It is not easy offering advice or what we deem as wise counsel to family, friends, clients, spiritual directees, or others who are suffering, baffled, or lost. For an column, Parker Palmer writes about "The Gift of Presence, the Perils of Advice." He begins with several examples of well-doers who intend to help others but wind up doing more harm than good. Sadly, some of those who come to others' aid are there for the wrong reason — self-interest rather than selfless service.

Palmer cuts to the chase:

"Here's the deal. The human soul doesn't want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is."

Truly being present takes a lot of patience and practice given our propensities for "quick fixes." Very few things in these times are done slowly, even attending to the soul of another is administered under the guise of "cut and run."

Palmer gives an example of how one friend brought peace and silent witness to his condition for several months. His giving was "in the form of personal presence and attention." In these times of widespread anxiety about the future and personal doubts about our resilience under so much stress, Palmer offers the wisdom and healing powers of the spiritual practices of being present and paying attention. Add in deep listening to create a soulful trinity for spiritual companioning.

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