Practicing Presence — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Practicing Presence

Living in the Now

Practicing Presence
Friday, November 24, 2017

The presence of God is infinite, everywhere, always, and forever. You cannot not be in the presence of God. There’s no other place to be. It is we who are not present to Presence. We’ll make any excuse to be somewhere else than right here. Right here, right now never seems enough. It actually is, but it is we who are not aware enough yet.

All spiritual teaching—this is not an oversimplification—is about how to be present to the moment. When you’re present, you will experience the Presence. But the problem is, we’re almost always somewhere else: reliving the past or worrying about the future.

As a Franciscan, I have many opportunities to go away for long periods in solitude. When I’m in a hermitage, there’s no television, smart phone, computer, or radio. There’s pretty much nothing but the natural. You’d think it would be easier to be present to Presence in this setting, and in some ways it is—watching the snow fall, listening to a hawk’s cry, walking slowly without any particular destination or deadline. But I can’t escape my monkey mind even on retreat. Daily contemplative prayer is crucial to helping me live in the now. It takes constant intention and practice to remain open, receptive, and awake to the moment.

We live in a time with more easily available obstacles to presence than any other period in history. We carry our obstacles in our pockets now, vibrating and notifying and emoji-ing us about everything and nothing. And let’s be honest: most of our digital and personal conversation is about nothing. Nothing that matters, nothing that lasts, nothing that’s real. We think and talk about the same things again and again, like a broken record. Pretty soon we realize we’ve frittered away years of our life, and it is the only life we have.

We have to find a way to more deeply experience our experiences. Otherwise we’re just on cruise control, and we go through our whole life not knowing what’s happening. Whether we realize it or not, the divine energy of God is flowing through each one of us. When we draw upon this Source consciously, our life starts filling with what some call coincidences or synchronicities which we can never explain. This has nothing to do with being perfect, highly moral, or formally religious. I wish someone had told me that when I was young. I would still have been religious, but now in a whole different way—and all the time.

Gateway to Silence:
God is right here right now.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “First Sunday of Advent: To Be Awake Is to Be Now, Here,” November 30, 2014 (Center for Action and Contemplation),

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