Finding Meaning in the Present Moment
We spend our lives running as fast as we can from the past into the future. Do we ever find meaning in the present moment?
Studying the past, we try to discern its lessons for us. How can we avoid the mistakes other people have made? What examples does the past offer for us to follow?
Are we able to learn from history, or are we doomed to repeat it?
We read books and listen to stories searching for nuggets of truth to save us in the future.
Even our own personal history is sifted for what we could have done better. If only we had made one particular decision differently or done something else that one day.
We allow ourselves to wallow in regret about our past because of our anxiety about the future.
The future is a place of uncertainty for us. Either we believe our fantasies and our hopes or we allow our fears to direct us.
We assume the future grows out of our past in a linear, cause-and-affect pattern.
It is easy for us to spend time and energy listening to the past and the future. We hear the loud voices of our regrets and our anxieties. Why could we not have made wiser choices? How are we ever going to get even close to where we want to go?
The past and the future can be full of selected memories, insecurities, and worries. It is often challenging for us to listen to the stillness of the past or the future.
When we listen to sacred stillness we are most often seeking meaning in the present moment.
Searching for the Present Moment
The past and the future can be difficult places for us to explore. There may be landmarks and landmines waiting to trip us up. It is easy to get lost because things look so different from how we expected they would.
My own past often speaks to me with a loud voice. I hear things I have said or written whether I am trying to or not. The words of other people ring in my ears long after I first heard them.
What I hear is often not really what was said. The past which can speak so loudly to me is filtered through my own perceptions and perspective.
It is a challenge to reflect on the past well when I have difficulty hearing it clearly.
The future also tends to raise its voice in my ear.
My future asks me quite a few questions. What is going to happen to me if that takes place, or if this does not? How are things going to work out for me? Why can things not just work out smoothly and well, the way they appear to for other people?
Will I live up to my potential?
The past and the future are filled with loud voices and noises which distract us. It is easy for us to find ourselves paying attention to all the questions and advice. We have a difficult time finding stillness in the past or the future.
For me, it is most effective to seek meaning in the present moment.
Each present moment feels clean and new. I can almost taste or smell the freshness of the present.
The present moment has a deep, clear meaning which makes listening worthwhile.
Exploring the Present Moment
We teach ourselves to explore sacred stillness by practicing being still. It is almost as if our exploration depends on allowing the present stillness to explore us.
We begin to explore stillness in the present moment by stopping and paying attention.
Our exploration is not a matter of focused examination or concentration. We have become accustomed to dividing our minds into compartments and thinking about one thing at a time. Exploring sacred stillness is a different, almost opposite, approach.
We explore the meaning of the stillness in the present moment by opening ourselves and our minds.
Our exploring is about listening more than weighing or analyzing. We are not drawing a map of meaning or of sacred stillness, we are encountering it. It is not a specimen we are studying. We are opening ourselves to a new relationship.
Exploring the present moment does not require any special equipment or advanced training. We do not need to exert our will or build our endurance.
As we stop and listen to sacred stillness we open ourselves to its meaning. Exploring the stillness in the present moment is an experience we share.
We can sit comfortably with our eyes closed and listen to sacred stillness. It is more like hearing a powerful piece of music than climbing a mountain.
Meaning in the Stillness
The stillness we hear as we listen is beyond what we can put into words. It is alive and changing over time. Each day, each time we listen is unique.
There are times when sacred stillness covers us like a comforting blanket. At other times it provokes us to take action or get something moving.
Sacred stillness is meaningful in ways we cannot always explain or understand or describe. The stillness draws us into personal connection and shows us who we are.
Part of the power of stillness is it exists in the present. It cannot be found in the past or the future. We can only listen to sacred stillness in the present moment.
Stillness is not something we can stockpile or store for the future. The stillness we have found in the past is not transferrable.
We pause to replenish our stillness each day. The sacred stillness within us connects to the sacred stillness in the present moment all around us.
We take a breath and that moment becomes the past. The stillness flows through us and we cannot remember it.
Each moment taps into its own supply of sacred stillness.
Where can we find meaning in the present moment today?
How will we listen to the stillness of the present moment this week?
[Image by Frank Morales R]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.