One day in the course of my recent work, I sat with four different people: one trying to rescue a relative lost in a foreign country, one who narrowly escaped danger alive, one making an uncertain career transition, and one hospitalized after a suicide attempt.
Each one hoped for clarity, affirmation, and connection. Each one was uplifted by our contact. One made a plan, one felt loved, one moved forward in their quest, and one strengthened their courage to heal. And the only gift I had at hand to offer them was my conscious attention.
Was I afraid to be armed with such a limited tool? Yes.
Was I afraid to have no prepared words, advice, or resources? Yes.
So I acknowledged the fear in prayer.
“Holy One, I am stepping into a situation about which I know nothing, and in which I may have nothing to offer. Help me be present, help me feel my feet on the ground, connected to the energy of Your earth. May Your energy flow through me, rising in my body, flowing out my hands, out the top of my head. May I be a channel who shares Your energy with others. May I be able to stand with them in Your Presence, as You guide us with your wisdom and your will.”
I always pray for Presence before I enter a pastoral care, counseling, or spiritual direction situation — for the Presence that will enable me to engage the tools of my consciousness.
By “Presence,” I mean an ability to listen with many kinds of “ears”; to hold the data I receive distinct from my reactions to it; to stay focused on these observational tasks, trusting that a response will come from me when it is needed.