Choosing to live on the streets of Columbus, Ohio for 47 days may not seem earth-shattering, but for Phyllis Cole-Dai, and her photographer friend, James Murray, the experience was, in many ways, soul-shattering. They found themselves immersed in an alternate universe offering up the kind of devastation that stripped bare their psyches and spirits. After just two nights, Murray was already broken to pieces.
The decision to go to the streets had not been made lightly or done as a stunt. Cole-Dai felt a deep call she could not ignore. Her intent was to offer up the gift of presence to everyone she met.
So then what transpires when you suddenly find yourself in deep survival mode? How are you transformed while living in a world ill at ease with the homeless... with you? How do you cope with feeling invisible, despised, and less than human? When constantly wrestling with intense fear, uncertainty, and struggle, what gives? What sustains?
How is it that something as simple as being seen can be such a consolation? Nothing is inconsequential to the one in need of the kind of attention that shelters, or the haven to be found in the eyes of compassion. To be seen like that is to receive an act of love.
As one with an outreach to those without a home, immersing myself within The Emptiness of Our Hands has reaffirmed for me the power of "thereness" (really being there for, and with, someone). It has stirred a deep desire to be a very present haven to the one who might need to rest for a moment in my embracing presence.
This book is for anyone who seeks to express the kind of humanity that feeds and shelters souls. Just as there are many ways to experience homelessness, there are also many ways to be the kind of home presence needed by the displaced, the lost, or the lonely souls we encounter all around us.
I also highly recommend the companion volume entitled Practicing Presence. This compilation of 47 reflections (one from each of the author's 47 days on the streets) enables each of us to more fully develop and engage our mindfulness intentions. I consider these two books the most important reading I have done all year.
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