Recently I went on a retreat. One question from my spiritual director has stuck with me. She asked: “Is there a different way to be present to an issue other than getting tangled up in it or ignoring it?”
I didn’t know at first how that could be possible—to be present to a concern without trying to solve it somehow or getting trapped in the intricacy of its emotional cords. More often I am guilty of thinking too much about things rather than not enough. More often I spend my time trying to solve or understand a situation. But to simply be present to it without doing that? It felt too much like laziness or neglect to me, failing to do the hard work needed to move forward. Yet as I have sat with the insights from the retreat, that is the one I keep coming back to, which must mean there is some truth there for me.
I remember the chair in the middle of the woods I sat in for a long time at the retreat. And then I look at a chair in my living room. I wonder how I can invite these questions and unresolved issues in, have them sit in the room with me in one of those chairs, even offer them a cup of tea, but not feel obliged to pull them apart or get sucked into their pull. Just to be present with them in a new way that is neither neglectful nor anxious but aware, calm, and hospitable.
I think it may be possible to do that; I also think it may be important for me to try. Not forever, because sometimes you do have to just dig in and work at something. But given my make-up as a person, it’s less likely that I would ignore something forever than it is I would simply sit with it in silence, like an old friend, and wait quietly for what is going to happen next, with our without my worrying it into being. To simply be present. And be still.