My Dear One,
“Be where you are.”
Someone once said those words to me and they’ve stuck with me ever since. At times they are consoling words, reminding me that here is a good (enough) place to be. Often they call me into account and force me back to wherever else it is I am at the moment. I am not always able to live into them as fully as I wish. But I know they are true. Here is the only place where you can be.
And yet most of us are not here. I spend more time than I care to with somewhere else in mind. Sometimes I’m in the past, rehashing a previous conversation, something someone said that bothered me, something I wish I’d said differently, wishing I hadn’t made some mistake, etc. Sometimes I’m in the future, worrying about how something will turn out, being afraid of the unknown, longing for a time when things will be different and hopefully better.
But here is the only place we can truly be.
And it’s the primary place God calls us to be. Why? Because God calls us to love. And the only place most of us know how to express love is in the here and now. We can forgive someone for the past but we cannot love them in the past. We can only love them in the now. We can care for someone’s future but we cannot love them there just yet. But we can love someone in the now in a way that builds towards the future.
And the love we express now has, in its own way, the power to heal the past and shape the future.
Be where you are.
How do we do that when we spend our days planning for what is to come? Or staring at our phones interacting with disembodied data? Even as I write this my phone is dinging and buzzing with messages, beckoning my attention away from what I’m trying to create in the present moment.Our to do list calls. There’s always YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, Reddit, Flipboard, Instagram and Twitter if we get bored.
So how do we do it? How do we become present?
Jesus of Nazareth, as always, gives us a good model.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:24b-34
How did Jesus know that power had gone from him? It came from being in tune with his own power in the first place.
This is not where we usually are. Most of us are out of tune with our own power and energy. Exhaustion accumulates until we finally pay attention and collapse into our bed. Illness progresses until going to a doctor or the hospital is our only option. Anger builds causing our blood pressure to rise and our face to flush. Resentment festers until a deep tightness in our stomach sets in. Our bodies speak to us and warn us about all of these things, if we would only listen to it.
Which direction is energy flowing from you this day? Can you feel it flowing out in love and peace as a healing force for those around you? Or do you feel like an energy black hole, sucking in as much as you can from others in a desperate attempt to fill a place that only God and you can fill?
Jesus was aware of what was going on inside him. He was listening to his body. He was present to his own energy field. He was “immediately aware” and it astounded his disciples as it astounds us today still. “How can he know?” He in turns asks us, “How can you not know?”
20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 20:24
In this passage we read that we do indeed have power. And that “the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” That is a great and awesome power! Do you feel power-full today? Or are you continuing to live in a constructed reality in which you are power-less? If so, then claim your power! You are not its source so you need not fear that you don’t have it. It comes from a power far greater than yourself and you are blessed with the ability to be its conduit.
Electricity will attempt to flow through anything. Some material is a much better conductor of its power. What kind of conductor do you wish to be?
If you wish to be a great conductor of the divine power at work within you, a conductor of love to the world around you, a conductor of healing to those who touch you, then like Jesus, be aware and present.
There is available to us a deeper knowledge of ourselves that too few of us tap into. And knowledge about self is knowledge about the universe for we contain within ourselves all the spiritual elements: light, darkness, earth, water, wind, fire. And they are connected, through God’s Holy Spirit, to everything and everyone else there is.
This week, work on your awareness of that connection. Get a better sense of your own spirit. Know your energy and notice the coming and going of it. Do what it takes to make more space for receptivity. Open your heart to being an even greater conductor of God’s love.
Be where you are.
Where are you?
following The Way,
This Week's Elder: Thomas Keating
Perhaps no teacher is the western world has had a greater impact in recent history on the practice of being present than Thomas Keating. Fr. Keating, a Roman Catholic monastic, pioneered and popularized the practice of Centering Prayer (more below). In the following video, he says that he spent 4 or 5 hours a day in meditation and then sought to live the rest of his hours in constant awareness of the divine presence. This video, prepared in memoriam after his death in 2018, is a beautiful recap of his way of being in the world.
Our Practice This Week: Practicing Presence through Centering Prayer
Our relationship with God requires time and investment just like any other relationship. We must cultivate awareness. Centering Prayer is a wonderful tool for just such work. Father Keating suggests three basic guidelines for this form of prayer:
Choose a sacred word.
Introduce the sacred word.
Return to the sacred word.
Examples of sacred words might include: peace, grace, silence, Yahweh, oneness, center, amen, etc.
Dedicate at least 20 minutes to the practice of centering prayer. Shorter amounts of time will likely not get you to a point of centered silence. Begin by getting comfortable. Close your eyes and begin to slowly focus on your sacred word. You might say it in your head several times to ease into this time. At some point, you may find you have centered yourself and no longer need to repeat your sacred word. Spend time in silence with God, not needing to say anything to God or to hear anything from God. Notice noises and other sensations but then let them go. Return to your sacred word if you find your mind wandering. Practice centering prayer throughout this week as a way to build relationship with God.
If you'd like more instruction, here is a clip of Fr. Keating teaching Centering Prayer: