The path of presence


Thursday, May 1, 2014.  For several days, I’ve sought a sign as to whether presence is, indeed, the way to go.  No answer could be clearer than my experience this afternoon.  I’ve gone through exactly the transition described in “Chaos overwhelms the poor.”  I have power and competence to deal with my current circumstances, with the resources at hand.  I perceive the universe as a well-ordered place.  This cosmic harmony provides the foundation for hope.  I may soon be able to face with confidence the unknown, uncertain future.

That I did all this on my own raises the question of whether there exists, in the end, the unseen world.  I have that answer already; I’ve been in this place before.

———— ♦ ————

From “Chaos overwhelms the poor:”

Jesus and others have taught an approach to life that enables one to learn to care for oneself and begin to establish harmony in one’s immediate situation.

One begins the only place one can begin: in the present, here and now.

“Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” When chaos rages all around me, I can obtain complete calm by fixing my attention on the material, concrete facts of my immediate circumstances and on the one thing I can order completely: my own conduct.

This effects profound empowerment, by the conservation of my emotional energies. No longer am I being drained by concerns about possibilities as to which I am powerless: apprehension of what disaster may come tomorrow, expectations that this person or that person must rescue me from the present; anxiety over what someone coulda shoulda woulda done yesterday to avert my present problems.

None of those things can change the facts that face me now.

My mind is clear, and I can plan a course of action relying only on the actual resources at hand to me right now. No matter how meager they may be, I can almost always find a way.

I may have to do without (smokes or coffee, for example). I may have to endure some discomfort (staying a few days at a less desirable shelter, for example). But I can make it. I need not live in crisis today. This outcome is tremendously heartening.

I can do it again tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. I can obtain courage to plan, to set goals, even to make promises and keep them. But presence is first, foremost and paramount.

All Jesus’ teachings have the end of enabling one to attain and maintain presence; in the words of the like-minded teacher Ram Dass, to “be here now.”

From “Opening the present:”

The Practice of the Presence of God records conversations with Brother Lawrence, a late medieval monk who trained himself to attend to a sense of God’s presence to him moment by moment throughout the day.  This effected a continuous attention to the mundane here and now, accompanied by a quietness of mind — no matter how hectic the circumstances in which he found himself — that made it easy for him to, as he said, continuously “keep watch of my affections,” that is, of his emotions.

In presence, as in silence, distractions generally don’t come from external stimuli, but rather from within oneself. They don’t come as thoughts, ideas or memories, but rather as untoward feelings. If one were to engage them, soon enough some corresponding thought, idea or memory would come; and one could get wrapped up in that; and then one really would be distracted. As it is, before any thought occurs, it is easy enough to either sublimate the untoward affect, changing it directly into something better; or release it, merely letting it pass out of one’s experience. Either way, one restores the placid affective state that prevailed before the — spiritual flatulence — arrived.

In Silentium Altum (Deep Silence), Ambrose Worrall spoke similarly about distractions:

If there is a thought that should be avoided, do not entertain it.  Some have tried to destroy thoughts by fighting them.  This is not a success­ful method.  The way to overcome unwanted thought is to think its opposite.  In this way hope replaces despair, confidence re­places fear, success takes the place of failure and faith takes the place of doubt.

So also light replaces darkness, and prosperity replaces need.

———— ♦ ————

This is the last in a series of five posts:
“Just how bad do you think you’ve got it?” – May 10
The Life Force: Use and abuse – May 17
Co-creators with God – May 24
The wandering will – May 31
The path of presence – Today

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