Practitioner presence – lessons on ‘being’ from the natural world

Practitioner presence image

IN AN INTERVIEW published in the periodical Shambhala Sun a few years ago, Thich Nhat Hanh provided some useful advice on supporting others through illness. When asked how we can help loved ones who are suffering from serious health issues without becoming overwhelmed ourselves, Thich Nhat Hanh’s response was that “when you feel overwhelmed, you’re trying too hard.  That kind of energy does not help the other person and it does not help you”.

He advised that when helping others through illness we should focus on BEING, not DOING. Being peaceful, being attentive, being compassionate. This struck me as a very powerful statement, one particularly relevant to Reiki practitioners.  When faced with the suffering of our clients (or even our loved ones), it is all too easy to get overwhelmed by their suffering and to quickly shift into ‘fix-it’ mode – focusing on what we can ‘do’ to help.  Sometimes we forget to pay attention to how we are ‘being’ in front of our clients and the effect that our way of being – our ‘presence’ (or lack thereof) – might be having on our clients and their healing process.  Or we might even equate ‘being’ with simply presenting a certain air of ‘professionalism’ around our clients.

Thich Nhat Hahn expanded on the particular quality of ‘being’ to which he referred by using the analogy of a tree: imagine a person (in our case the client) sitting at the foot of a tree (you, as the practitioner) with the tree not ‘doing’ anything, but still being fresh and alive.  With Jikiden Reiki, the ‘doing’ simply involves the practitioner placing their hands on the receiver’s body, then paying attention to the sensations they feel in their hands.  Elegant simplicity.  No fuss.

The Rolling Earth

There are many examples in the natural world of the kind of ‘natural presence’ described by Thich Nhat Hanh.  There is a wonderful poem by Walt Whitman called ‘Song of the Rolling Earth’ which also describes such qualities:

The earth neither lags nor hastens,

It does not withhold, it is generous enough …

The earth does not argue,

Is not pathetic, has no arrangements,

Does not scream, haste, persuade, threaten, promise.

Makes no discriminations, has no conceivable failures,

Closes nothing, refuses nothing, shuts none out.

This ‘natural presence’, however, is not just to be found outside of ourselves in the natural objects that form a backdrop to our lives.  We are natural beings at heart and as such we also possess these qualities within ourselves.  Sometimes I find myself reading Walt Whitman’s poem as if he were describing a person – someone who is the human embodiment of this ‘natural presence’ – open, rooted, supportive.

What a great way to ‘be’.