The Healing Power of "Presence"

“I don’t know how to reach you,“ I whispered in tears. The person on the screen in front of me said, “I have no idea what you mean!“ It was an excruciatingly painful moment. I was in the midst of wrestling with something deep within. And I knew at that moment I was alone. Very alone.  

I bet you’ve had a moment like that. A moment when you needed someone who was distracted or unfocused, and you could not reach them.

At the moment, I did not have the ability to explain what I was yearning for. But I determined that whatever it was, I’d figure it out. Because I hear the same thing from many clients sitting in front of me. 

Whether it be someone that you want to reach because you need their help or someone you deeply care about that you believe needs yours. It is a sad dilemma when you cannot reach them. It’s one of the most helpless feelings in the world.

But I noticed early on that World Changers somehow had a way to always reach people. For me, it looked almost magical, and I wanted whatever that was.

Now I know exactly what it is, and I want to share it with you.

At the moment, I needed that person to be PRESENT for me. I needed them to turn off the television, to put down their toothpick, to stop moaning about politics and religion. I needed them to make eye contact with me and peek inside the window to my soul. To hear my heart, to feel my feelings, and to hold that place, that moment, sacred for me while I shared.

We all need that, usually for at least a few minutes daily. We need it to thrive. We need it from others, and we need to give it to others. But it’s not a skill that comes naturally. It’s kind of like a sixth sense that we must develop. I want you to develop it for yourself, as well as for others.

I knew early on that it was the one thing I could provide my clients that was more important than my skill set. It was more important than my knowledge; more important than any great direction I might provide. 

I read everything I could find about this topic, although there was not much available. I interviewed people that I knew had it in an attempt to understand more. I practiced what I gathered from them consciously day after day.

I remember the day in my treatment center when I thought I had finally integrated the whole concept into Who I Was and What I Did.

At the time, I spent most of my time working in my inpatient and outpatient treatment centers. At the end of their stay, we ask them to fill out an evaluation. I was sitting at my desk as I did each Sunday evening, reading over the feedback from graduates in an attempt to make our treatment process even better.

In the last week of their program, I conducted our signature workshop, “From Surviving to Thriving.” That particular week, we had had a sweet celebrity who had been in the spotlight since she was a little girl.

I kept her evaluation sheet in my daily book for many years until it was tattered and falling apart. Here’s what it said:

“I’ve been in the spotlight my whole life. I know what it’s like. But in the Thriving Workshop in my last session, when I sat in the chair on the left side of Dr. Neecie, it was like I was the only person in the room. There were 11 others, but it was like the two of us were alone. And there was nothing more important to her during those two hours than me. I was in her spotlight. It wasn’t like the spotlight on stage. All I can say is that in this new spotlight, I found incredible healing. I will never be the same. Thank you to everyone at Charis Stonebridge, who was a part of my healing!”

Presence. We all need it for ourselves, and countless people in our lives need it. There is healing when we are present for others!

People occasionally me how on earth I learned this. As I mentioned earlier, we are not born with it. It’s something that must be pursued and practiced. 

Here are some of the things I learned that helped me in my journey of becoming PRESENT.

1. Look deep into the eyes of those you want to be present with and for. I’ve incorporated an exercise in my workshops to help people develop this skill. It sounds easy.  It is not. Not if done correctly.

Basically, I help them through the uncomfortable feeling we often get when we focus for more than a few seconds on another’s eyes.  I “force” them to look deeply into another’s eyes. I tell them to picture themselves as artists, and that I was going to give them a canvas and some paint to replicate the eyes they are looking into.

I tell them to notice the shape of the eye, the length of the lashes, the color of the iris, the little red lines in the whites of the eyes. The only instruction is “no words.” It is so interesting to watch people struggle to continue the deep investigation.

As we continue the exercise, it is amazing what occurs to both the one looking and the one being observed. They both become aware of the powerful interaction that occurs.  This is always a key component of being present.

The old saying that the eyes are the window to the soul is actually accurate in many ways. It might be uncomfortable at first, but practice. Study people’s eyes when they are speaking to you, and you will learn much about them.

And most importantly, they will feel your presence.

2. Learn the art of focus. Focus is crucial in all of our lives because our lives will go where we put our focus.

But the art of focus is also a key component of being present.

I learned that there are five things that would help me develop the art of focus: 

A. I learned to focus carefully on words

B. I learned to focus on facial expressions

C. I learned to focus on body language

D. I learned to focus on the tone of voice

E. I learned to focus on the feeling I was getting from their heart

When you focus on that many things about someone else, I can assure you that your grocery list or your next meeting will not come to mind!

3. Understand what they are sharing, as well as where the are,  before you offer any feedback whatsoever.

Being present is not about being conversational. It’s about holding a safe place for others. This provides a place for them to pour out their thoughts and feelings before you ever give any feedback.

Most of us are so accustomed to giving feedback that we just blurt out our wisdom (or at least what we think is wisdom). Unfortunately, we often do that before we even truly understand where the other person is coming from or what the other person even needs.

Just a few days ago, I was in session with a young couple. She was pouring out her need for some time and space to deal with some personal issues. I was allowing her to pour out her heart so that I could understand. He interrupted and said, “Why don’t you just tell her how off her thinking is about this?“ He was speaking out of fear, and I understood this.

I asked him if he could allow me just a few minutes to hear her before I responded. He interrupted several more times until he realized that I was not going to reprimand her or make any suggestion until I understood her.

He finally resolved to sit silently while I asked her to help me understand.

Something very interesting happened in the process. About the time I understood what was going on inside of her, he understood as well.

The only reason he understood was the same reason I understood: because I held a safe place for her to get to the bottom of her current state.

This is not unusual among couples. It is often difficult for them to be present for one another. But I have learned that my best help is not just to solve the problem but to teach them to be present for one another.

The session came to a beautiful end, and we developed a plan for the time and space she needed. He feared that giving her the time and space would end the relationship. But what actually happened was that they were able to have a new and beautiful beginning. All because we were present for her.

There is much more to be said about being present. Perhaps I will continue this conversation in my blogs.

There is no greater gift that we can give another than to be present for them. As I think back to some of the most meaningful and priceless moments of my life, they had nothing to do with expensive gifts, great celebrations, or awards. The greatest moments of my life came when another was present with me.

I bet if you look back and reflect on some of the precious moments of your life, you will find that those have been moments when someone was present with you and for you. They are truly priceless.

I’m writing this at the time of the Christmas holidays. I bet you are completing last-minute shopping for Christmas gifts, preparing Christmas treats, and planning some wonderful things for those you love. 

That’s terrific, but I am hoping that you will provide those you love with the greatest gift of all: spend some time being truly present with them. I know you can do it because you were created for more. And part of being created for more is developing that sixth sense of being present. Just your PRESENCE is healing!

Practice what I have shared here, and then, in turn, share your presence with those you love!