to slow down and remember myself. My sense of the sacred is strengthened by the connection that I feel with all of you. A church isn’t the only place where you can experience this lift. For some, walking in the forest preserves or along the beach brings peace. For others tending your garden or being out in the yard can be relaxing. Even setting up a small altar using a table with pictures of loved one and other very personal object can create a space to visit.
What about those times when it seems like there is no place you can go or no prayer that can get you out of you own head? If you’re like me, calling a friend or meeting them for coffee can be comforting. Even curling up with your favorite book may bring you joy and inspiration. A book that comes to my mind is The Five People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. I particularly like the quote: “You have peace,” the old woman said, “when you make it with yourself.”
Creating Sacred Space for Others
Once you are able to cultivate that sense of peace within yourself, then you may be able to open up that sacred space when you are with others. I first learned about this when talking with seminary students at Meadville-Lombard. Through their experience working as chaplains at local hospitals, they would often visit patients who were very ill or dying and try to bring them comfort. The seminary students explained how they were able to provide the most comfort by listening to the patient and being a calm presence.
A number of years ago, I remember making a similar visit to Don who had been a member of this congregation and of the men’s group that I belong to as well. I had heard that Don was in the hospital with severe respiratory problems. Andy and I decided to go see Don and let him know that we cared. After arriving at the hospital, we went to Don’s room. He wasn’t able to talk but he was awake and I could tell my the look in his eyes that he was happy to see us. I sat and talked to John for a bit. I felt a sort of presence in the room that seem larger than me and Don. All I knew was that I was glad that I could be there for Don and hopefully bring him some comfort.
Does this mean that we have to visit someone who is sick or dying in order to be fully present for someone else? Certainly not. You can practice being present for others after the service in the gathering room. Try saying hello to someone new who is visiting the church or to someone that you haven’t touch base with in awhile. You may be surprised how your presence and a few kind words may bring joy to them. The practice of being presence with others can also be applied in daily life with you family, friends, or even a stranger in line at the grocery store. Perhaps you can try doing this twice during the next week and share your experience with other here next Sunday.
Returning back to Choice Theory and the five basic needs. Glasser stated that human suffering is due to not meeting those basic needs. Your physical presence, listening to others with compassion and empathy can make this place a brighter world for others.