Sketch of an old footbridge over a stream

The Bridge Between

Exploring dialogue through the lens

of Martin Buber and Contextual Therapy

Becoming Present and Aware

Janet Stauffer

Published: August 24th, 2020


I invite you to take one minute to be quiet. Play the video, feel your breath, hear the sounds, be with the water, find your bench to sit and be.

Buber said, "The limits of the possibility of dialogue are the limits of awareness.”

Awareness, the openness to see from a place of being is foundational for living dialogue, for being with both self and other. Presence is a practiced art. The cultural currents press us into molds of function, accomplishment, data, producing. Western values have tended to see sitting still as lazy or shirking responsibility. Some kinds of sitting still are not the best choice such as when I am frozen by fear and unable to find courage to stand for justice in a moment that is mine to do so. But the kind of sitting still with fully engaged awareness and presence is one of the most powerful gifts in human existence. Nurturing this seed, an innate human capacity and need in each one of us, grows a powerful gift in the universe.

I sat on this bench by the stream early springtime. A beloved was very sick with Covid. “God, this is so hard.” I allowed myself to be still and present to all that I held. A sound in the underbrush. A deer peering at me curiously. Chipmunk hustled to a rock by the water and lay down. Robin flew by and settled on a near branch. The world was alive with me in my waiting. I waited. I breathed. I listened. I spoke. I heard fear inside of me. What was ahead for us? What to “do” about this growing angst, this fear? What did our future hold that I couldn’t control? I turned and faced the part of me that held fear. I choose to speak to my fear in a gentle voice. “Come here, fear.” I decided to welcome it, and assure it I would care for it, and hold it close. It didn’t need to feel alone and overwhelm me.

I couldn’t manage my future, but I could open to know and receive all of me, the nature around me, the divine Love that pursues each one of us all the days of our lives. My fear and I were held in the space of God’s love. Which didn’t mean that fear and hope, grief and joy would not co-exist, they would; but I was not alone … love pursued me.

As I rose from my bench and turned to leave, I was drawn to this beautiful yellow trout lily that emerged in the spring woods. So tiny, I had missed it on my way to the bench. Or was I too full of worry, not present to the joy already here? It too had been sitting vigil just three feet behind me. Practice the art of presence. If it is a minute, a breath, a day. Slow down, focus on here, now, be alive, and aware. From this moment, the opportunity to be fully present to one another arises, the gift of dialogue emerges, true meeting happens and we know ourselves and the other more fully.