Offering presence

Photography: Diego Junca, Bogota, Colombia

Photography: Diego Junca, Bogota, Colombia

She was lying on her bed in the middle of the afternoon, semi-conscious; yet that part of her which remained aware of the world would rather that it were not. This dear woman was seeing out her final months in a netherworld of darkened senses; all, that is, save for the searing illumination of her pain. I watched as she gently clasped her hands, half in prayer for her release, half as if to echo her fragile frame’s arthritic deformation. ‘Please, please help me, I need morphine; please help’, she mutters. A nearby nurse strides across; ‘not until four o’clock Doris, we can’t give you any more until then’. Moments later a kindly volunteer carer approaches, sits beside the bed and whilst gently stroking the old woman’s head, offers up an incantation: ‘There now Doris, let my hand wipe away the pain for you; there now, just feel it dissolving, wiping it all away; there now, there now, it’ll soon be all gone Doris, I promise.’

Earlier in the staff canteen, I drink coffee to combat fatigue, gaze at forlorn looking Christmas decorations, and listen to a gaggle of trainee nurses gathered ‘round an adjacent table. Overlapping voices; muted shrieks of derision or exclamation as each vie for attention; the staking of claims upon the situation; self-conscious affectations learned rote from trash TV planting the flags of selfhood; oppressive vitality. Up on the ward, both my mother and Doris, their beds adjacent and parallel, their end days adjacent and parallel, sought none of what captivated these nurses. They needed the caring, the medication too of course, yet more so some trace of emotional solace found only in the gentle presence of another: one to be there fully, unreservedly offering attention. I have but seven days to live, perhaps only two; after which I sense at some level that I’ll never know human contact again – for eternity. Be with me now.

Many years have since passed, over which time I’ve sought to build on any small capacity I had to listen, to be there giving attention, offering presence. We can only truly offer presence once we know it with respect to ourselves. Presence is not merely the physical occupation of space; it is to suffuse that space with the wordless knowledge that we are here fully, attentively, whole-heartedly and beyond the overt contrivances of selfhood. It is an intimate knowledge we have of our being prior to the narratives we construct about who and what we are; and it is a gift we may give to ourselves at any moment and in any given circumstance. Having cultivated this generosity towards ourselves, we are then in a position to emanate this presence and so offer it to others too. Those learning to do so possess at all times a boon to offer the world, to loved ones, and to strangers in need. It is a priceless gift, one of great value.

Be with me now. As I said, that is what I shall want, and that is what you too will want, as we lay during our end days, adjacent and parallel in circumstance, adjacent and parallel in need. Prior to this, it may be that others we know will similarly have these needs. They may well not tell us as much, because they had yet to learn the nature of presence as regards themselves; and yet they instinctively know of their need for it; it is an animal instinct, a human animal instinct. Be with me now. That is a simple request; I can fulfil it absenting any verbiage, any pretence of doing the right thing, any collusion with my sense of obligation. If I am unable to offer presence to myself, if I sense the need for it yet cannot understand that need, how am I to offer it to others? Hopefully, there is plenty of time remaining for us both to develop this simple skill, to naturalise it within us, to make of it both a private and public sanctuary.

Whatever our spiritual inclinations, whether they may be present or absent, this is the time of year when our mind’s turn to the offering of gifts. Here, we invariably sense the weight of obligation, of being seen to do the right thing, both sensing others expectations and feeling our own in respect to offerings. I am unsure as to whether the onus of obligation may be entirely set aside, though I do know of one way in which we may ease the burden and know within ourselves that the right thing is being done. It is to offer our presents with presence. There is a rather beautiful Buddhist tradition of offering gifts with both hands; it is as if to say we hold nothing in reserve, giving freely, openly. To look the recipient in the eyes, to consciously envelop them with presence, this makes as if little the physical content of our palms, and instead makes as of everything the content of our hearts. It is a gift shared for eternity.

 

101 thoughts on “Offering presence

  1. Dear Hariod,

    A heartfelt and beautiful post. It is strange – is it not? – the degree to which this need for presence, both as a gift from ourselves and from others, is not very well acknowledged or talked about in our modern world. And while this may not be quite the depth or quality of presence you are ultimately describing, I find there can be a huge difference between simply sharing space with a trusted companion – without needing even words or glances, two souls lost in their books or their cares – and occupying the space alone. There is a warmth that presence provides, but it must be an open and free-flowing affair, whether containing words or not.

    I say that because sharing space with people we don’t know, with whom we haven’t developed a mutual understanding or intimacy, doesn’t always feel the same. We sense our own clinging barriers to really whole-heartedly offering presence, and we may experience the barriers in another. The space becomes acute, awkward. I think what you are getting at here is the value, and the great challenge, in becoming the type of “giver of presence” who offers the full spectrum of human warmth and compassion without such giving being retarded by our own doubts or misgivings. I find this a most difficult challenge, indeed. To cultivate the type of presence able to carry another’s anger, fears, doubts, misgivings, needs, and fragilities, without being pulled into them and in a way that holds them with equanimity, strikes me as the great work of this realm.

    Much love.

    Michael.

    • Dear Michael,

      Thank you so much for once again considering my words, and for graciously and generously offering further insights of your own. I often think that your much appreciated comments constitute something akin to being ‘Part 2’ of my initial offerings; and they invariably deepen and reveal the subject matter more fully as all can see.

      I agree, it does indeed come more readily into being when we offer our presence – our full, psychological presence – to those we are familiar with, or to those we feel unthreatened by. With others, there is a natural instinct to guard one’s space, to put up the barriers you speak of, whenever our sense of self feels that it may be compromised.

      It is too much to suggest, and possibly a little unwise, that we become truly vulnerable in the company of strangers. Any yet vulnerability does, I believe, come as part of the package of being fully psychologically present. We are exposed and defenceless emotionally, disinterested in sensing threat, unconcerned with appearances.

      The little task I propose at the close of this article, some may find quite challenging. In giving gifts we often do so almost apologetically, in an off-hand manner, as if the act was unworthy. To flip that perspective requires a little courage, it perhaps invites mockery; it is to present ourselves naked, heart exposed, along with the gift.

      What you posit in your final words I also agree with, and makes the offering of presence not doubly challenging, but tenfold so. It is really the domain of those professionally or intuitively skilled, or those on the verges of their own saintliness. Just for Christmas, if we all can offer but one gift with a truly open heart, that is a movement in good.

      Much love to you too my dear and noble friend.

      Hariod.

    • Yes, it is what I value most these days and what I value most from others. I enjoy your less technical writing as well Hariod. I am an avid reader and enjoy a good fiction at times, especially if the writing is able to capture the essence of being human.

      • Hello Gord, I am not sure whether you had intended to jump in just here at this point, though neither Michael nor I will object in the least. Thank you for noticing the contrast in my short and long forms of writing; and as I say on my home page here, my ‘posts’ tend to the anecdotal, as against my ‘pages’ which are drier and, dare I say it, a little more philosophically and practically structured and oriented, as is my book, which I know you have read carefully. Many thanks for showing up and considering further my offerings Gord; I truly appreciate your presence.

        • I did not intend to jump in there but I have now read what Michael has offered. My own coming to be more vulnerable seems to emanate from self-acceptance and a relaxing into a realisation of what I truly am. It seems to be inseparable from presence. I truly wonder if we can be present when we perceive others not to be safe to be near.

          • You are of course, as are we all each in turn, inseparable from presence; and in any experience of non-duality, we see that we are inseparable from all the appearances in awareness, that it is our mind that seemingly divides the actual in its representations. Things have borders and existence, yet the thing, its existence and the border all appear in one awareness, not ‘my awareness’, but one awareness. When awareness sees this as itself and not merely as a partial idea such as these words convey, then ‘self’ and ‘other’ embrace in one presence. This is both presence and non-duality, it is subject and object escaping the spell that each places the other under.

        • Sorry Hariod. I am not so refined in my thinking about these things, nor am I with computer technology. I wasn’t intending to interfere with the dialogue that you were sharing.

          In the end, in my contemplation, it strikes me that feeling unsafe around others is feeling vulnerable. I guess there is wisdom at times in keeping that to ourselves. But is not the essence of the ego fear and a search for security? So this is a good question for me. Is there a benefit in at times indulging the ego in this cause or is there benefit in bringing presence to these instances where we feel unsafe?

          • I think we can safely say that the ego has no reluctance in indulging itself whenever it feels fit so to do; though that is something of a facile response and so not a terribly helpful one. You ask three fascinating questions Gord, though we each must answer them for ourselves in order to arrive at any conclusion that sticks. Hand-me-down wisdom is no kind of wisdom at all; and I know you understand this fully. Our compulsion to personal security is of course both sensible and, being evolutionarily derived, non-negotiable. Fear is something of an epiphenomenon of this compulsion, and the question we may further ask is whether it is an imperative.

            • Very good Hariod. It seems that there is much that takes us from our true nature. Presence allows us to return to seeing with some authenticity and to relate in a way that is more aware of that nature, or at least to relate in a way that comes more from our authentic nature. To be able to be with another and to bring that intimacy to them is the greatest experience of life.

    • Thank you very much Paul; I am pleased you were moved by the words, as witnessing the end days and death of my mother was, of course, moving for myself. And I readily admit that the emotions came to the surface in the writing of this article, as you appear to have correctly identified. Thank you once again for your interest, and for letting me know your reaction; I greatly appreciate both Paul.

  2. This is a beautiful and very powerful post. There are SO many gifts in it. I am definitely going to share the link with the members of my groups. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    • Thank you so much dear Karuna, for your generous words of encouragement, they help me along greatly as I struggle to get to grips with writing in short form here on this site. I am not sure how much ‘wisdom’ is contained in the article; it was, for me, more a case of speaking from the heart. Then again, perhaps that is the repository of what little wisdom I possess. In any case, I greatly appreciate your presence Karuna, and I know that with your professional background the subject matter of this piece will have chimed to some extent. Thank you. Hariod. ❤

    • Thank you Graham; your presence and kind words are a great boon to me. I am delighted that you have made it over here to see me on home ground, so to speak. Reciprocity is a beautiful thing, and is, I think, the fuel that keeps the blogosphere vital and truly engaged for each of us in turn. Unlike yourself, I post only occasionally, though please do feel free to come and share your perspective at any time; you are always most welcome.

      • Reciprocity is like the currency of blogging. Your posts are always incredibly well written and carefully crafted. I often try to squeeze my posts in on lunch breaks as my time (illusion or not lol!) is limited. A quote or video makes for efficient blogging! Cheers.

        • Thank you once again Graham, for your kind words of encouragement and approval. And yes, decent writing does take time; and ironically, those passages of text that seem to flow most effortlessly when read, are the very ones that took the greater degree of crafting. Perhaps that is not the case for the Ian McEwan’s and Hilary Mantel’s of this world; though I gather from bloggers and from my own experience that this is so. Your quotes and videos always seem to me interesting and thoughtfully selected Graham; and I have never yet had any contrary impression. All the very best to you and your wife.

  3. Oh, dear Hariod, such a moving post. Reminds me so much of when my mother was dying. There was one time I couldn’t be there for her. My husband and I were her sole caregivers while working full time and she did not live with us. We were there for her except for the one time for which I have never forgiven myself. Would I had known then what I know now. Presence is the most generous present of all and I find now I can only be present for a small group of people. It is a humbling experience. But your post is beautiful, as beautiful as your soul! xxx Ellen.

    • Thank you so much dear Ellen, for remarking upon how this moved you as a result of your own experience with your dear mother. I readily admit that in writing this piece, the memories and feelings came flooding back to me from all those years ago. It is rather stating the obvious, for which I apologise, but to witness at close quarters the end days of a loved parent is a profound and potentially transformative experience. We cannot be there at every moment of course, and as with yourself, there were occasions for me that I regret to say, I was not present at.

      As you will know all too well, it is a very demanding time, and whilst I don’t know if it was your experience too, but sleep can be so very hard to come by in the necessary measure. There is a total preoccupation in it all, and I only hope that as was so with myself, you came out of the whole experience in some way richer in your knowledge of your place in the world, and in knowing the true depth of feeling as regards your mother.

      Your kind and generous words are a wonderful gift for me today Ellen, as is your presence, always. Hariod. ❤

      P.S. I noticed in a comment you made to Bert the other day that your online retreat with Mooji was wonderful. It would be interesting to hear more on this if you were moved to write about it at all.

      • Many thanks for your genuine and heartfelt reply to my comment. Caregiving is very, very hard. Both my husband and I lost about 30lbs. and were sick at the end. My mother did not want anyone else to help out. My brother, whom she adored and would have wanted, lived far away. You’re right; I guess we have to forgive ourselves. But I will always be haunted because my failure to be present was the night before she died. Of course, I had no idea she was going to die that next night. It was all very tragic, really; but my husband and I did do our best to take care of her.

        Anyhow, being present is the best gift we can give. And presence makes being present easier to give somehow. Do you agree?

        As for Mooji’s silent intensive in London, I loved it. I loved getting up at 3:30 or 4:30 each morning and starting the day with deep questioning and totally absorbing Satsang. I loved it all, including the Bhajan concert at the end. Mooji is human but he is also a paragon of love. He can be harsh and he can be tender as a lamb. What he taught me was some new ways of looking at things I have learned before in religious contexts or in the Self-Realization Fellowship with Yogananda (whose path I stopped following when I found Mooji). It was all with a new twist, or new to me I should say.

        I would be very interested to hear what you would think. I am sticking with him. I still pray to Yogananda whom I believe to be a saint. But Mooji is my guru right now. I am frustrated at not being able to be anywhere even remotely close to a realized self and wonder if I can be in this lifetime. I know I must be patient and not expect things, but this is a big weakness and flaw in my character which I must overcome. I am sending a link to a long Satsang that is excellent – what happens early on to one seeker is what I wish for. Maybe you might watch the beginning if you are interested.

        Much love, Hariod dear, and many thanks for putting me in touch with Mooji.

        Ellen.

        • Oh, that’s fantastic Ellen; I can tell that you had quite a time at the silent intensive. I had thought for some reason that you were participating in some virtual satsang of sorts, though you flew into London for this in fact – good for you! I really look forward to watching the entire video you so kindly have posted here, just as soon as I have a free morning. Right now though, I will certainly watch the beginning section just as you suggest.

          Very happy for you dear Ellen!

          Hariod. ❤

        • Ah! Mooji – So many people enjoy his discourses. He is often present at Sri Ramana Maharshi’s ashram in Tamil Nadu, where he speaks on Avaita Vadanta and other related topics. Eve.

          • Oh, good to know. I knew little about him. He often speaks of Sri Ramana Maharshi who, I think, along with Papaji was one of his gurus. I wish I could see him in person. Thanks for writing Eve. Namaste, Ellen.

          • Actually Mooji is a guru, a follower of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Although Mooji is not a direct disciple as such, he nonetheless teaches the same ideals, those being “Advaita Vedanta” – the oneness of all things. There is no difference in Mooji’s teachings than any other guru, Sri Yogananda included, although Mooji does have a new and modern take on the philosophy.

            Thanks for the post Hariod, your writing is beautiful and your topics so well thought out. Eve.

            http://www.lifeartsmedia.com/mooji-the-buddha-of-brixton

          • Hello Eve! – I expect you are addressing this comment to Ellen; so I will just send you my warm greetings and see you over at your place later. Incidentally, as your comment came in here, I was watching the video of your friend the Swedish supermodel-turned-nun. I had got to the point where she was descending the valley on her three hour walk to visit the holy man. Hariod. ❤

    • Dear Karen, I am so pleased that you were comfortable with this piece; mention of family bereavements can touch on some uncomfortable feelings for some; and you, more so than most, would have entirely just cause for the same. Thank you so much for taking a little time to read this offering and for adding such a kind and gracious response. Take care dear Karen, and may the muse be with you always. Hariod. ❤

  4. Utterly beautiful. And highly moving too. Thank you Hariod; you have a gift yourself that you’re sharing here, and it is highly appreciated in this corner of the sky.

    – Sonmi upon the Cloud.

    • Well, I am most truly flattered that a writer of your undoubted sophistication would make such remarks about my own modest offerings Sonmi. I peer up at you, through the billowing canopies of your domain, and offer my thanks for your presence and for showering me with your many kindnesses. H ❤

      • You are most welcome, though I have to say that so far as literary talents go, you are far ahead of me. However, I appreciate very much your words. I enjoy visiting your blog; and there is no angst here. *smiles*

        – Sonmi upon the Cloud

  5. Very nice post!! I know exactly what you mean about being present.

    They say no one is an island, but the arc of my life seems to have made one of me. What you describe — simply “be with me” — is something I’ve sought all my life. And never found.

    I realize life is characterized by impermanence, but I see so much more permanence in the lives of others than I ever have in mine. A key theme for me has been, “Everything I love goes away. Soon.” The weirdest part is that I’m not bitter so much as bewildered.

    • Thank you Wyrd Smythe; your response means a lot to me and I am genuinely touched by it. During the few months I have come to know something of you over the course of our exchanges, I have quickly come to regard you as a dear friend; perhaps even of late – and do please forgive the cliché – as something of a kindred spirit. I hope I am not coming across as overly familiar here, but there you have it; rebuff me if you wish.

      I too at times feel like something of an island in the ocean of ‘all this’; there’s an occasional remoteness that the emotions impart, though with it comes always in tow a comforting recognition that it’s nothing beyond a thought with a subtle feeling attached. I suppose it’s none other than the difference between a recognition of a physical aloneness and a more emotively charged sense of loneliness – something I’ve never suffered, and I don’t mean to suggest that you have either, how would I possibly know?

      And yet you’re not an island as you instinctively know – those spiritual leanings that just won’t go away. There’s somewhere the knowledge that land doesn’t cease to exist at the water’s edge, despite appearances to the contrary. And Samantha Mk.1 as well as Samantha Mk.2 (and even Rosie too) proved as much to you didn’t they W.S.? I’d hazard a guess that when you look at photographs of either of your Sam’s, just as I do with my now departed Nellie, the connection is as vibrant and vital as ever; the love echoes back and forth beneath the waves and between two islands, between Minnesota and Rainbow Bridge. Elizabeth Montgomery was probably never your type in any case – too local for a global man like you:

      “Infinite stars in a wide open sky; each orbit different, a bit, or a lot. Yet we can shine in a wonderful light; each of us separate and still just the same.” – Wyrd Smythe.

      • No rebuff. We are wood, if not from the same tree, certainly from the same forest.

        The thing is, my star seems to orbit very far away from the light of the galaxy filled with stars. I seem to get along better with those dogs, and be more appreciated by them, than ever with humans. (This fact is rather highlighted in the comment sections of our respective blogs. Quite a following you’ve gathered!)

        • “I seem to get along better with those dogs, and be more appreciated by them, than ever with humans.” I get this sentiment entirely Wyrd Smythe, as I think would most, if not all, dog lovers here. We humans can sometimes talk glibly about ‘unconditional love’ – as parents, or as religious devotees – and yet where are the examples of those that can match this quality so consistently as in a good dog?

          • Very true. My experiences with (non-familial) love all confirm the fact that the love people give you is extremely conditional. One false move, and you’re history.

            How do people live like that?

            • “How do people live like that?” It beats me W.S.; such behaviour, if I were to imagine it within myself, would lead me to think of the imaginary Hariod as suffering some degree of psychopathy. That might seem a rather periphrastic route to any diagnosis, though one needs to imagine how one would feel in dropping another human being so cold-heartedly and as if at the flick of a switch. It’s rather frightening that some people can do just that.

  6. Dear Hariod,

    Your post touched me deeply; you spoke with such depth of feeling that I was within the memory of it. For it brought back my own memories, as I too with my father was looking after him in his end days. The full story of that may be found here http://suedreamwalker.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/signs/

    I have had the privilege to be present at several end times; and also alas have witnessed how sometimes those who are in the caring profession forget the person behind the patient. All that is needed sometimes is that healing hand to hold theirs, to wipe their brow, and offer them soothing words.

    Thankfully, I know times have changed since my grandfather’s last days in hospital in the late 1980’s, where we know he was neglected and left. And unfortunately, in some places things have not changed. So many elderly are now put in homes, forgotten, written off. We all of us, if we are lucky, grow into old age and would want the due respect of care.

    Hariod, may we all of us remember the best gifts any of us can give another is our time, our love, our care and our compassion.

    Love and blessings as my heart feels within your own.

    ❤ Sue.

    • Dear Sue,

      My heartfelt gratitude goes out to you for your presence and also for your unstinting generosity of spirit. What a lovely and evocative turn of phrase you have used in saying “I was within the memory of it.” That is a great compliment and one that encourages me hugely in my writing efforts here – thank you.

      And yes, the standards of care for the elderly in this country remain woefully inadequate. With our current government comprised mainly of “compassionate conservatives” – look out everyone – then we can only expect matters to deteriorate as the financiers and the super-rich are protected at the expense of those in genuine need.

      Things will undoubtedly have improved since your grandfather’s last days nearly 30 years ago, though we still are failing to consistently provide what is known as ‘person-centred care’ for the elderly and terminally ill in our hospitals. In contrast, the hospice movement is quite wonderful, though care for dementia sufferers remains close to scandalous in its provision.

      Oh dear Sue, I must yet again be sounding like some dreadfully boring political malcontent; and I am conscious of having played that role out at your place only in the last few days. I hope you are able to forgive me, and once again may I thank you for your presence, for your interest, and for your spiritual integrity.

      Hariod. ❤

      • Hariod,

        First of all, I encourage debate and thoughts upon my posts; in fact I wish more would get involved and say what comes from their hearts. Instead, many skirt around issues which cause friction. So please Hariod, do not concern yourself about leaving your thoughts. We all have opinions and I respect each and every one.

        Yes, working in Supported Living for over 10 yrs since I came out of the rat race of profit making in textiles, I understand totally about Personal Centred Care.

        I can only hope the prosecutions that have occurred within the care ‘industry’ bring about change – for let’s make no mistakes, in a lot of care homes it’s not been about care, but instead about making money out of the elderly. Let us hope it has shaken a few up so that they clean up their acts and train people correctly, as well as employing people of the right temperament to care for their residents. Let us hope the future improves matters even further.

        Much love; and again you should write more from the heart of your experience. You truly have a wonderful gift with words.

        xxx ❤

        Love, Sue.

  7. What a soulful face on the girl, Hariod, and what a soulful post too.

    I connected with your words on many levels, and most especially as you described your mother’s and her room-mate’s final days. Your detail and emotion reminded me of witnessing my grandmother, also named Doryce (different only in spelling) end of life. Your observations about the shared and foremost need for presence were so exact.

    Thank you, Hariod, for helping me reflect and relate in a new way.

    In gratitude,

    Lauren. ❤

    • I am very grateful to you dear Lauren, both for considering my offering today and for letting me know how the whole chimed with your own experience as regards Doryce at the end of her life, which I trust was a fulfilling and long one. Whatever presence you and others were able to offer her would have held value beyond measure.

      Writing this particular piece brought back certain vivid memories; and I at times felt emotional echoes of the past in the course of it all. I think it’s obvious that the two are closely linked; the more an experience impresses upon us some emotional charging, the greater the clarity of the memory.

      Come to think of it though, that little episode with you and Lia at the Starbucks pastry counter in New York City is possibly one memory you’d rather forget! I was thinking of that just yesterday in fact, and I continue to harbour an admiration for the girl and her precocious yet somehow very delightful assertiveness.

      Hariod. ❤

  8. Hariod,

    Your subject today is one that touches me deeply. I was privileged to care for my beloved parents in their final decade of The Dance. They were wed 72 years, and passed away within months of each other at the ages 95 and 96. The gift of that decade of devotion was the embodiment of the Presence of which you speak. Oh, it was ‘known’ prior, in some half-awake area of the brain; but ten years of being the eyes, ears, voice, legs and arms of the two frail Adorables delivered the knowingness to the Heart. When they finally left it was from, and into, that Presence. How blessed – to have had such an opportunity!

    With moist eyes, gratitude and love (for Presence is another word for Love).

    – ml

    • Dear Miriam,

      I greatly appreciate you taking the time to reflect upon this offering, as well as for responding so graciously and in such a heartfelt manner. The Adorables appear to have held their love in a beautifully symmetrical embrace; exiting this world at a similar age and at a similar time in their tenth decade. And how wonderful it is to hear of your response to the closing of their years together; not many would declare that giving service in this way and for a full decade was either an ‘opportunity’ or a blessing. Thank you once again for the touch of your words and of your heart too Miriam.

      Hariod. ❤

    • Thank you so much Howie; your kind and generous words are most gratefully received and I am pleased that the content of the article chimed meaningfully within you. Having made the connection, I hope to engage further with you, and to learn from your own writing, over the course of time. Meanwhile and until then, I send you my very best wishes and gratitude.

      Hariod.

  9. Hi Hariod,

    What a poignant description! I have always felt that witnessing the last few moments of the elderly or the sick must be so much more challenging than those living moments one shared previously. The grace and the dignity of the words: “be with me” conveys how utterly feeble we must feel at such times. The emotional and psychological solace that we may try to provide must make the final parting all the harder to bear. Whilst I cannot relate to such a situation, deep down I can feel the ache of detachment – an emotion with which I am quite familiar.

    Giving with both hands seems so symbolic here! Does it illustrate the attachment, the love and the reverence? I have seen a few of my friends following this tradition.

    Thanks for sharing these very poignant reflections.

    Kind regards,

    Balroop.

    • Dear Balroop,

      Thank you so much for your kindness in visiting here once again and for considering my offering for this month and the coming festive season. Many thanks also for adding some reflections of your own, which I read with interest.

      I do believe that the idea of offering gifts whilst holding them in open palms is a tradition originating in India, and to the best of my knowledge, within Buddhist culture specifically. There, one offers a gift (“Dana”) to a monk or nun with open palms and whilst simultaneously lowering one’s head beneath the level of theirs. In a sense, it signifies the removal of the importance of self, whilst recognising and respecting what the spiritual aspirant has undertaken. It also, as I say in the article, signifies that we hold nothing in reserve, giving freely, openly and with no ulterior motive or reticence. The suggestion I make to readers here is to look the recipient in the eye; the purpose being to signify that the connection with them in presence is both acknowledged and deeply appreciated; it is not to dismiss the value of the giving of the gift, but rather to connote that we too are in receipt of a gift, that being the other’s presence.

      With gratitude and respect as always.

      Hariod.

  10. Thank you for this short-form offering Hariod. It comes from the heart and resonates from this loving space. To be fully present is truly a gift coming from an open heart and authentic place beyond ego.

    “Having cultivated this generosity towards ourselves, we are then in a position to emanate this presence and so offer it to others too.”

    Your intellect is awesome and your light shines through. ❤

    • You are a treasure Val; I so appreciate your engagement and commentary here. Actually, I hadn’t expected you to make an appearance on this one, as I know that you are still settling back in to the forces of gravity after your inter-planetary sojourn. 😉 I do hope that even if those forces are impinging a little more rapidly than you might have preferred, then at least the contents of your beautiful mind will remain weightless.

      With lots of love to you dear Val.

      Hariod. ❤

      P.S. May I ask what you thought about the way the independence vote went? I rather feel that the whole thing got hijacked by the Westminster mob at the last minute and that now many Scots are beginning to feel suckered by it all. The BBC were shamefully biased on the whole affair too.

  11. A very good reminder of how to be with those who are dying. This reminds me quite a lot of The Death of Ivan Ilyich, or rather, what should have happened and didn’t, and which made the ending so heartbreaking. Not an easy task to let go of what we think we should be doing to appear to be doing the right thing. I always have the feeling I should be doing something more, something pragmatic, something that requires signing papers or moving things around.

    • I was very tempted to be wicked and delete part of your second sentence Tina. Then I realised that my 700 words being compared to Tolstoy might not quite wash with some. I do know exactly what you mean about the pragmatic compulsion; there’s part of your mind that wants to be distracted from the monumental reality of it all – and who in their right senses wants too much reality? Rearranging grapes works quite well at such times I find.

      • Ha! I should have been clearer; I meant what should have happened morally to the character. I would never want to change Tolstoy! That book had me bawling my eyes out, in a good, this-is-so-beautiful-and-real sort of way.

        Rearranging grapes? Wow, I thought I was bad with the apples and oranges (not even kidding about this). 🙂

  12. Thanks for this. I really loved the ending about the beautiful Buddhist tradition of offering gifts with two hands, which I have seen people do, but never really understood the significance of until now.

    • Thank you very much Anna; I very much appreciate your presence and kind comment; and I am so delighted to see you here once again following your apparent sojourn away from the blogosphere. As I said to Balroop (a commenter above) I do believe that the idea of offering gifts whilst holding them in open palms is a tradition originating in India, and to the best of my knowledge, within Buddhist culture specifically. There, one offers a gift (“Dana”) to a monk or nun with open palms and whilst simultaneously lowering one’s head beneath the level of theirs. In a sense, it signifies the removal of the importance of self, whilst recognising and respecting what the spiritual aspirant has undertaken. It also, as I say in the article, signifies that we hold nothing in reserve, giving freely, openly and with no ulterior motive or reticence. The suggestion I make to readers here is to look the recipient in the eye; the purpose being to signify that the connection with them in presence is both acknowledged and deeply appreciated; it is not to dismiss the value of the giving of the gift, but rather to connote that we too are in receipt of a gift, that being the other’s presence.

      Hariod. ❤

      • Thanks for the elaboration Hariod. I agree that it’s important to emphasize that giving a gift is not a one-directional flow, but a relation in which there is also an element of receiving. And sometimes it requires more openness and generosity to receive the presence of others – and to be willing to open yourself up to being influenced by them, no matter what they bring. It’s through that openness that expansion happens (if you’re just giving without seeing how you are also receiving a gift, you’re not necessarily transformed).

          • Dear Hariod,

            It is my privilege. Everyone possesses their own, unique excellence – some writers can make difficult ideas effortless to grasp, others can make words caress and dance.

            Best, Anna.

    • Thank you so much for your kind, generous and gracious words of encouragement Julie; they help me along greatly in my efforts here. I do hope that all is well in your beautiful corner of the world and that your wonderful garden continues to offer up its fruits (and vegetables) in abundance.

      Hariod. ❤

    • Thank you so much for considering my words and for offering your much valued reflection on them Shajan. I like very much your ironic twist on the whole, and with which I concur; yet just here I wanted to keep the matter such that we, all of us, could engage in presence to some extent.

      With my very best regards and respect.

      Hariod.

    • Thank you so much Cat, for considering this offering and for your generous and kind words of approval; both mean much to me, truly they do. Actually, I have been wondering today if you had felt comfortable with my response to a comment you made at your sister’s place – I hope that this was so.

      Hariod. ❤

  13. Something I feel when visiting a dear friend I’ve known for a very long time. . . just being together, without much talking. . . drinking coffee together and watching the stars, or listening to the sounds of the night. . . together, nothing more, sharing presence.

    • Thank you Bert. Your ‘stream of consciousness’ description demonstrates just how well you understand the subject under discussion. Silence can be the best of ways to share time with a friend can’t it? A psychological intimacy may surface in the free space of any comfortably wordless awareness. Once again, thank you Bert; I appreciate your engagement.

      • The appreciation is mutual. It took me a long time to escape the walls that kept me from understanding – recently slowly tuning into those mysteriously subtle wavelengths.

  14. Thank you Hariod. I was deeply moved by your post. The depth of insight and the profound sense of humanity expressed in it touched something deep in me. While reading it I was struck by how human presence can never be neutral. It will always have some kind of an effect. We are created to express presence and the very structure of the human body enables that to happen. Just the human face is enough proof of that. I think of how our personal stories and histories shape and mould the very presence we communicate and express. I could go on and on, but I want to simply sit quietly with what you have so graciously offered here and ponder at length upon it. Thank you again for this gift.

    • Thank you so very much for your exquisite and most thoughtful response Don. To have a true artist such as yourself offering their approval is most gratifying. To be frank, when I finish a piece and press the ‘publish’ button, I feel very unsure as to whether my words will mean anything to anyone, assuming always they do indeed manage to find their way to them in the first instance – another source of uncertainty on my part! To know that they do, and to have this acknowledged by a few kind and gracious souls such as yourself, brings me to an odd mix of satisfaction and humility – one that I had not experienced before coming here to the blogosphere just eight short months ago.

      With much gratitude and respect to you Don.

      Hariod.

      • Hariod, you have nothing to be unsure about. Your ability to articulate the way you do is such a profound gift. I admire that deeply. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to listen to the deep wisdom you express. Not only do you speak to my heart but you challenge me intellectually and that I appreciate immensely. Thank you. 🙂

  15. Hi Hariod. Stopped by today after a little while and read this beautiful piece. Not sure why but tears were running down as I read. The heart feels touched and moved. Thank you!

    • Thank you so much for your kind and touching comment Precious Rhymes; I greatly appreciate your visit and your thoughtful words of encouragement. In the writing of this little piece, I took my mind back to what was an emotional time for me, as you will appreciate. I hope I have not come across as too maudlin or touched any raw nerves; though in going back to my mother’s death, there was the very strong recollection of the need to offer our very fullest presence to those who are suffering. You clearly appreciate what I have written about at the deeper levels.

      Hariod. ❤

      • We can’t take away or lessen the pain of those we love, even when we want to sometimes; for each of us will and must handle our share of suffering. But it’s so true Hariod, the one thing that can be offered is the precious gift of our presence. I took time to hug, hold and just feel for a few moments this morning, the precious ones that are present with me in my world after reading your post. Thank you again!

  16. So very true; so very important to understand. I was brought up in an exceedingly ‘rational’ and ‘logical’ environment where every issue, problem and need must always have been met with a solution – no listening, just attempts at problem solving. I discovered myself to be the same way until someone said to me (only a few years ago!) “I don’t need you to offer solutions, I need you to hear me and just be with me.”

    We’re so conditioned to doing in our Western cultures that we’ve forgotten how to just be. And at moments like you describe, doing is the last thing anyone needs – they’ve done and been done to all that can be done. I was reminded of this just a few weeks ago when, for the very last time, I was visiting a friend who was dying of cancer. I worried about what I would do, what I would say, how I should behave – until I remembered that all she needed was for me to be there.

    • Thank you very much for reading this article Mark and for leaving such an apt and generous comment; I greatly appreciate both. You clearly understand precisely what the point of the piece is from immediate experience; and perhaps it is not at all uncommon that we only truly learn in this regard from such direct and personal experience. I think that in hospitals in particular, as visitors we can often get carried along with the general ethic that somehow pervades the place and which perhaps in part issues out of the Hippocratic Oath undertaken by most physicians: “I will comport myself and use my knowledge in a godly manner”. It can be as if we are all there to administer a fix from on high, the physicians with their godly healing powers and we visitors with our rather more worldly offerings of fruit, of chit-chat and of studiously and pointlessly enquiring about medications. As you say Mark, with the dying, the best of our offerings is our simple and fully-engaged presence.

      With best wishes and gratitude to you Mark.

      Hariod.

      Note to readers: http://www.callofthewilderness.com/

  17. I have returned here to this page a few times and have found much relief Hariod. Recognizing that presence is always what is needed helps me to drop layers of façade, or incorrect thoughts, about the ‘shoulds’ of what I ought to be doing.

    I have shed so much of all that throughout the years – so apparent now in this gift-giving season when I recognize how independent I am of social expectation. Yet still I’m meandering, seemingly innocent thoughts do make their way back around, again and again, to some area of doing that sounds convincing, until I remember:

    Presence is the golden ticket; and from presence flows the organic sort of doing that is without any attachments – like walking one to the potty with an intravenous line, or handing sips of water as needed, or sitting, relaxed, ready and pleasant, and available as needed – easy smeasy clear and free doing in the moment!

    (And for a bow on top of the wrapping: Thank you Hariod for your presence here:) xo! Marga.

    • Hi Marga!

      How lovely of you to stop by and to add a colourful yet candid reflection of your own at this busy time of the year. Your way with words is always a great treat; and you have a capacity I sorely lack: that of encapsulating in a few words that which for myself would take so many more. There, I think I have just provided an exemplar – Quod Erat Demonstrandum baby!

      I always admire songwriters who can establish a narrative in the opening line or two of a pop tune. For myself, it would be around verse nine or ten that we had any clue as to what was going on – I would need the Grateful Dead as a backing band; some boys with staying power, un-fussed by notions of reaching any ending. I think my favourite example of this concision is the Billy Bragg song “Levi Stubb’s Tears”.

      In the opening two lines he establishes the overarching narrative of the whole story: “With the money from the accident she bought herself a mobile home, so at least she could get some enjoyment out of being alone”. We know already that something tragic has happened to a woman of working class origins and whose fate has to some extent been sealed.

      This is my periphrastic way of presenting you with a little seasonal gift dear Marga; one which I offer by way of gratitude for your presence here throughout the year, as well as for your wonderful offerings on your own exotic site, and which I enjoy and benefit from so much. Like myself, this modest gift is hopelessly dated, very English and quite anachronistic, yet perhaps has little moments of charm. Cupped in hands, eye to eye with you, in presence:

      Hariod. ❤

      • You gift me with seeing me in such a generous light! And I gaze back with awe often at the depth and clever twist of your words. Before the wonderful fountain of self-love washed over me, I can remember an unclear mindset that would have intimidated off the playing field in the contrasting expressions of me and thee, yet now I feel a wash of love for us all in our many beautiful forms and colorful reflections of a spectrum beyond my human perception. Eye to eye, and heart overflowing, merry blessing on your head, dear Hariod.

  18. Such a tender story, written with the beauty and compassion that you are Hariod; and the wisdom found in your threads brings many gifts of inspiring feelings to me. You are one who holds songs in your hands. Thank you. xxx

    • Thank you so much dear Meg, both for reading and for adding such a complimentary reflection. In doing so, you encourage me to continue with my short-form writing as I proceed along tentatively and sporadically with it. I have nothing of your imagination and vision, of which I remain in great admiration, yet to receive feedback which is anything like being on the welcome side of approval is both a boon and a blessing to me. Hariod. ❤

  19. Hariod,

    I had written a very long and detailed comment on this post the other day. Somehow, I hit a button that deleted the whole thing and I didn’t have time to rewrite it that day. It was disappointing at the time, but then I realized that it happened for a reason. You see, I had written my response quickly after reading your post. I said that I didn’t have time to read all of the comments, but that I would at a later time.

    Now I realize that the very topic of your post – ‘presence’ – is what I did not offer you in my haste to get my point across! Shame on me! I understand what it feels like when someone really offers presence; and conversely, I understand what it feels like when they are just going through the motions. And I suppose sometimes, just going through the motions is better than no presence at all.

    But I respect you too much to not offer you my undivided attention. I love your work and your writing stimulates my mind. I am so grateful that we have connected here and I appreciate the support that you show to me. I thank you for sharing about a very personal time and having just lived through 5 weeks with my Mom in the hospital and rehab facility, I experienced almost exactly what you talked about.

    You very eloquently stated what I noticed, but had trouble putting into words. I thank you for this beautiful reminder. I wish to offer my ‘presence’ to every person I make contact with. Again, I know how good it feels when someone does this for me. Happy new year to you Hariod; I wish you all good things! ❤

    • Dear Lorrie,

      I am so touched that you would go to all this trouble of rewriting such a generous and kind comment; truly I am. I have had that same experience myself, and daresay it is not altogether a rarity for WordPress users. You say that you hit a button and everything disappeared, though I know that at times this can happen unprompted in any case – very frustrating! Anyway, it makes the receiving of your communication all the more of an honour and pleasure for me.

      You are, I believe, quite correct to state that ‘going through the motions’ can be better than ignoring or dismissal Lorrie. In fact, I would go so far as to say that sometimes it is better to indulge a little dissembling if it may result in others feeling the better for it. Such dissembling still may have efficacy, and yet more importantly, it begins to inculcate within us healthier and more positive responses and which themselves become increasingly authentic as time progresses.

      I had been thinking about you as over the past couple of weeks I returned to this post so as to respond to a comment or two. I knew very well that you were going through a related experience as regards your mother, and that your attentions were necessarily with her, her condition, prognosis and all future accommodations. The whole is all-consuming, and I was pleased for the two of you to hear of the latest developments at your site today.

      Once again dear Lorrie, thank you so much for extending a supportive hand of friendship – twice! – in the midst of all you have had on your plate – or should that be cake-stand? I hope and trust that a sense of ease will begin to come upon you now that your mother is in good hands and being cared for in accord with her needs. I am sure you will find many moments of joy and delight in your future visits; and trust also this assists your own recuperation of energy.

      Hariod. ❤

      • Hi Hariod!

        Firstly, thanks for the knowledge that I probably didn’t hit any button. My very long response to you did just ‘disappear!’ Of course, I took responsibility for that, as I have been lingering in some negative energy and tend to place ‘blame’ on myself for things I couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with! Now recognized, I can do the work to eliminate this self-defeating behaviour! The other part is that if it miraculously disappeared then it was supposed to! 🙂

        Now, in reference to all I have on my cake stand (LOL), I love it and will take it one step further. I spent 6.5 hours yesterday hanging the decorative ‘plates’ I received as a gift. So I may use your pun in my post about the finished project, if you don’t mind. 🙂

        Thank you so much, Hariod. I love your voice which reflects your soul so beautifully. You are a source of comfort to me! ❤

        • With my own cake stand not being under too much weight currently, I would have loved to have offered a hand in your recent exertions Lorrie. The several thousand miles separating Glastonbury and Florida render the thought somewhat impracticable though. Still, I will think of you as I devour a slice of Lemon Drizzle this afternoon. H ❤

  20. What a beautiful post. So simple. So challenging. I’m not sure from how you wrote this — was the person who sat at the deathbed stroking her hand and saying “it’ll soon be all gone Doris, I promise.” a help or a hindrance?

    • Thank you so much for your interest and also for your kind words of encouragement. Doris, the lady you refer to, appeared never to receive visitors on the ward, and was probably in her late eighties or perhaps nineties. She was severely crippled by arthritis, and it was a real eye-opener for me to see someone with such a condition in the process of dying. As a rule, one would not receive hospice care simply by virtue of approaching the end of one’s natural life and with such a condition. Consequently, the palliative care administered on a general hospital’s geriatric ward would not be to the typically high standard that one finds in the hospice movement here in England.

      Doris had an advocate carer who visited her regularly and who did a tremendously valuable job in providing both human contact and, I think it was true to say, some significant degree of emotional solace. She certainly had Doris’ complete attention throughout her visits and was a great exemplar of how to offer presence to one in desperate need of it. There are of course two levels to suffering, the physical and the emotional, and whilst Doris’ advocate could only ameliorate the latter, it was incredibly humbling for me to witness. To be with someone so fully, and to forget oneself altogether in the process, is not something that comes easily to most of us, as perhaps you might agree.

      Thank you once again, and with all best wishes,

      Hariod.

  21. Hariod, this gripping post touched me on many levels. Your heart wrenching experience goes into the depths of many peoples memories; this made the writing so close and personal, I felt.

    Then you reminded us of the human needs so often neglected in our modern, throwaway society – the need, people long for, to be mindfully listened to rather than just be heard; not just the obligatory impermanent gifts which can leave a sense of loss to both giver and receiver.

    The quotable words that will remain with me are, “be with me now” and “presents of presence”.

    I feel this post has helped me on my path. _/\_

    • I am both warmed and grateful for your kind reflections dear Jack, and it is also pleasing that a post intended as a Christmas offering still finds relevance now, at the height of the English summer.

      You are, I am certain, quite correct that some of the subject matter will have touched many peoples’ memories, and only hope I have not caused upset as I recount here my own past experiences.

      You very much strike me as a man who knows the true value of being fully present with the other, not as a matter of social nicety, but as a trait issuing from your own innate compassion and wisdom.

      Thank you once again Jack, your presence here is always a gift. _/\_

      • There is so much to learn, and so many interesting things to see and do, and many modern wonders to distract us from the tranquil beauty of nature. I find I sometimes have to tell myself to slow down. I ration my time on the computer as it can be addictive wanting more and more knowledge. The thing I must constantly do is take those few mindful breaths that ground me in the now.

        You write so well Hariod that I want to read all of your posts. You are aware of the problems of wanting, so will understand my visit to your Christmas post, even though it is months late. As I commented, it is very good, but I did not mention that although it brought back a difficult time in my life, it was in no way upsetting. My mother had a saying: “If I have anything coming to me, now is the time to slip it to me, because I can’t read my tombstone when I am dead.” I am pleased I have no regrets in that regard.

        Some things are inevitable as we grow and encounter them. Hariod, here I am waffling on when I am sure you know this. I just thank you for the effort you put into your writing. I am sure it helps others besides me. _/\_

        • Thank you so much for your further comments Jack, and I am pleased and relieved to hear that my article did not trigger any sadness or upset within you. You are fortunate indeed to have had a mother who was so receptive to your deeper thoughts, and I must applaud you for achieving what so many of us fail to; that is, to have loved ones depart without remorse for our not having said what needed to be said.

          Peace and best wishes, Hariod. _/\_

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