Lessons in Presence Given in Absentia
On Friday, August 12, I was pretty much packed and ready head out to Sevenoaks to participate in a co-leadership role in our Helper/Faculty retreat. It would be a key meeting, and I was a bit nervous — though not as nervous as I could have been. Rather than feeling overly nervous I was tasting a feeling of being fairly surrendered and open to being in the flow with the others and just seeing what would arise from within as together we would discern teaching teams and class configurations for the upcoming Pathwork transformation program. I had laid out a process for this discernment for the group, and would see how it went. All surrendered to Guidance in the moment. But actually I was not all that clear about all this leadership and my role in it. That was yet to unfold over the next 24 hours or so.
It was 6:45 AM Friday morning. I had finished my blog entry, had had coffee time with Pat, and was putting stuff in the car when the phone rang. It was the Lewis County Nursing Home in Canton, Missouri, where my aunt Edna lived since her unexplained cerebral accident some 13 years ago. She was in the nursing home because, though alert in some ways, she was not able to take care of herself, drive, etc. Now going on 93, while she was still able to engage with us, physical issues were arising and she was very ready to go home to the Lord. My brother and I, though living 470 miles away from Canton in Cincinnati, were the family members most responsible for her care. For thirteen years I had taken care of most of her financial and other official matters, so I was the one who got the call from the nursing home Friday morning. At 6:30 AM, just a few minutes before the call, Aunt Edna died. This was what the call from the nursing home was about.
I became disoriented at the news, pulled entirely off my agenda of going to Sevenoaks. It quickly settled in that there was no option. I was now called to be with my family and help arrange the funeral and other matters regarding Aunt Edna’s death.
I took some time to inform my co-leaders for the retreat at Sevenoaks of what had happened. I also wrote up some of what I was thinking about for exercises at the retreat and sent them off to the team. Around 9:20 AM Friday I got a call from one of the co-leaders saying that they were meeting at 9:30 to decide what to do. One option, I was told, was to cancel the retreat until I could participate. This was really confusing to me. Why cancel? While I am in “leadership” I am kind of low man on the totem pole for this kind of event. But one of my co-leaders felt otherwise.
Yes, I had sent out the materials that I had prepared. But what would be missed, I was told, was my presence. “You hold so much, so many of the pieces. It is your presence, your capacity to hold all of this, that is needed.” I reminded the co-leader that at our most recent Council meeting I had not said much at all, had not put much out. But, she suggested, my ideas and words were not the main point of what I added to the meeting. It was somehow my presence, my capacity to take it all in and hold it in Mystery. The co-leader said she could let go of more and more because I was holding the responsibility for much of what was going on at Sevenoaks.
I was still not clear within myself as to what she meant. Then I recalled what Moira my Pathwork helper had said about holding things without fear. In fear I could not receive Guidance, but surrendered and open to Mystery I could receive Guidance. So maybe what my co-leader was mirroring to me was, “Your capacity to be present, really Present, so your channel to Spirit will be open, is a critical capacity for us, and from this place of Presence you can help us discern ‘right action.'” I was beginning to get this reality, beginning to accept that perhaps this form of leadership is in fact something I could add and have been adding. Not to be too grandiose, the image of Moses comes to mind — an archetypal representation of leadership via Presence and surrender to Mystery. It seemed that Moses’ leadership came from his Guidance from Presence to Source.
It is humbling to accept that, at a higher archetypal level, such leadership might be the nature of what can flow through me. Perhaps this presence is what I have the capacity to bring to the party, if not all the time, at least part of the time. It feels arrogant, and I want to deny any capacity I might have to offer such presence, such leadership. It is confusing and humbling to realize that my offering to leadership may not be my presentation or organizational skills, may not be my ability to conceptualize or argue for or against a point. Could it be that my offering to leadership may rather be to quietly be Present to all that unfolds in life, to seek Guidance and, from there, take “right action”?
My ego, of course, would like a more out-in-front style of leadership and is not into this surrender to Guidance mode. My ego would like more “credit” for “right action” than merely its choice to be present and surrendered to Guidance from within. My ego would want to be recognized for “right action” while staying separate from God, from Source. Such is the remnant of the Fall energy that lives in me and is in need of purification.
So with Presence comes stability in the the storms of life, Guidance and clarity, and from there a capacity for discernment and “right action,” surrendered to the Source, oneness with Source, oneness with God. What a lesson.
Sitting in our room at the Comfort Inn in Canton, sharing coffee time with Pat on Saturday morning before we enter into the funeral plans of the day, clarity about all of this arose. Humbling indeed.
So being in Canton rather than at Sevenoaks has led to a deep understanding about whatever role I am to play at Sevenoaks, a role above all of being Present. A lesson learned by not being physically present at all. I feel grateful and full of love.
Epilogue: The Retreat indeed did go well! So my physical Presence was not needed, and I could have my lesson on leadership via presence given to me in a powerful way AND in absentia! Spirit works in wondrous ways!