7.22.23 Living In the Present Moment
Too often we need to protect ourselves from what happened to us in the past and prevent it from happening again in the future. We cannot be present to anything, much less to ourselves in the present moment. Last month I was writing about the presence of God. If we are able to be in His presence, the major benefit aside from knowing God in our lives is that we are also learning to be present to this moment and the next in our lives. God is there with us and teaching us how to be present to everyone we meet. We begin to really see what is happening with ourselves and to others by being fully present to everyone and everything as we experience each moment.
When we are able to be present to God, we can become present to ourselves and everyone else, because we are unloading our own “baggage,” what we suffered through in our lives. No longer are we half-listening to the people we are with and thinking about something else. We can see them and what they are saying fully and clearly, picking up all the clues as to the truth of what they are saying. Our being present to them means a lot to the people we meet. They experience our willingness to really be fully with them as love for them. We are really interested in who they are in this moment, able to be fully with them. We are not judging them, but really seeing them. We also can see the reasons why they are doing or saying what they are sharing with us without any judgment. We are forgiving them for being who they are. Again, this is love.
When we are truly present to others, we experience the joy of these encounters which the Holy Spirit is sharing with all of us present. And that joy is truly a deep connection between us. The major lesson we learn as we seek to live in the present moment is to learn to be an observer of our thoughts, not engaged with them as they come up. It is in meditation or Centering Prayer that we can learn this. Often the thoughts that come to us are ones that we have had from our childhood on. The mind is trying to keep us to the agenda for our lives that we learned from our parents and our culture and to hide our grief and pain from us. One of my thoughts that brings a lot of pressure with it is the need to be early or at the very least right on time for whatever is next in my life. This was a lesson I learned from my parents. Today, I can still feel the pressure to be on time when I am driving to some appointment or date, even when I know that I’ll be early! So, what I have learned to do is to smile at that thought, to wave at it in my mind, and not to react to the pressure. It still comes up, but now I know how to let it go.
It helps to know the source of the thought and even why it is so important to your mind, but these thoughts come all the time. When you can just observe them, they fade away. If we have a daily practice of meditation or Centering Prayer, we learn how to do this by letting go of the thoughts that our mind tries to interrupt us with. Start out with short sittings, say 10 minutes. In Centering Prayer, we are advised to choose a phrase, a word or two long, that we will use to bring us back to the silence when our minds wander. As we get used to meditating and see the value of doing it, we can move to longer and longer times, say 20, then 30 minutes. These practices have a spillover effect into our whole day when done daily. They maintain us in a centered and more peaceful place for the full day when it is a daily practice. As we become an observer of our thoughts, we relax into a deeper and deeper place, a place of peace.