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Home  /  Integrative Cancer Care  /  Mind  /  Healing Environment  /  Healing Presence

Healing Presence

By Jeannine Walston


Presence is a state of being present with a transpersonal connection to one’s self and other people. A state of presence requires being open and grounded in the here and now with qualities of compassion and surrender. Expressed with and without words, presence involves seeing and feeling with and through the whole person with attention and awareness. In verbal communication, presence involves serving as a container for another human being and supporting them on the path to their center. In silence, presence through non-verbal expression honors exactly what is and invites innate wholeness with expansion into a bigger picture. The caring nature of presence includes an authentic connection with one’s spirit and a spirit-to-spirit connection with another person. The practice and experience of presence can deepen over time. For some, presence becomes effortless. When we express presence to ourselves and other people, the following qualities are involved.

  • Full attention
  • Open, available heart
  • Attention grounded in the feet
  • Soft, relaxed eye focus
  • Relaxed physical body
  • Deep listening
  • Bearing witness
  • Awareness with all senses
  • Total immersion in the present moment
  • Full integration of an interconnected body, heart, and mind
  • Expansive connection with and embodiment of spirit
  • Building a container of safety and integrity
  • Relaxing into space and holding some space for another person
  • Surrendering into your center and placing the other person in the center of the exchange and themselves
  • Letting go into your breath and breathing with another person
  • Truly being with yourself and another person

How does presence apply to people with cancer?

“Serious illness can be a terribly lonely journey. When danger hovers over a group of monkeys, arousing their anxiety, they instinctively huddle together and groom each other feverishly. This doesn’t reduce the danger, but it relieves their loneliness. Our Western values, with their worship of concrete results, may blind us to our profound animal need for presence when facing danger and uncertainty. Gentle, constant, reliable presence is often the most beautiful gift our dear ones can give us. But not many of them know that.”
-David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD, Anticancer

What is the potential of presence and healing for anyone?

Healing presence and energy is “a deep presence that enhances recovery and repair. A physical and emotional wholeness from which deep personal engagement, caring, and communication emerge. In Eastern cultures this presence is often expressed as ‘bioenergy’ and is believed to be accumulated, stored, and transmitted between healer and healee.”
-Wayne Jonas, MD

“When fully present with another, you activate the potential of becoming a healing environment by offering yourself as an environment in which the individual can dwell. The gift of presence takes place in this dwelling place and serves as ‘home.’ Being two fold, for in making a ‘home’ for another, you create ‘home’ for yourself, a place where, as your presence enables another’s being to be unconcealed, your own being is more fully revealed.”
-Adapted from a quote in the 3rd Edition Holistic Nursing Manual

  • How are you present with yourself?
  • What are the ways in which you can give yourself more presence?
  • Who in your life gives you presence?
  • Who touches you with presence?
  • How can you create and experience more presence from others?
  • What do you need that you are not asking for?