Kything--Being Present to Another
While everyone knows what it means to be physically present to someone, and many know what it means to be psychologically present to another, fewer are aware of the possibility of soul-to-soul or spirit-to-spirit presence. Louis M. Savary and Patricia H. Berne in Kything, the Art of Spiritual Presence, look at the technology of spirit-to-spirit presence which they understand as the art of communion. Kything is the name they use for one of the more basic communion skills. They define the verb “kythe” (rhymes with “tithe”) as “to present your soul to another” or to “show your true Self to another.” The term kything was first used by Madeleine L’Engle to describe a spiritual technique in her novel A Wind in the Door (1973).
Savary and Berne give many examples of the ways in which kything may be used to promote healing. One of the most natural contexts for kything is in the family, where it can promote love, sincerity, and openness. Kything may be used in physical healing, therapy, and relaxation techniques, in providing emotional support, and dealing with loneliness or grief. It can affirm and strengthen your courage, self-esteem, and capacity for compassion. It can increase your commitment to spiritual values.
Their goal is to show people how to practice kything and develop it: how to handle the experience, explore its potentials, and integrate it into their other spiritual practices.
There are three essential steps to the process they describe in detail in their book. Briefly, they are:
Step 1: Get Centered
Since kything is a spiritual process, it is important at the outset that you be present to you own human spirit. The simplest and most sure way of doing this is to get centered. Centering is a holistic process and means quietly focusing the attention of your body, mind, and spirit on yourself. When centered, you are able to say “I am present to myself.”
Kything does not require you use any particular centering technique. Savary and Berne offer several simple techniques for those who do not already have a favorite.
Step 2: Focus on the Other
Once centered in yourself, you can shift your focus of attention to the person with whom you want to kythe. You begin to “center” on the other person. This is a state of consciousness they call being lovingly single-minded or single-focused on an object. It is a holistic state in which you hold your kything partner in a contemplative gaze. They offer several ways of doing this. If the person is physically present, you may quietly and lovingly gaze at her until you can say “I am present to your spirit.” If the person is not physically present, form a picture of them in your imagination. Look at the image lovingly until you can say “I am present to your spirit.” If you have no idea what the person you want to kythe with looks like, hold in your imagination a symbol, or focus on their name—whatever will help you focus on your kything partner until you can say, “I am present to your spirit.” Part of this second step is returning to focus whenever you become distracted, which they emphasize is very natural! Simply keep returning to focus.
Step 3: Establish Connection
You establish a spirit-to-spirit connection so that the two of you become joined freely and lovingly to each other at level of spirit. When this step is complete, you will be able to say, “We are present spirit-to-spirit” or “We are in communion.”
There are two parts to this step:
1) Envision or symbolically image the two of you physically present to each other and forming a bond, e.g., I picture you and me standing face-to-face smiling at each other.
2) Make a choice to create what you envision, to make the union of you and the other a reality (an inner reality, but nonetheless a reality). Use whatever image facilitates your choice to be one with your partner in spiritual presence. You may picture both of you surrounded by divine light, or walking hand-in-hand in the woods, or as two peas in a pod.
Choice-making here puts into motion whatever forces are needed to establish the connection you envision. Just as physical presence cannot happen unless you choose to meet me, and psychological presence cannot happen unless you choose to listen to me and to share, spiritual union cannot be created except through choice.
Remember that the imagery in this step is simply the vehicle by which you enter the kything experience. It is not the kythe itself.
Kything offers you the opportunity directly to unite your love and will—to express who you are. For beginners, Savary and Berne suggest allowing ten minutes for the three steps. With practice, it may take only moments. They emphasize that the effectiveness of the kythe is not measured by the length of time you stay conscious of the communion, but by your ability to establish the union and choose it.