I was struck by a comment from Richard Rohr in The Divine Dance. “Before we move on… try to be here. Which, as you know is the hardest place to be.”
Ouch! He’s right. But is it worth the effort?
Personally I find it very difficult to just ‘be present’, to be in the here and now. It’s not that it’s too complex or complicated and I’m avoiding it. Rather it’s more that I want to be ‘there’. To have arrived. And to be free from the stuff that currently hangs around my shoulders.
So what do we gain from being here now? And what do we need to let go of?
Push and pull
I can’t just put on the mantle of being present, as if all I have to do is switch off my mind and be… Being empty isn’t being present – it’s absence. But being full can be noisy with the push of the past and the pull of the future, leaving the present as no-man’s land.
The past can have a loud voice. It shouts about the things I haven’t done, the missed opportunities, the push for redemption of time. It’s an uncomfortable pressure and one I know I can never fully satisfy.
However, I can change my lens and choose to focus on the way my past has given me gifts for the present. I wouldn’t be here now but for… Knowing and seeing with gratitude and grace, rather than loss. Choosing gentleness and mercy over judgement.
As someone who tends to be a ‘seer’, the louder call is that of the future for me. Wouldn’t it be great if… We’ll be OK when… Perhaps we could… My sense of momentum is always strong. Navigating forward, seeing the potential for transformation, creative imagination… It never stops.
We need this forward sight, this sense of movement. It’s in our very beings. Imagination, hope and meaning are powerful elements of who we are and we need to feed them well.
However, the pull – the excitement and anticipation – can also rob us of rest. Of being grounded and at peace now. In our rushing forward we can forego the fruit of being present.
Standing between the push of the past and the pull of the future can feel like a really narrow place. Like walking a tightrope, you’re probably more concerned about falling off than enjoying the view.
Being here now
Another passing comment from Richard Rohr made me stop and wonder. He gave the invitation to step into a different kind of knowing. “One that the ordinary mind with its ordinary cares simply isn’t up for…” And the encouragement not to be afraid of this silence as it might be a “more spacious place.”
I do know what ‘a more spacious place’ feels like. And it’s not a tightrope or a claustrophobic narrowness without air and light. It’s far, far bigger than we can imagine. And actually it is the only place we can fully be.
We can remember yesterday and imagine tomorrow. But we can only be here, now, at this moment in our lives.
This doesn’t mean that our choices are arbitrary. We are here because we’ve been there. And we are not static, we’re on a journey that we cannot halt. We aren’t just surviving.
So how can we choose to be more fully present? To inhabit this spacious place of now, with all its light and colour?
Standing in the woods this morning, hearing the tumbling brook below and feeling the wind in the trees prompted two thoughts: appreciation and curiosity.
- Appreciation – being here now, today, in this place. I am so grateful to be here, alive at this time, breathing this air. Noticing the season changing and recognising God’s faithfulness to us over the years. We’re still here, even though there were many times when we couldn’t see ahead. This changes my sight, my knowing, my resting.
- Curiosity – so what do we need to learn from this place? What does it have to teach us, to shape in us? What do I need to notice, today, that I haven’t seen before? How is this being part of our becoming? What do I need to pay attention to, to feed?
The view from here
I’m writing looking out across the lake. A Little Grebe is bobbing on the wind ruffled water, choosing its moment to do a deeper dive. Welsh clouds give space for the sun to stretch down the hillside and briefly cross the water as the little bird goes under. And the Swallow swoops across the surface and plays in the wind.
Where are you – what does your ‘now’ look like? Does it feel closed and empty? Or noisy and not a place you’d want to linger?
Making friends with being present, being here now, will be different for each of us. But be encouraged, it’s worth it – there’s nowhere else you can fruitfully be.
- Richard Rohr, with Mike Morrell – The Divine Dance, 2016, SPCK Publishing – whilst this isn’t specifically about being present, it is “A beautiful choreography of a life well lived”, Bono
- Pico Iyer – British born essayist and novelist of Indian origin, best known for his travel writings. His TED talk on The Art of Stillness is lovely
- Journal – I am going to restart keeping a simple daily journal… I don’t want to miss capturing what happens in my ‘now’ space, with appreciation and curiosity