I'm leading a day-long retreat for hospital chaplains next week. Their ministry is the ministry of presence. But like most of us, they struggle to be truly present to the sick and dying and their families, and to the doctors and nurses who care for them. Like us, they too often find their minds flitting to and fro from one thought to another like bees in a flower garden. Bees seem always in a race against time. Chaplains don't want to make their rounds that way, but often do. So we'll explore two topics, "Living in the Present" and "Praying in the Present," as ways to recover the ministry of presence.
I'd like to put together a short questionnaire that helps them examine the state of their presence of mind---how present they really are to this present moment.
You can help me.
Here are three sample questions I may use. Would you test them in your own life, and give me some feedback. Do they help? What question might you add?
1. I find myself looking deeply into the eyes of the person before me, even if just for a few moments, pausing before the mystery of their life, reading their gaze as I'd read a good book. __often __ occasionally __ rarely __ never
2. When I'm distracted by a thought about an obligation, responsibility, or need---what I'm to do next, a fear, memory, desire---how quickly am I able to return to what is right before me?
__ I don't know; I've never even stopped to think about how my thoughts lure me away
__ I can wander off with a thought for minutes at a time before I realize I'm not really here
__ I quickly recognize the distraction, tell myself "I'll get to that," and return to what I'm doing
__ When I'm driving, I'm driving; when I'm washing dishes, I'm washing dishes---thoughts pull at me but I follow them only when I choose to
3. In an average hour of my day, what percentage of time do my thoughts hover over things from the past (____%) or over concerns about the future (____%)? What percentage of that hour is spent completely absorbed in the present, aware only of what is going on here and now around or within me? _____%