So how do we respond to this call to be holy?
To the best of our ability we respond by, “Being Present!” That’s it! Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well it is simple however it is not easy….not easy at all. In order to be present we need to start with being present to our “Self.” That part of us that is one with all.
Here’s a piece I wrote September 2, 2005 about “Being Present” on a regular basis through meditation I call it “Taste the Silence….How Sweet It Is!
Most people cannot sit still and be quiet for a short time, let alone for twenty minutes every day. Just the thought of sitting still and listening to their inner thoughts is very uncomfortable. In fact, for some of us it is torture worse than listening to a dripping faucet. Yet this simple discipline when committed to and practiced correctly on a daily basis is one of the most powerful ways to enhance life. This simple practice of sitting and being quiet, with the intention to grow up and wake up can be the vehicle that empowers us to make changes that allow us to be all we were created to be, do all we dream of accomplishing, and to experience who we really are. Some teachings call this process meditation or contemplation, others call it centering prayer, the Zen Master Tich Nhat Hanh calls it mindfulness practice, some people just call it their quiet time. I call it meditation, call it what you like but, do it…and see for yourself what happens.
Although my primary purpose for learning to meditate was to improve my conscious contact with God, I also wanted very much to change and grow. Everything I read told me repeatedly about the benefits of this practice. Such things as stress reduction, strengthening of the body’s immune system and enhanced appreciation for living, were just what I needed at the time. Jon Kabat-Zinn, in his book Wherever You Go There You Are, says, “Meditation is empowering as well, because paying attention in this way opens channels to deep reservoirs of creativity, intelligence, imagination, clarity, determination, choice and wisdom within us.” WOW…all of this and more is what I wanted and to a great extent, can say I have achieved.
I was told to start with five minutes. I thought, “I can do that!” I was surprised…five minutes was very difficult, but I gritted my teeth and stuck it out. I was committed to a daily practice of five minutes every day. Then one day to my surprise I sat for 20 minutes in what seemed like five. This experience was encouraging and helped me keep my commitment. Today I sit for 20 minutes daily most of the time, sometimes longer, sometimes twice a day and whenever possible I attend a silent weekend retreat.
When I meditate I simply turn my attention inward to that place within me that Jesus called, “The Kingdom of God.” For me the “Kingdom of God” is at the inner core of who we are, which in my opinion is our natural state of being, filled with peace, love, and joy. When I sit with the intention to connect with God, I am giving the Holy Spirit permission to change me from the inside out. I am giving the Holy Spirit permission to minister to me and change me in ways that are not possible at any other time, in any other way. Meditation for me is an act of surrender and says loudly, “Thy will be done.”
For over twenty years now I’ve practiced meditation. This simple act of surrender with faith in this process has improved my life immensely. The results are that I am no longer self conscious, afraid to write, do public speaking or travel alone to name a few ways I’ve changed. At the age of 70 I earned a Masters in Divinity. Twenty years ago I would not have considered a master’s degree possible for me at all. These changes, although important to me, are not as profound as the fact that…I no longer worry about anything! Peaceful is my state of mind most of the time. Prayer is my tool when I am not. The peace that passeth all understanding is how I experience “The Kingdom God Within.” That peace comforts me because I know my prayer was heard. With peace like this comes the assurance that my prayers are answered and forth coming in ways beyond my imagination.
Our number one responsibility for this process is to set aside time on a daily basis to sit. It’s important that we make a commitment to practice daily and not let anything get in the way. If you live alone, turn off your phones. If you live with other people ask them not to disturb you. Most teachers recommend first thing in the morning as the best time to meditate. Although this may seem difficult, it is really the best time of day to guarantee regular practice. Go to bed a half hour early. Believe me, it is worth it. I go to bed early, get up early, brush my teeth, put on the coffee and go sit.
Claim a private place in your home that you can call your own for the twenty minutes you will practice. Be creative. I know one person who has a walk-in closet that she uses for her sacred space, others I know use a corner of their bedroom, living room, or like myself, an office at home. You can use a bedside table or living room end table or some other piece of furniture nearby for an altar. An altar, although not necessary, is a way to claim the space sacred. It can be a very simple altar with a candle, a flower, or special statue or picture to inspire you.
Choose a chair that fits you comfortably so you can sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor. Keeping your back comfortably straight will help you stay alert and fully present to the process. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let your whole body relax. Then simply be aware of your breath as it moves in and out of your nostrils, watching your thoughts go by. When you catch yourself thinking, that is, rehashing a recent conversation or making a grocery list, you simple bring your attention back to your breath. Please, no judgment or criticism just lovingly come back to your breath. So basically what you do is watch your breath…catch yourself thinking, go back to watching your breath, catch yourself thinking, go back to watching your breath, no judgment, no criticism, just go back to watching your breath. There will always be thoughts to watch or to let go of, but there will also be times when you’ll notice that you are not thinking and, of course, then you will be thinking about not thinking. The space of time before we realize that we are not thinking is one of those special times that we are truly open.
Deepak Chopra, in his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, calls this time “the gap.” He says, “The gap is your connection to the field of pure potentiality.” In other words, this is the time that we are fully in the present moment, open to our real (spiritual) Self connected to the Holy Spirit of the Universe. At this time we are letting the Holy Spirit have its way with us, purifying our hearts and minds preparing us for the next step in our life. Reverend Ellen Grace O’Brian in her book, Single Blade of Grass, says, “To dwell in silence is to drink from the holy well, to be renewed by the living water of Spirit. Drinking from the soul’s well each day yields satisfaction and contentment. People spend almost all their time trying to fulfill desires and needs. But time spent in prayer and meditation cultivates an inner magnetism that draws whatever we need. God knows what we need before we ask. So why pray? Because through prayer, we become receptive to divine grace and divine guidance. First we turn to prayer. Then prayer turns us.”
I think there is a part of us that already knows how to meditate, and when we sit, we are just providing the opportunity for the experience. There’s no wrong way to meditate. You will be guided along the way…just trust that part of you that knows how. Many books and articles such as this one have been written about this process. I’ve shared my thoughts and experience, I’ve shared what some other people think, but to try to learn about the experience of meditation is like trying to learn what an orange looks like and even more difficult what an orange tastes like, just from the written word. Just as you need to taste an orange to know what it tastes like, you need to taste the silence and learn from your experience and…..how sweet it is.
Here are quotes from two of my favorite teachers…………….
The divine qualities that are inherent to one’s being are naturally revealed in apeaceful, uplifting environment. Don’t underestimate the influence of environment…….Ellen Grace O’Brian
Also remember: God offers Godself to us even before we invite God into our lives. All we are asked to do is be present and open…… Fr. Richard
Remember to feed your soul
With Blessings from Anne