Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of September 19, 2011

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Living in the Sacred Now

(Living in Presence: Aspect 6 of 7)

Our life consists of innumerable moments, one after another, from our birth to our death. As they occur, each moment is our now, our one and only moment: all prior moments are just traces, future moments just imagination. The only reality is now. Our entire life is only and always this present moment.

Yet we hold the present in such low esteem. We dream of a future that will somehow be better, or fear the future will be worse. We dwell on the past, happily reliving it in our memory or thankful that it’s gone. The neutral moments we hardly remember at all. This past and future orientation eviscerates the present, leaving the now an empty and transitory shell. Even what we enjoy now gets tainted by our knowledge that it will pass. And when we are in the present, we allow our awareness to collapse into one small part of it, such as daydreams and thought streams.

To transform this situation, we first need respect, particularly self-respect. Respect for our self certainly includes respect for our life, which in turn means respect for this moment as the one and only place of our life. This is it. We can only live now. As such, in the same way that our life is sacred, this moment is sacred. Whatever our situation in life is, we honor and respect it.

That respect does not preclude working to change whatever we wish to change. But it does mean being here, living our life. If things are distasteful to us, or just sort of ordinary, we tend to ignore them, or inwardly escape them when cannot escape outwardly. This is killing time and killing our life. Not paying attention, not being here in this moment, kills it. It is in a sense suicidal, because we irretrievably lose that part of our life. It slips through our fingers without us even tasting it, half-lived or not lived at all.

At the end of our life, we may wish for more time. And we can have more time, by making more of now. Presence stretches and enlivens this moment, giving it more depth and breadth, expanding its boundaries. The more presence we have, the greater the now, and the greater our life, because our life is always and only now. So the biblical choice offered by God, of life or death, can be seen as the choice of living in presence or in a squandering absence. Can we choose to hold this moment now in such great esteem that we recognize it as sacred and live it fully?

Prayer, of course, brings this sacredness explicitly into focus. Personal, petitionary prayer, contemplative prayer, and communal worship all help reveal the fundamentally sacred quality of this world we inhabit, both inwardly in the deeper, spiritual realms and outwardly in this remarkable, simple, complex and beautiful nature. Life, so fragile individually and so robust collectively, warms us. Each living thing a bearer of complexity beyond imagining, imbued with the distilled and concentrated action of nature’s laws, and reflecting, however attenuated, the grandeur and grace of the Creator. So even a simple walk in nature becomes a prayer carrying us into the sacred, opening our awareness to the now and our hearts to the qualities therein. And our respect for all of this grows apace.

“No prayer is complete without presence,” according to Rumi. To which we can add: no presence is complete without a sense of the sacred. If our presence is full of awareness but lacks heart, we miss the deeper connections. It is just those connections, between our self and other people, between our self and other animals, between our self and nature, that draw us out of our shell, out of a present moment that we inhabit alone, and into the light of the Sacred Now.

For this week, open to that.


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