For three straight months, Mariana Abramovic did something as remarkable as anything I've witnessed. She sat for twelve hours every day in a chair in New York's Museum of Modern Art. Her performance art appeared an exhibit called "The Artist is Present."
Across from her, thousands lined up to sit across from her, Others watched. Some shook their heads in dismay.
No words were spoken. Before each guest took their seat, Marina sat with her eyes lowered. When she sensed the presence of the other, she raised her eyes and looked directly into theirs for as long as they wanted to sit there.
The experience of such profound presence shook many to tears.
In general, only babies can stare us straight in the eye. The rest of us seem to be afraid of such a steady gaze.
I tried a much safer sounding variation on Marina's approach. I stared into the mirror into my own eyes. It was hard to maintain the gaze for long.
After all, what is the point? If you want to reach deeper into yourself, try this exercise with someone you love - or with a stranger open to the experience.
If you want to go deeper still look into your own eyes for ten or fifteen minutes.
The length of time matters. A five second gaze will accomplish little (although even that can seem like a lot if neither you or the other person are speaking. And that's a second key: no talking.
Radical Loving presence requires completely changing our way of being present. A curator at the museum said that Ms. Abramovic's performance literally "slowed everyone down."
Unoccupied with the long list of things that chatter through our mind, we begin to experience life in a richer way.
Most important for caregivers, this is the kind of work that transforms us from "fixers" to healers.
Jesus understood this. So did Gandhi and Mother Theresa and everyone else who experiences Love in deeper ways.
Profound presence is difficult. Mariana does not say she has the answer.
Like all geniuses, she points the way for us. She offers a remarkable gift.
She offers Love.