Practicing Presence, Disconnect to Connect

Icon of the Pantocrator, Ruler of All (source)

“Where are you?” I looked at my wife and said, “I’m right here.” “No, you’re not,” she said. “You’re a million miles away.” She was right. I was there but I was not present. Most of us, I suspect, have been on both sides of that conversation. We have closed off another and been closed out by another. There is no presence. Presence lies at the heart of life, prayer, and relationships.

Some Thoughts on Presence

  1. Presence is more than entering into a physical space. Simultaneously occupying a space with another is not necessarily presence. We’ve probably all had the experience of going to a meeting but never really showing up, being present.
  2. Presence is primarily about an interior state, a condition, a way of being, and secondarily about location and proximity.
  3. Presence is the way in which we create space and place for another. We open ourselves and invite the other in. We make ourselves available. Is it an act of self-giving and love.
  4. When we are not present we offer the other no space or place and it is, paradoxically, the other who becomes absent, invisible.
  5. We are all present to someone or something. The only question is to whom or what.
  6. Presence is difficult work. It is a choice, a discipline, a practice.

Sometimes, as this video shows, we must disconnect to connect. That’s what Jesus meant when he told Martha that Mary had “chosen the better part.” That is the practice of presence. Presence can too easily be lost. It’s often lost to our toys and technology but it’s not only about technology. It’s about our busyness, our fears, our thoughts, our work, our worries, our addictions, our distractions, our possessions and stuff. It’s about all the different ways in which we close off space and place to life, God, and each other.

Where are we? Are we simply there or are we present? To whom or what are we truly present? What might we need to disconnect from to connect or reconnect?


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