Empathetic presence requires a willingness to see and feel an experience from another’s point of view and to sense into their felt sense of it, while keeping track of our own experience in the moment, our history, and our commitment to not confuse another’s reality with our own. I can remember times in my own work as a client, when I felt met and understood so deeply that I could scarce take it in…..then opening to the next step of taking in more of the guide’s care, as my anxiety and defensiveness melted a bit more. And, Because of the “I and Thou” of my guide’s presence, and feeling so connected to my real self, I felt the more than us—what I name as the presence of God. As I was accompanied, I dropped deeper into feeling all that I was dealing with; not holding myself back from the feared affects and tears.
As I write this and remember, I can drop into the emotional memory and I feel tenderness in my core, wetness in my eyes and gratitude for the wise, non-defensive person who sat with me. Her emotionally attuned presence helped me not feel so alone with my suffering, and several things began to shift. In addition to sharing the feeling of being unmercifully judged in the past, there was a new experience of not being alone with the memory and its pain. Shame melted away and there was clear presence—my own and hers. In this present moment, as I remember, a wellspring of love emerges. It is not forced or sought, it just is.
Working with an experimental method as we do in GPC is enlivening and can move a transformative process along rather nicely. We all know that “talking about” our anger or what hurts and not engaging emotionally can have a dulling, deadening impact. Talk alone is not enough. Feeling the heart and body of another person who is there with you, while opening up emotional flow, is exhilarating and life giving. God made us with this capacity. Learning how to do this from both seats: the worker’s and the guide’s, is what we do in the advanced class. We study, we show up, we risk and we grow.
An advanced class is underway currently and another will form in the second half of 2017. Stay tuned.