A Silent Witnessing

I’ve got sunsets on my mind! Well, I’ve got the wonder and curiosity of what it might be like to approach each of my interactions/ communicative exchanges as if I were gazing on a sunset.

This was the challenge we were given during the MA’s Mindfulness Teacher Supervision training session last night. Can we walk around and see people as sunsets?

watching sunset

Now, when I first heard this suggestion, I tried to imagine just that- gazing at a person as if they were a sunset. I had this vision of myself looking all doe- eyed and goofy. Then the thought came- ‘What if people think I am taking drugs?’ This might alarm those who I come into contact with. I must admit, I found this slightly  amusing.

Then I closed my eyes and put myself in front of that sunset again. I felt my eyes soften, a soft smile appeared and I marvelled at the shifting colours with each passing moment.

What might it be like if I was able to bring this same soft, openness to each passing moment of conversation?

Many poets and scholars speak about being present for others. This Nhat Hanh explains that the best present we can give one another is our full embodied presence.

John O’Donohue, the Irish poet and philosopher puts it another way:

Open your eyes and see the friends

Whose hearts recognize your face as kin,

Those whose kindness watchful and near,

Encourages you to live everything here.

For me, these words bring to mind a sense of care-taking and safeness that can come with being heard and held in relationship. It also brings to mind all of the times that I have felt unheard and alone and how in those times I have often wished to be surrounded by those who do make me feel held and safe. I used to, and still do from time to time, tell my best friend that I just want her to brush my hair so that I can feel soothed and held.

Perhaps in times of struggle, I simply need to feel the human connection of being seen in the same way that I gaze upon a sunset. For in the moment as it passes, there might be a shared silent witnessing, where nothing else needs to be done.

In which case, what might it be like if I can do this for others?

This week, I would like to extend the challenge that was given to me- to greet those you meet as if they were a sunset. Can we be present with a soft, warm openness, allowing all that unfolds to be without judgment? A silent witnessing.

Or, as John O’Donohue writes, can we allow the presence of others to ‘encourage [us] to live everything here’?

-Jane

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