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In the July 10 edition of Staying Power, I told you about “Humanity Present,” an opportunity for shared, silent gazing that I intend to offer in a public setting, here where I reside. Planning for that local project is underway. My basic purpose? “To gift both friends and strangers with attention and compassion—the knowledge that they are seen, and valued—without them having to earn it. To create a meeting ground where so little matters, perhaps everything in the world can matter differently.”

Based on your enthusiastic response, I invited you in the subsequent Staying Power to help me practice gazing via Zoom. Since then, I’ve held five such sessions (5-6PM Central, every Monday through August). Two more remain. (If you’d like to gaze, sign up here. Or, download more info before you commit.)

This is the final Staying Power before my Zoom practices conclude. It’s a good time to thank everyone who has chosen to sit in the Zoom chair across from me. You’ve done so without needing to understand what, if anything, you might gain from the experience. You’ve simply trusted me enough to voluntarily enter a unique space of unconditional regard, care, and hope. I’m grateful.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure that gazing via Zoom would be compelling. Compared to gazing in person, it has obvious limitations. Even so, the Zoom sessions have deeply impacted me. Their effects have been rippling through my daily life.

I’m hoping that, as I reflect here on some of what I’ve learned, maybe your life will be touched by the ripples as well. Here goes …

    1. Everything starts with “showing up.” By “showing up,” I don’t mean just appearing on a Zoom screen. I mean investing sustained, unconditional attention in the living of my life. To the degree that I “show up” when I’m gazing with you, almost anything can happen between us. To the degree I don’t, I restrict what’s possible.
    2. “Showing up” is hard, precious work. It rarely happens by accident. It’s a conscious choice that I must make, again and again and again. It demands energy and focus and discipline, much like devotion to music rehearsal or an exercise regimen. However, the practice period never ends.
    3. “Showing up” is a form of local participation in the Beyond. Grace is always present in my “showing up,” restoring me as I practice and amplifying my efforts beyond my personal intentions and abilities. In other words, I’m not in charge. I’m a collaborator. I’m a participant in a process that’s bigger than myself, or the two of us. As we gaze together, I’m alive with you in an infinite field, bigger than any name we might ever assign it. Let’s call it “Mystery,” or the “Beyond.”
    4. The more I “show up” in my gazing, the more gratitude I feel. I don’t have to tell myself to feel grateful. Gratitude naturally arises. It isn’t “gratitude for” or “gratitude because”; rather, gratitude is the spring water in the well of me, its level increasing on its own accord. The gratitude I feel may be fleeting—my sense of it rises and falls as my attention inevitably “shows up” and “leaves,” “shows up” and “leaves”—but when I’m in the thick of it, I’m not wishing for anything (or anyone) to be otherwise. I can’t really distinguish this sort of boundless gratitude from acceptance of Things As They Are, or from joy in Life As It Is.
    5. My body notices when I’m “showing up.” Gazing isn’t just about the eyes. Truly seeing (and/or being seen by) you is a full-body experience that changes the way my breath moves and my heart beats. My face softens, my shoulders loosen, my spine relaxes, my ribs open. Gazing makes me more aware of my fleshly existence, even as it heightens my sense of spiritual connection to you.
    6. The better I know you, the harder it is to “show up” with you. If you and I have any sort of history, I perceive you through that filter. My practice is to acknowledge the filter, but to avoid reinforcing it with the energy of my thoughts or emotions. As our gazing continues, the filter fades, and I’m able to meet you in the present without so much attachment to the past. Whatever our history might be, no matter how precious or troubled, I don’t want it to determine the quality of this moment.
    7. To “show up,” I have to recognize and surrender any expectations I might have for the experience. Expectations (like filters) aren’t real. Yet, without realizing, I constantly measure or judge myself (and you) against them. For example: Am I feeling what I thought I’d feel, gazing with you? Do you look like you’re having a “good” gazing experience? Are you able to gaze “well?” Am I gazing “well?” … All such questions cloud my gazing. I have to let them go in order to “show up” with openness and unconditional regard.
    8. “Showing up” makes me into a conduit. My proper job isn’t to “send” you something through my gazing (e.g., affirmation) or to “receive” something from you (e.g., joy). It isn’t my place to control what passes between us. I just have to stay open, so that whatever needs to pass between us, in either direction, may do so.
    9. If both you and I “show up,” inexplicable things will sometimes happen (remember #1?). You’ll have to trust me when I say this, because I’m not going to tell you any stories. Telling stories about such things can be counterproductive, setting up expectations and sparking “wishes” that we begin to chase after. We act as if such marvels were somehow superior, instead of persevering in the hard work of showing up. For me, mysterious happenings are humble reminders of my place; of how little I know; of how grand it is that I’ve been allowed a part in the making of this world.
    10. For today, at least, I have no #10. I’ve deliberately left it blank. Might you fill it in?
Photo by Artyom Korshunov on Unsplash


Phyllis Cole-Dai

Phyllis Cole-Dai has authored or edited eleven books in multiple genres, including historical fiction, spiritual nonfiction and poetry. She lives in Brookings, South Dakota, USA.

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